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Movie of the Month: Sir! No Sir!

posted: , by Patti DeLois
tags: Library Collections | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture

sir-no-sirThis month we’re featuring films about politics, and our Movie of the Month is a film that documents the growth of the anti-war movement within the military during the Vietnam era.

It is a popular myth that “hippie protests” in the U.S. demoralized our troops in Vietnam and led to our failure to win the war. This film reveals a rarely talked about truth, which is that the war was ended by an organized anti-war movement within the military itself.

In the mid-60s, there were a handful of individuals and small groups who chose to face courts martial rather than perpetuate the war. One individual interviewed is Dr. Howard Levy, a dermatologist who was tasked with training Special Forces troops to treat minor skin ailments. The idea, he says, was for the Green Berets to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people by treating a few children with impetigo, after which the Vietnamese would welcome U.S. troops, who would then murder (possibly) those same children along with everyone else in their village. When he refused to continue training soldiers, Levy was court martialed and convicted of disobedience and seeking to promote disloyalty.

The movement grew through underground newspapers distributed to GIs both stateside and in country, and by coffeehouses near Army bases where GIs congregated to discuss resistance to the war.

By 1971, GIs had formally organized, creating such groups as WORMS (We Openly Resist Military Stupidity) and VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War.) Following the public exposure of the My Lai massacre, VVAW organized the Winter Soldier investigation in Detroit. From January 31 through February 2, 1971, discharged service people from every branch of the military, along with medical personnel and civilian contractors, testified about atrocities they had witnessed and/or participated in. The purpose was not to defend the actions of Lt. William Calley (the only officer convicted of war crimes in connection with My Lai) but rather to expose the lie that the massacre was an isolated and aberrant incident. Such massacres were, they claimed, the inevitable consequences of U.S. Military policies.

Nixon decided to switch from a ground war to an air war after the Pentagon estimated that over half the ground troops in Vietnam were openly opposed to the war. Unprecedented numbers of soldiers were deserting or being jailed for defying military authority and refusing to follow orders. The air war strategy worked for a little while, but soon the Navy and the Air Force were also sabotaging communications and missions, forcing the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam in 1975.

For the next twenty years, the U.S. government attempted to bury the reality of GI resistance to the war, to the point where many people today believe the “Rambo” version of Vietnam, including the apocryphal story of the Vietnam vet who was spat upon and called “babykiller,” and even people who saw news footage at the time have forgotten that the enthusiastic audiences to whom Jane Fonda delivered her anti-war messages were not hippie protesters but active U.S. troops.


For a documentary about the Winter Soldier investigations, click here.


For other films about politics, click here.






American Archives Month – Historical Research of Maine Businesses & Industries

posted: , by Cindy Dykes
tags: About the Library | Library Collections | Online Services | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Business | Portland History

The Portland Room and Archives has several resources that are useful when researching the history of a given business or industry. The Maine Register is a business directory covering the State of Maine. It is organized by county and then towns within the county. Included is a classified business index and a manufacturers’ section, which includes the names and locations of businesses as well as the names of owners or principal officers, purchasing agents and sales offices. There are also a lot of other fun facts included as well, for example, how the counties voted for governor and presidential candidates in election years, and current postage rates.

The Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics for the State of Maine, covering 1887-1910, often contain extensive reports on industries in Maine in a given year. The 1890 edition is dedicated to agriculture and the strikes among the granite workers that year.

Another great print resource is Edward H. Elwell’s 1875 edition “The Successful Business Houses of Portland.” Organized by type of business and then business names, he gives a history of the business and goods they sell or manufacture.


Charles F. Guptill & Co. ca. 1910
from the Portland Room Photo Archives

Sometimes information about businesses can be gleaned from viewing the PPL’s Picture and Photo Collections.

The newspapers can be sources of information for this type of research. There are two indexes that can be used. The Jordan Index covers sixteen newspapers, primarily published in Portland, between 1785-1835. The Maine News Index covers the Press Herald newspapers between 1945-1992. After 1992, the newspapers can be found in the Maine Newsstand database.

Finally, check out PPL’s Digital Commons. Much of what you find here are abstracts of articles the Portland Room has in print. We have also digitized the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.

October is American Archives Month – Researching your house

posted: , by Cindy Dykes
tags: About the Library | Library Collections | Adults | Art & Culture | Genealogy | Portland History

Is your house turning 100 years old? Are you curious what it looked like in years past? Who lived there? Who the neighbors were? The Portland Room and Archives have several resources that can help you answer these questions.

The Portland City Directories in the Portland Room date back to 1823, but most useful are the ones that date from 1882, as they include an alphabetical listing of streets along with the heads of household at each address. The directories also have an alphabetical listing of heads of households that include their home address, and often their work address and occupation. Once you have the head of household name, you can go to the census records [available through (in-library) or] and see who else resided with them, as well as obtain biographical information on those residents.

The Portland Room has two digitized maps, the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.

If you home is in a historic district, it may appear in the “Portland Historic Resources Inventory” compiled by Earle Shettleworth and John E. Pancoast (1975). If your house is part of this inventory, the address and name of the house is given, as well as date built, architectural style, and what it was built of. Occasionally pictures can be found, as well as the architect’s name.

24 Monroe St., in 1957 from the Portland Room photo Archives

24 Monroe St., in 1957
from the Portland Room photo Archives

A great source of photos are the 1924 Portland Tax Records available online through Maine Memory Network. Newspaper articles may also be a source of pictures or articles written about your house. Articles appearing in the Portland newspapers from 1945-1992 are indexed.

The Portland Room also had several books on how to trace the history of your home. So come on in and we will help you find the resources that will help you tell your house’s story.

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