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. ūüôā

Enjoy!!

  1. ELEMENTS!! Go across the street to Biddy’s beloved taproom/caf√©, 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.

 

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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!!

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 mem√©r√®¬†and pep√©r√® (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!

Ancestry.com Workshop – Resources and Handouts

ancestry-logoThanks to the folks who attended our Ancestry.com workshop, last week. Despite a change of presenters, it seemed like everyone left happy and with a little more information about the use of this great research tool (and more). As promised, here are the handouts we made available at the workshop, as well as information about digitizing and sharing your own personal materials.

Comments? Questions? Feel free to email us: <reference@mcarthur.lib.me.us>.

::RESEARCH USING ANCESTRY.COM::
Top 10 Search Tips
Tips for success: Military records(1)
Tips for success: Military records(2)
Tips for success: Passenger lists
Tips for success: Religious records
Tips for success: Death records
Tips for success: Census records(1)
Tips for success: Census records(2)
Guide to researching African-American ancestors
Guide to researching American Indian ancestors
Guide to researching Canadian ancestors
Guide to researching German ancestors
Guide to researching Swedish ancestors
Guide to researching Immigrant ancestors

::MAKING MATERIAL/RESEARCH YOU OWN ACCESSIBLE TO OTHERS::
Internet Archive – (Community Texts and beyond!)
History Pin
Flickr
Wikipedia
Find-a-grave
Self-publishing

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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New additions to Internet Archive!

We’ve added two interesting items to the Internet Archive: our first edition of the pamphlet “Cochranism Delineated”, written by Ephraim Stinchfield in 1819, about the free love movement which swept the area during that time…
https://archive.org/stream/cochranism-delineated1819?ui=embed#mode/2up

~AND~
“Diary of a Voyage from New Orleans to St. Petersburg, Russia”, which is the transcription of the diary kept by a sea captain’s wife when she sailed with her husband in 1838…
https://archive.org/stream/jordan-diary001?ui=embed#mode/2up

You can access and download these interesting items from our Miscellaneous Collection/Small Manuscripts (MS999) in a variety of formats via Internet Archive. Enjoy!