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
New Stuff

The *other* John Stevens

Pavilion (3rd Congregational) Church…aka McArthur Library!

Our building was designed by John Stevens (1824-1881), an incredibly popular church archicect of the mid-19th century from Boston, Massachusetts. Often there is some confusion though, as people probably look at his name and assume we mean John Calvin Stevens, the mega-famous (so most famous?) Maine architect.

But no, although John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940) takes the credit for Biddeford’s beautiful City Building, it was that other John Stevens (and you could rightly say the first John Stevens) who designed the beautiful 1863 building that would become home to Biddeford’s public library in 1902 – the McArthur Public Library that we all know and love.  

It is said that Stevens was so popular that he designed over 100 churches in New England, and it could be true…though I’ll let someone else do the tally on that. (Road trip!)

South Church, Andover, MA (courtesy of findagrave.com)

You’ll notice, many of his buildings look eerily similar…so in your travels, be on the lookout for other Stevens buildings – you won’t be able to miss them!

For more information about our John Stevens (1824-1881), see the Wikipedia article (with photos!) or come by the library and thumb through the book The steeples of old New England : how the Yankees reached for heaven / by Kirk Shivell.

New Stuff, Ponderings

Thinking about (Franco-American) heritage

Are you Franco-American?
No…?
Are you sure??

If you live in Maine and have a french last name, it is pretty likely that some portion of your family history trails back to Quebec or other parts of Canada, whether you realize it or not. After all, we share more border with Canada than with the U.S., and you haven’t always needed a passport to cross over those lines. Also, in the past we were a much less settled society – if you needed to move away to find work it wasn’t as big a deal – people moved around quite a bit, actually (the New England genealogists’ lament!)

One of my college professors (I was an undergrad in Maine) used to love to tell the story of how, when she asked for a show of hands amongst her students one day the number “who were french”,  she only got a few hands. But then when she asked who had a memérè and pepérè (french grandmother and grandfather) most of the hands went up. These second, third, fourth generation Franco-Americans just never saw themselves as having any kind of particular culture or heritage, besides being Mainers (which is it’s own thing, for sure…but that is a different blog post).

For others though, being Franco was an important and distinguishing part of their identity throughout their lives – in terms of their family, or their community, or both. In the radio piece above, we hear scholar and journalist Jane Martin (a Biddeford native now living in Montreal) talk to her own family members about their Franco identity, while reflecting upon her identity as well. The piece eloquently explores the challenges of moving between different cultural worlds and identities – French versus English; American versus Canadian.

As for me – I had one grandparent who immigrated to Maine from Canada as a teenager. But my Grampa married a Yankee girl, only ever spoke English, and was about as all-American as they come – I didn’t even know he was a naturalized citizen until after his death. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I had any kind of Canadian connection at all – and at that point, I woke up to the myriad little things my paternal grandfather did which were part of his Franco self.

So how about you? Did you come from a strongly grounded Franco family like Jane? Or are you french in name only, like me? It has been interesting but a little sad too, since it’s too late for me to talk to my Grampa about his life – but maybe it’s not too late for you. So go have those conversations, and begin your journey of self-discovery – whatever your heritage may be. Bonne chance!

New Stuff

Amateur newspaper exhibit launched!

Folks, the library is pleased to unveil a new online exhibit featuring amateur newspapers from around the United States. “What, pray tell, is an amateur newspaper?” you say. Well Dennis R. Laurie, Reference Specialist of Newspapers and Periodicals at the American Antiquarian Society, defines them as such:

An amateur journal is a periodical created to afford pleasure to its readers as well as to its editor and its publisher. The rage to publish, rather than profit, is the motive that most often induces people to become amateur journalists; and, throughout the history of the genre, most but not all amateur journalists have been juveniles.

Our collection is small but respectable, showcasing the publishing aspirations of young amateurs from all corners of the U.S. as well as Prince Edward Island, Canada. The collection was amassed by a Biddeford boy named Walter Perkins, who at age 14 was so inspired by South Boston’s “Dew Drop” he decided to create his own newspaper, “The Snow-Flake”. Perkins, who went on to become a successful comedic actor on the vaudeville circuit, created a paper full of wit and jokes. Other papers are humorous as well, while others take a more serious tone and more closely try to mimic a traditional paper.

Woodcuts created for the Corn City's Compliments Christmas supplement, Toledo, Ohio, 1873.
Woodcuts created for the Corn City’s Compliments Christmas supplement, Toledo, Ohio, 1873.

Most of the papers are from 1873, but there are a few from later years, as well as a modern local “pocket” journal that was donated by creator who had heard of the Perkins collection. Another interesting note is the scarcity of illustrated papers. It must have been more difficult to produce an illustrated paper, though not impossible: the Corn City’s Compliments (Toledo, Ohio) produced an 1873 Christmas Supplement full of caricatures of other amateur paper editors (see illustration).

View the AMATEUR NEWSPAPER EXHIBIT at <walterperkins.omeka.net>

View the PERKINS COLLECTION FINDING AID at <mcatablog.wordpress.com/finding-aids/>

The exhibit, which will be up indefinitely, consists of a selection of papers from every coast of the United States and from across the vast interior as well. While there are contributions positively identified as written by girls, most if not all of the papers appear to be edited/produced by boys.

What I find personally fascinating about this collection is how it correlates to the the Zine movement of D.I.Y. self-publishing *as well as* the current explosion of self-publishing made possible via electronic media of all shapes and sizes. From the 1870’s to the 1970’s and today, young people have utilized the means available to communicate their thoughts and ideas to one another and the greater public.  I love the idea of these idealistic and creative young adults through the ages making their voices heard via newsprint, xerox, blogging software…the interconnectedness of this urge to communicate en masse, by generation upon generation. The idea of it fascinates me, and I hope it gets you thinking as well.

***For those interested in the technical specs, the library used Omeka’s totally fabulous platform to produce the exhibit.***