Doodling to Pass the Time

Published February 8, 2023 | Written by Emily cough | edited by BHHS staff
Photo of "Elemental Physiology" book by Dunglison from our collection.

Welcome back to another “Way Back Wednesday”!

There have always been universal truths in this world that you can always rely on: money doesn’t buy happiness, change is the only constant, and one plus one equals two.

But there’s also a lesser known universal truth some may overlook, and that is: there will always be someone who will doodle on just about anything. Even today, despite technology and everything being at your fingertips, we still find ourselves practicing our graphic skills when we’re bored.

Take for instance, our star of this week’s segment: Mabel Rich Gonya (1873 – 1974), who went to school in West Eden, but today it’s known as Town Hill. For many school children, class can sometimes be mundane. We think it goes without saying that when you sit at a desk for nearly 8 hours every day, your mind starts to wander off of lessons. And Mabel was no different. Take a look at her copy of “Elemental Physiology: Hygiene, Alcohol, and Narcotics”, by Richard J. Dunglison. Note her drawings of two women; she even went so far as to include their bustles and hats! That must’ve been a very boring day in class for Mabel.

She also depicted a drawing of a horse named Percy (and at “The End” of the book, Mabel even adds a funny little “of Percy” to it)! Did her imaginative mind create a story between the women and the horse? Did they go for rides on Percy into town? Or were they fragments from her own life? Perhaps Mabel’s family had a horse with the same name! We like to think so!

So, this begs the question: just how long ago did people start their scribbles? Well, there have been discoveries of some doodles that go as far back as 700 years, found on medieval manuscripts. And even further back, a 73,000 year-old drawing was found in South Africa. We wonder just how bored they may have been!

No matter how far back in history you go, sometimes humans don’t change their spots. As they say, history always repeats itself; and children drawing on books or adults drawing in manuscripts is but one instance of that. Though the staff here at the Bar Harbor Historical Society are all grown up, we’re still guilty of doodling when our minds wander–our spots certainly don’t change for us!

If you’d like to join us in our love of history, please consider becoming a member!