Windham Life and Times – March 31, 2017

Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company

Herman Cassens and one of his Eastern Illustrating “real photo” postcards of Cobbett’s Pond in Windham.

Historic Glass Plate Images of Windham

You will remember this image that was in last week’s column. In looking at the postcard, I noticed that the name of the publishing company was imprinted on the back. Eastern Illustrating Company of Belfast, Maine. A little research online lead me to the Penobscot Marine Museum, where the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company collection is housed. There are literally tens of thousands of historic images in the collection. You can imagine my excitement as I viewed the forty or so photographs of Windham.

I spoke to Kevin Johnson, photographic archivist at the museum who told me the history of Eastern Illustrating and his involvement with the collection. The glass plates were almost lost in a flood! The museum gave me permission to present the Windham photographs to you in my Windham News column and in my blog. I am sure you’ll enjoy seeing these photographs as much as I did.

The history of the Eastern Illustrating is very interesting and what is presented here is from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s web-site. “In 1909, R. Herman Cassens, a young entrepreneur, started a postcard company, the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, in the mid-coast town of Belfast, Maine. Postcards have always been a popular item, especially for travelers, but at the turn of the century they were the absolute rage.”

“At a time when the telephone was not an integral part of the American household and email was still nearly a century away, postcards provided both a visual and written link, whether from across town or across the country. Cassens saw a niche between personal/amateur postcards and the mass-produced postcards available in the bigger cities. He had a dream of “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail–Maine to California,” focusing on small rural towns and villages. He and his small crew of photographers traveled through rural New England and New York focusing their lenses on locally known landmarks, street scenes, country stores and businesses, events and people. The exposed glass plate negatives were sent back to the ‘factory’ in Belfast where they were processed, printed and sent back to the general stores for sale at ‘2 for 5 cents.’ ”

“Cassens sold his business in 1947 and died in 1948. Though his dream of photographing all 48 states was not realized, his company did manage to make over 40,000 glass plate negatives of New England and New York between 1909 and 1947. The images are fascinating on many levels. They take their viewers back in time to when the roads were still dirt, horse drawn carriages outnumbered cars, coastlines were still undeveloped and elms lined the streets.” You can learn more about how the collection ended up at the Penobscot Marine Museum by following this link: penobscotmarinemuseum.org/eastern-illustrating-publishing-company/ The museum is looking for donations for its efforts in restoring and publishing these and other photographs.

The good news is that for anybody who might be interested, the Penobscot Marine Museum will make high resolution prints on Fine Art paper, with archival pigment inks. So in the coming weeks, if you see a Windham scene that you might want to enjoy hanging on your wall, you can purchase it at the  https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/historic-photo-prints/ Their collection also features historic photographs of towns throughout New England and New York. I saw beautiful views of Big Island Pond in Derry, Arlington Pond Reservoir and of the town of Salem while doing my research. Print sizes range from 8” x 10” to 24” x 30.”

I can’t wait to share these photographs with you, my loyal readers. In the coming weeks, you’ll see  many fascinating scenes of Windham past.

You can learn more about the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company and its photographic archive at: https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/eastern-illustrating-publishing-company/

Purchase the North by Northeastern DVD featuring the photographs of the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company.

Donate to help preserve the photograph collections of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

Browse the Penobscot Marine Museum Photograph Collection.

Purchase Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography by author Kevin Johnson

 

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