The current exhibit inside the Portland Room is about the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, which has been gathering in this city since 1815. Their basis was the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, championed in Boston by Paul Revere.
The Maine Charitable was founded by industrialists and those involved in manufacturing and crafts, the MCMA evolved into a general cultural resource- with a popular library- that opens membership to any interested person. Their best-known symbol is Mechanics Hall, which stands at the corner of Congress Street and Casco Street in downtown Portland.
The exhibit in the Portland Room offers a brief and visual narrative of the roots of the MCMA, Mechanics Hall, and some of its illustrious members. Artifacts for this special exhibit are from Portland Public Library collections- and additional materials have been lent to us by the MCMA, along with reproductions from the Boston Athenaeum. Come visit! The show will be up through the summer and autumn.
Mechanics Hall, built in 1857. In the wake of the Great Fire of 1866, Mechanics Hall served as a temporary city hall for Portland.
Installation of the current exhibit in the Portland Room. The framed broadside is from 1859.
The Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association began in 1762. Paul Revere had been a president of the Association.
Among the members of the Maine Charitable were carriage-makers, metalsmiths, bookbinders, manufacturers such as E.T. Burrowes (which had been on Free Street), and architects such as Francis Fassett (designer of the old Portland Public Library’s Baxter Building), and John Calvin Stevens (who taught free drawing classes at Mechanics Hall).
More reminders of MCMA members, lighthouses, and tools.
A special loan for this exhibit is a 1920s Remington typewriter from craftsman Tom Furrier, owner of Cambridge Typewriter (Arlington, Mass.)
Among our most popular queries here in the Portland Room- whether by phone, by e-mail, and certainly in person- are genealogical questions. People research their family roots for many reasons, discovering anew while searching historic depths. Sometimes the search begins with a family story- or an old photo. Are there names? Dates? Places? Is there something in the picture that helps place it (such as the church wall inscription in the picture below).
Norwegian family wedding in Portland, 1938.
Family researchers can apply tools that include printed books and serials, as well as electronic databases. The printed genealogical materials in the Portland Room are focused on the Portland area. The databases reach further afield. Here are a few of the tools that are used here on a daily basis:
Printed books and serials specializing in Maine and Portland. This category includes microfilmed Portland newspapers reaching back to the late 18th century and filmed Maine State Vital Records reaching up to 1955.
An example of a Portland City Directory. Notice the jobs of the people listed are indicated with their names and addresses. Any “cordwainers” in the family?
Ancestry.com is available at any computer inside the Library. This is a set of databases that has numerous search capabilities. Great place to start.
Heritage Quest is another set of databases which includes a US Census search. Heritage Quest can be accessed from home, with your Portland Public Library card barcode number.
Additional genealogy web site links here.
The weekend after July 4th draws near, and that means Moxie Fest, the annual weekend of celebration in Lisbon Falls begins! Moxie was invented here in Maine by Dr. Augustin Thompson in 1876- and refined later in 1884 as America’s oldest mass-marketed soft drink. Moxie is the official beverage of the State of Maine, and there’s more to learn about the spicy soda-pop right here in the Portland Room.
A picture taken 1947 of a treasure-trove of Moxie, taken by a Portland Press Herald photographer.
“The Moxie Mystique,” from the stacks of the Portland Room describes all things Moxie.