A Brooks Boost for the Eastern Photo Collection

A little over a year ago, Kevin Johnson, PMM's photo archivist, received an intriguing tip from a supporter: a homeowner in the town of Brooks who had recently passed away had owned a box of glass plate negatives - possibly from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Over the next several months, Kevin attempted to learn more about the negatives by contacting both the homeowner's heir and her attorney. These efforts met with no response.


This May, Kevin gave a presentation about the museum's collection of Eastern Illustrating photographs of Brooks and its environs before the Brooks Historical Society. He took the opportunity to tell the society's president, Betty Littlefield, about the rumored negatives and his interest in them. She proved eager to help.


Within just days she called Kevin with the exciting news that she had found the negatives! Sometime before he died, the Brooks homeowner had given the plates to his secretary, Helen Marden, with instructions to donate them to a suitable organization with the interest in, and capability of, caring for them. Helen had been following Kevin's activities concerning the museum's photo archives in the newspaper and had attended his Brooks presentation, where she concluded that PMM was indeed the appropriate caretaker. She had not, however, gotten around to contacting Kevin when she received a call from Betty.


The connection thus established, arrangements for the transfer of the gift were swiftly completed. Kevin met Helen and Betty at the Pilley House, home of the Brooks Historical Society, where he was presented with two shoe boxes packed with an estimated 200 to 300 glass plate and film negatives from Eastern Illustrating. Among the images of train stations, general stores, mills and street views are dozens from Thorndike, Montville, Freedom, Morrill and Unity, a few from Brooks and Albion, and even a couple from Searsport - all of them dating from the first half of the 20th century.


Penobscot Marine Museum is honored to be entrusted with these valuable photographs and thankful to Helen Marden for supporting our efforts to reassemble the entire image production of Eastern Illustrating into a single, comprehensive collection. The museum has begun work at processing the negatives and will be working to add them to their online database in the not too distant future. For more information please contact photo archivist Kevin Johnson at (207)548-2529 ext 210 or email him at Kjohnson@pmm-maine.org.


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