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!!

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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October is (sorta) Family History Month!

Picture2Hey so October is unofficially the official month where we celebrate Family History in the U.S.A.! (Note of explanation: OK, so FHM is an official thing in Australia, and some states and municipalities in the U.S. have designated it as a permanent thing; the U.S. Senate declared October “Family History Month” in 2001 then again in 2005– but for those years only. That’s official enough for us, so we’ll just go with it.)

The important thing is this: MCARTHUR LIBRARY LOVES FAMILY HISTORY!

And we want you to know there are TONS of resources, both online and here in the library, for those interested in researching, preserving and sharing their own family history. 

So, in honor of Family History Month, we’ve got all kinds of things happening.

  • On the blog/social media sites: we will feature two upcoming posts with resources: “Caring For Your Family Treasures” and then “Sharing + Preserving Your Family Stories”.
  • In the library: we have several great programs that connect with the theme of Family History (check out the calendar of events), and there will also be a display upstairs of handouts and books available on Family History, Doing Genealogy, Caring For Family Treasures and Sharing + Preserving Your Family Stories.

 

JOURNAL TRIBUNE OBIT INDEX!

So you are trying to locate an obituary that may have appeared in the Journal Tribune? Did you know that if it is 1977 or later, you can search online??

Yes friends, it’s true! At Goodall Library’s Online Obituary Index, you can search for obituaries which would have appeared in the Journal Tribune from 1977 to Present (they have much more to offer as well, you can read all about it on their site). They have created a simple, user-friendly index where you can see the name and age of the deceased, as well as the newspaper and date on which their obit appeared. With that information, you can contact or visit the library of your choice to access a copy of the obituary.

[We here at McArthur Library would like to officially announce that we think the folks at L.B. Goodall Library in Sanford are, well, amazing.

Wayne and Garth

Thank you for your hard work! You guys ROCK!]

Learn about bringing your family photos into the digital era…

Attention family historians and genealogy enthusiasts!

Here is a great opportunity to learn about scanning/photographing YOUR historic photographs and then how to share them. The workshop takes place in Boston on March 27, 2015 and the cost starts at $50. It is presented by Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), real experts in the field.

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Unidentified family group, Elite Studio collection, circa 1920. Courtesy of McArthur Public Library.

 

Amateur Newspapers – Resources

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I was so pleased to get the chance to speak about the Walter Perkins Amateur Newspaper exhibit at Maine Historical Society today, and ramble a bit to a group of captive listeners! 🙂

In any event, I do hope everyone got a little something from the talk; whether it was an appreciation for creative youth culture, or a first glimpse into the workings of a digitization project. Here are links to the various web-based resources I mentioned…enjoy!