Events, Ponderings

My bittersweet adieu to the Journal

Today the Journal Tribune will publish it’s last issue, and then cease to be. I read Drew McMullin’s farewell essay in this yesterdays edition, and it revived the lump that has been in my throat since I learned our newspaper is being tossed. Why? Because it is not a moneymaker, and that is all that matters. I have to admit, I’m pretty upset and so very sad about this whole situation. Biddeford is doing amazing things, and has been doing everything right, and still we couldn’t save our local paper…of course I wonder if we had a fair chance to fight for it. Pay up or else, I guess.

But I’m going to try and keep my disappointment and accusations to myself, because the purpose of me writing this is a need to say something good. I need to convey my deep appreciation for the Journal Tribune, in all its forms, and for all the Journal staff who have ever served our community.

To the past and current staff of the Journal: Do you know that we use your work almost every day at the library? Do you know that we all rely on the work you’ve done to tell the innumerable stories of our city? Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, accidents, fires, triumphs, mysteries, successes, defeats, they are all there, and always have been. Do you know how often the words “Let’s check in the Journal” or some variation of which, have been and are uttered by the librarians of Biddeford? I can only imagine it has ever been so.

We have relied on you, and we are afraid of a future without you. There’s room in the out-of-town papers for the big Biddeford and Saco stories, but what about the little ones? Will the free weekly that is supposed to suffice have room enough amongst the all-important ads for all the little things that make our towns home? When people pass away will their loved ones still have an affordable option to have an obituary printed? I know from experience that a Press Herald obit costs quite a bit more than the Journal did – hundreds of dollars for a modest sized remembrance. Will people in Biddeford and Saco and surrounding towns be able to afford to have their loved ones remembered one last time?

What about in 10 years, or 20 years, when someone wants to learn about the how and why of our choices today in Biddeford – Saco? Will they be able to find that information locally, for free? Or will they have to pay an online service? Or will they have to go to Portland? Or Augusta? Can you even get to Augusta from here without a car?? I don’t know that you can, not easily anyway.

The thing is, our community newspaper is not just a business, it is NOT all about dollars and cents. It is so much more than that, it is the living memory of all of us, in a format that is almost universally accessible. It’s the memory of me, and you, and my kids, and your kids and grandkids. It is our grandparents, or the grandparents of your neighbors up the street, or of all the folks that have lived in your building or your block. It’s all the honor rolls, playoff games, new businesses, and programs at the libraries.

I am so grateful to all of the amazing editors and reporters that I’ve come to know over my 13 years here at the library. I am so sorry that your hard work has come to this, and I promise you that we will keep your words and images alive. I promise that we will do our best to care for and preserve the Journal Tribune and make it accessible to all forever. I wish I could do more. I’m glad I have it within my power to do something, at least.

Thank you for being a part of my story. I won’t forget you.

Events, Ponderings

Biddeford’s WWII Honor Roll

Soldiers patrol the beach at Fortune's Rocks, Biddeford in 1942.
Soldiers on duty at Fortune’s Rocks beach, 1942.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I’d like to post the list of all of Biddeford’d men and women who served their country and the world during World War II. This list is part of the library’s local history vertical file, found under Biographies – Wars/Veterans. It’s 25 pages long – think of it!!! Can you imagine people doing anything like it today? What an amazing generation of people. You can download the full list below.

Page 1 of Biddeford’s list of those who served during WWII. Access the full list below.

Let’s also remember that our beautiful May Field was established in 1943, as “Memorial Field”, to honor Biddeford’s entire veteran population, “as a living memorial for the use of those living”.

Memorial Field (now called May Field), circa 1948
From Biddeford Daily Journal – 1955 City Centennial special
Events, New Stuff

Glimpsing Granite in Biddeford

Biddeford had a thriving granite industry through the early 20th century (the many quarries that remain are evidence of this – they don’t call it Granite Street for nothing!)

Celebrate and learn about this heritage with John Anderson of Rockland, in a program about the fascinating life of his grandfather, Capt. Anders Anderson, an immigrant and schooner captain who hauled granite for 30+ years in Maine. You won’t want to miss this glimpse into Maine’s historic granite industry!

Events, New Stuff, Resources

Extry! Extry! New Biddeford history book hits the shelves!

A Brief History of Biddeford by Emma R. BouthilletteThe highly anticipated new local history book “A Brief History of Biddeford” by Emma R. Bouthillette has finally been released, to wide acclaim and appreciation. Ms. Bouthillette is a life-long Biddeford resident and graduate of Biddeford High School and the University of New England. She has great journalistic chops and has written for newspapers and magazines around Maine; her experience really shines through in this wonderfully readable book.

Last night McArthur Library celebrated her book release with a packed house of enthusiastic well-wishers and history buffs, so much so that we sold out of our copies! We will DEFINITELY have a large number to circulate…but there are a couple of local places where you can pick up this fabulous volume – especially if you want to give a copy to your favorite Biddeford Dad or Grad!!!

