Early cottage bedsteads used laces to support homemade mattresses. This braided whale sinew lacing was made by Elkanah Young in the early 1800s. Elkanah Young served on whaling ships out of Eastham, Massachusetts.
These hand cards were used in the 1850s by Irene Rodick Leland who was born in 1821 in Eden (Bar Harbor). The Rodick family lived on Bar Island which was also known as Rodick’s Island, where they raised sheep and wove their own wool cloth. Men sheared the sheep – women and children then carded it to eliminate clumps and to align the fiber strands in one direction, ready for spinning into yarn.
“Rusticators” flocked from the big cities for a taste of the great outdoors on Mount Desert Island beginning in the mid-1850s. In the lower photograph, seated in the center, is a young Theodore Roosevelt in Bar Harbor.
A view of the first “cottages” in Bar Harbor which were built between 1868-1870. In time, Bar Harbor would be noted for its numerous lavish mansions.
Many visitors in the Gilded Age took a steamboat to the town pier in Bar Harbor. This photograph was taken in 1882.
Before a road was built, the Green Mountain Cog Railroad (1883-1890) took tourists to the top of Green Mountain, (now Cadillac Mountain), where they enjoyed the views.
In the 1890s, the paper company Stone & Forsyth of Boston and New York sold several lines of fancy “sheet” toilet papers listed in a “very attractive catalogue” as noted by “The American Stationer, A Journal Devoted to the Interests of the Stationary & Fancy Goods Trades” in 1893. Their catalogue listed Algonquin, Sanitary, Beacon, Colombian, Fleur de Lis as well as Savoy packaged toilet papers.
Chokers of the early 1900s were hand-made to fit the wearer. This example featuring beads and velvet ribbon belonged to Edith Bowdoin, daughter of George Sullivan Bowdoin – a grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Julia Irving Grinnell – a great-niece of Washington Irving. In 1902-3, the Bowdoins built the waterside mansion, “La Rochelle” which is now home to the Bar Harbor Historical Society.
This well-worn doll was made by the Effanbee toy company sometime between 1912 and 1920. Referred to as a “Grumpy” doll because of the facial expression and also called a “Topsy” doll (referencing Uncle Tom’s Cabin), it is made from composition (pressed wood chips) and has movable arms and legs.
It’s hard to imagine in this day and age that a century ago, ballots were simply collected in a wooden box. The town of Bar Harbor was originally named “Eden” so this ballot box is at least as old as 1918. Is this the box used when Bar Harbor finally voted to allow cars on the Island in 1913 against the wishes of the “summer people?” How many presidential elections did this box play a part in? In the early 1900s, there was voting saying, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation” because we seemed to correctly pick several presidents in a row.
This handkerchief basket of brown ash and sweetgrass was made by Passamaquoddy basketmaker, Clara Neptune Keezer (1938-2016) who was born and lived on the Passamaquoddy tribal land of Pleasant Point (Sipayik) in Perry, Maine. In 2002, she was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, receiving a National Heritage Fellowship. Clara Neptune Keezer’s baskets are prized by community members, museums, and collectors. Wabenaki fancy baskets were sold to tourists in Bar Harbor in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Fashionable ladies stored their handkerchiefs in these beautiful souvenirs.
This toy car was rescued from the ashes of the Great Fire of ’47. The conflagration consumed more than 17,000 acres on Mount Desert Island including more than half of the structures in the town of Bar Harbor. The downtown village was spared but 237 houses and 70 estate “cottages” were destroyed. Did the child who owned it, drop it while fleeing? Or was it lost at play before the blaze? We may never know.