When not being used in the Lewis Gallery, our nineteenth-century vitrines (glass display cases) are hosting displays from our collection in the Main Library Lower Level – Information Desk area. Our first display, on view now through November, is a selection of sheet music from the Portland Room Archives.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century musical life revolved around the family piano, and sheet music was provided for home performing mostly from publishers in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. But most large cities had their own small music publishers (who were usually instrument and sheet music sellers) and many songwriters would publish with local firms or simply publish their own works.
Portland could boast several such publishers, including the Paine family, whose most distinguished member, John Knowles Paine, was Harvard’s first Professor of Music. J.K.’s father Jacob and uncle William sold instruments and music at 113 Middle Street. The Paines published many of the compositions of Hermann Kotzschmar, the leading Portland musician of the period. Cressey and Allen had a music shop at 566 Congress Street; Cressey was also a composer and published many of his own pieces.
Many of the compositions featured in our exhibit were on local subjects: dance pieces named for Portland landmarks: the Forest City Polka, the Diamond Cove Waltz, and others in that vein. Others were hymns to local pride: Somewhere in Maine, Down in Maine. Patriotic compositions were standbys of the home music collection, and we have several from the Civil War to World War II.
We’ve included two items published “away”. The first, Kathleen Mavourneen, was a sentimental pseudo-Irish ballad popularized by tenor John McCormick. It was written by Frederick Nicholls Crouch, an English musician who lived and taught in Portland until his secessionist leanings made him unpopular in 1861; he joined a Virginia regiment as a trumpeter. The other New York publication is perhaps the most familiar college song of the 1920s, Rudy Vallee’s Maine Stein Song.
We hope that local music lovers, local history buffs, and everybody else will stop by the lower level and see this exhibit!
At the brink of World War II, the battleship U.S.S. New York stopped in Portland Harbor, preparing to patrol the North Atlantic.
On August 1, 1939, the U.S.S. New York anchored in Portland Harbor to give the men on board a week’s liberty, apparently much to the delight of the local girls, or, as an effusive reporter called them, “Portland’s pulchritudinous lassies.” The battleship carried 371 Naval Academy midshipmen, 755 enlisted men, and 57 officers who had been engaged in training exercises at sea.
The photo above was taken near the Grand Trunk Railroad pier, along eastern Commercial Street.
While the midshipmen enjoyed a tea dance at the Portland Country Club, readers of the Evening Express and the Portland Press Herald learned that the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had a “dark but still hopeful view of the international picture” (see story in the far right column). Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement would end with Hitler’s invasion of Poland, exactly one month after these photographs were taken. Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.
During the war, the U.S.S. New York participated in convoy operations. Once the war had ended, she served as a target during atomic bomb tests in the Marshall Islands in July of 1946, after which she was too radioactive for further service and was decommissioned.
Here are the original camera images which were used in the Portland Evening Express article, showing crew members of the U.S.S. New York plying their musical talents, and baking in the large ship’s kitchen.
Above: Exercising on rowing machines on deck.
Below: Writing letters home, and catching up on reading, aboard the U.S.S. New York.
Among the Library’s growing offerings via Digital Commons, you may now visit our new portal of regional postcards. The screen shot, below, also provides a link to the general page. By browsing, you may enjoy the display as a slide show or as a way to view single images. More are on the way. Stay tuned, and enjoy these colorful views of the Portland area!
Looking at this postcard, from circa 1910-1920, we can observe the familiar and the structures of yesteryear.
Postcards also inform us about the images visitors and locals chose to send out to faraway places, representing the sights of a city such as Portland.