If you’re local ~ PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE BUY LOCAL!!! If you’re not…we are sorry you are away from Maine, we hope you can come see us soon, and in the meantime we give you option 3. 🙂

Enjoy!!

  1. ELEMENTS!! Go across the street to Biddy’s beloved taproom/café, get something delicious (what else is there at Elements, I mean, really…), snag your copy of the book, relax and enjoy!

  2. Nonesuch Books at Biddeford Crossing!! For those of you on the road, out and about, shopping at the shops…stop in and see the lovely Nonesuch folks and – like me – linger over which little chocolate morsel you are going to indulge in. Because you always have to get a piece of chocolate at Nonesuch. It’s the law.

  3. The Internet! For all of our Away friends, you CAN still revel in the Biddy too…the book is available through all the usual suspects, so we’re just going to give you the publisher (Arcadia Publishing-History Press) and you can go from there.

 

Events, New Stuff

President Monroe was here!

If you’ve been in the library lately, you may have noticed the cool new “James Monroe was here” sticker on the front door. So what’s it all about?

Two hundred years ago this month, James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, embarked upon an epic tour of the northern states. From May 31 to November 29 of 1817, the President visited 14 states and districts (including the district of Maine, which was not yet separated from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts).

The bicentennial of this journey is being commemorated by James Monroe’s Highland, the home of the President and his family from 1799-1826 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The museum and historic estate is a part of the College of William and Mary, which is also Monroe’s alma mater.

Highland’s historians tell us that Monroe’s tour was undertaken for two reasons:

Inspection of Military Defenses –
Having served as President Madison’s Secretary of State during the War of 1812 – and simultaneously for several months as Secretary of War – Monroe was keenly aware of the vulnerability of the country’s coastal fortifications. By reviving George Washington’s precedent of national tours, Monroe showed his hands-on management style, as well as cultured public support for strengthening military defenses.

National Unity –
Monroe’s decision to first inspect military defenses in the northern states was intentional. New England was largely Federalist, while Monroe’s political party was Democratic-Republican. The recent Hartford Convention (December 1814-January 1815) had made it plain that Federalists in the region were unhappy with the War of 1812 and even considered secession for New England. Monroe was also sensitive to the fact the northern states had not initially embraced another member of the Virginia Dynasty in the election of 1816.

~James Monroe’s Highland, 1817 Tour of the Northern States  – “Interpretation Points: Significance of James Monroe’s 1817 Tour of the Northern States”

Biddeford was an important stop for Monroe, as it was the home of the Honorable George Thacher, then a Judge in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Biddeford’s historic Thacher Hotel, which opened in 1847 as Biddeford House, was renamed in 1898 to honor the important Revolutionary-era citizen.

The library has a great brief exhibit on Judge Thacher, along with images, up in our Movers and Shakers of Biddeford area on the Biddeford History and Heritage Project on Maine Historical Society’s Maine Memory Network. You can also access a detailed record of his public service in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005, which was produced by the U.S. Congress.

Born in Massachusetts proper, educated at Harvard College, George Thacher was only the second lawyer to come to Biddeford to practice – after James Sullivan (later governor of Massachusetts). Judge Thacher was well known in the highest political circles, having represented the area in both the Continental Congress as well as the first U.S. Congress in 1789, a post he held until 1801. President Monroe’s northern-most stop on the trip was Portland, Maine, but he stopped in Biddeford on the way up and again on the way back, one of only 2 towns in Maine with multiple planned visits in his itinerary.

So why should we care, other than the interest factor of a sitting U.S. President intentionally coming to town? President Monroe is incredibly important to this area because it was his signing of the Missouri Compromise that led to Maine finally becoming independent of Massachusetts in 1820 – the bicentennial of which we will celebrate in just a couple of years.

Note: Several other Maine organizations are also participating in this very cool commemoration, including: Fort McClary, our friends and neighbors at the Saco Museum, the Scarborough Historical Society, and the Maine Historical Society…be sure to stay tuned for interesting programming from our colleagues along the Post Road!!

Events, New Stuff

19th century fashion history at McArthur Library

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If you haven’t been into the library lately, be sure to stop in before December to check out the text/image exhibit we have on loan from the Victoria Mansion in Portland. You’ll find it up on the second floor near the Carroll Room (looking out over Main Street).

The exhibit, “The Way We Wear: Fashion & Industry in the 19th Century“, was on view at the Victoria Mansion Carriage House Gallery through the 2016 season, and featured materials from numerous organizations, including McArthur Library.

This exhibit explores the connection between industrial changes and shifting styles of dress in the Victorian era, and visitors will learn about the influence by exploring topics including Fashion, Manufacturing in Maine, Department Stores and Ladies Magazines.

In compliment to the exhibit, a display case of artifacts from the Biddeford Mills Museum is located adjacent to the Victoria Mansion text/image panels. Thank you to the Victoria Mansion for loaning us the material, and we hope to see you this fall at the library!

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