Fascinating Maine history seen through 112 objects

A Story of Maine in 112 Objects is a fascinating history of Maine, from prehistoric to today, told through the amazing collections of the Maine State Museum, published by Tilbury House Publishers and edited by Bernard Fishman, the museum’s director.

This is a substantial book and probably the heaviest book I’ve ever held. You’ll need some strength just to tackle this one. And you want to set aside many hours for enjoying both the photos and the stories. Bernard did a superb job selecting the 112 artifacts and specimens spread throughout Maine’s 395 million years.

From the mastodon tooth to the pistol that almost killed Joshua Chamberlain at the battle of Gettysburg, the oldest hearse to the snowshoes made by escaping German POWs and the original Ski-Doo snowmobile, you’ll spend a lot of time enjoying the photos.

But it’s the stories that are truly intriguing. One of my favorites was about the display of moose and other wild animals created by Klir Beck. When I was a kid, we would drive up to Beck’s house in Mount Vernon, where he had a pasture full of deer.

I was fascinated by the largest fossil mammals and 11,000 year old giant deer with an antler span of 9 feet. They also have a fossil plant from Baxter State Park that’s about 400 million years old. Wow!

And they’ve got a mammoth tooth dated to around 12,200 years ago. I also was interested in the photo of an Indian campsite from 12 to 13,000 years ago on the Magalloway River because I recognized it. I’ve fished there!

Of course there is lots more from “modern” times including a breach loading rifle invented about 1822 and a Thomas Built bamboo fly rod from the early 20th century. I enjoyed the story on woolen mills because I worked in one when I was 17 years old.

And I remember using telephone switchboards, which finally ended in the early 1980s. Those old sardine cans brought back memories because my grandmother packed sardines in Lubec.

If you’re a Mainer, you will find things here that you remember. And even if you are not, you will find our state’s history to be very interesting. It was very clever to tell our history through these interesting collection of items at the State Museum, which of course, you will now want to visit!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.