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Maritime Month Gallery: “A Visual History of Camden Harbor”

Thursday, April 1, 2021 Friday, April 30, 2021

“The Library’s Maritime Month comes at just the right time,” said one old salt, “right after ski season but before varnishing season.”

The Camden Public Library carries on its Maritime Month tradition this April, 2021, by hosting a series of dynamic online programs and featuring a month-long “virtual gallery” of vintage photographs from the library’s Walsh History Center Collection. The gallery show, “A Visual History of Camden Harbor,” is complemented by a slide talk that was given by Ken Gross, director of the History Center at the library, on Tuesday, April 6. Click below to watch.

From fishing to shipbuilding, from lime burning to anchor building, the harbor was an essential resource to the economics of Camden, from colonial days to the present. The harbor was always an entry ramp to the freeway of the day — the high seas. With a boat it was easier to get to all of the islands in Penobscot Bay than it was to take a wagon to Hope; and a boat holds a lot more cargo, whether it was fish, firewood, salt, limestone, granite, lumber, or bushels of corn. Ken Gross’s entertaining and informative slide talk will employ the earliest charts available as well as photographs from the earliest days of photography. Images will show the sequence of changes to Camden Harbor as it accommodated the evolving series of industries in Camden.


Maritime Month is generously supported by Camden Riverhouse Hotel & Inn.


The British published an exquisite series of charts (the monumental Atlantic Neptune series) on the eve of the American Revolution in 1776. The officer in charge of the survey flotilla was Lt. Henry Mowatt — yes, the very same Henry Mowatt who burned Portland to the ground in 1775 and successfully defended Castine from American attack in 1779. He knew Penobscot Bay as well as any local sailor.

Camden Harbor c. 1912. (Area is now Lyman-Morse.) The shipyard on the far side has started working on the next ship; the Steamship Wharf is in the distance. The houses on Sea Street are still in existence but the shorefront on that side of the harbor has changed considerably. (From the Barbara Dyer Postcard Collection.)

The steamers SouthportWestport, and Minehola (Mineola) picking up passengers in Camden in 1913. The three steamers are part of the Eastern Steamship Company.

Launch of the Helen Barnet Gring, 1919. Holly Bean passed the Bean yard on to his son, R.L. (Robert) Bean. There was no work for the yard for several years, until 1914 when Bean started a series of contracts for ten four-masted schooners. The Helen Barnet Gring was the eighth schooner, launched in 1919. The last schooner ever built in Camden was launched in 1920. The smoke around the bow of the schooner is from the heat generated as the huge vessel slides down the waves.

Another photo of launch day for the Helen Barnet Gring, July 29, 1919.

This is a photo of the model of the shipyard, built by master model maker William Hitchcock, on display at the History Center. The Helen Barnet Gring is ready for launch, and the ribs of the next schooner are being lofted.

Photograph of two schooners on the ways at the Bean shipyard in Camden. Photo is undated but is prior to 1920, as the Summit House is still visible on Mt. Battie.

Closeup of the schooners on the ways, showing the workmen and scaffolding in the Bean yard, c. 1917.

Another photo of the crew at the Bean yard, c. 1918. Bean employed up to one hundred men at a time.

“Woman on schooner” in Camden harbor, undated.

The side-wheeler J.T. Morse is shown here on the ways of the Camden Yacht Building and Railway Company. The Morse was built in East Boston in 1903 for the Eastern Steamship Corporation, and ran from April to November each year on the Rockland to Bar Harbor run with many stops in between. (From the Margaret Thomas Collection.)

William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.’s Luxury Steam Yacht Tarantula I, in Camden c. 1910. The Tarantula looks like a torpedo boat because it was built in London at the Yarrow Torpedo Boat yard in 1902. Sold in 1914 and secretly converted for military use, it was resold for $1 to the Canadian Navy and commissioned as the HMCS Tuna, and assigned to patrol duties based out of Halifax. Powered by three Parsons steam turbines and nine propellers, Tarantula was one of the first high speed turbine yachts brought to America. The derrick towering above the Tarantula in the photo is not part of the ship, it is part of the equipment at the dock for loading coal. (From the Barbara Dyer Postcard Collection.)

The schooner Maggie Alice docked behind another coaster at the lime kiln in Camden in August 1900.  The Jacobs kiln was located on the current site of the Camden Yacht Club; the low-pitched shed roof and the enormous pile of firewood are sure indicators of a lime kiln. (From the collection of Theresa Parker Babb.)

Schooner Julia Poole dockside at Bird Brothers and Willey wharf. Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook are visible in the background. Dated between 1900 and 1920. The schooner is offloading coal at the wharf and the barge at right is supplying steam power.

Margaret Chase Smith christened the Navy barge MCc853 in 1943, one of some 30 ships built for the Navy by the Camden Shipbuilding and Marine Railway Company during World War II. (From the Stormy Bok Collection.) 

The yacht Monaloa on the railway into the harbor from the American Boathouse, after getting her Navy paint job in the spring of 1917. The Monaloa was requisitioned for use in World War I, and re-named, for the duration, USS Edorea, SP-549. The “SP” was for Section Patrol. According to Wikipedia, “In 1917, the U.S. Navy acquired Edorea under a free lease from her owner for use as a section patrol vessel during World War I. She was commissioned as USS Edorea (SP-549) on 27 July 1917 with Lieutenant J. G. N. Whitaker, USNRF, in command. Assigned to the 4th Naval District, Edorea operated on convoy escort and patrol duties in the Cape May, New Jersey, area for the rest of World War I. She also escorted U.S. Navy submarines to sea for target practice.” In Camden, the Monoloa‘s skipper was Captain John E. Husby. (From the Husby Family Album, from the Thordis Heistad Collection at the Walsh History Center.)

The caption that accompanied the photo says, “Mattie and Yankee on the ways at Camden about 1951 or earlier. The Mattie has her old bowsprit here and her fiddlehead is right side up.  She also had catheads at that time.”

The Kinnereth docked at Wayfarer, launched in 1948. (Photo by Carroll Thayer Berry)

Ad for Camden Yacht Building and Railway Company, c. 1901. Pictured is the Clarence H. Venner being worked on. The Venner was built in 1890 (not in Camden), and sunk in a storm off Nova Scotia in 1914. At the dock is the schooner J.C. Strawbridge, launched in 1901 from the Bean yard. (Photo by Potter Studio, Camden)

Helen J. Seitz, launched in 1905 from the Bean yard.

Frank E. Swain, launched in April, 1909, from the Bean yard.

Camden shipbuilding during World War II. The yard employed up to 1500 men in three shifts. This aerial photo is from 1944. (From the Leo Atkins Collection.)

Another aerial shot of the whole yard, 1944.

Closeup of aerial photo of Camden shipyard in WWII, showing the line of workers around quitting time.

FOR MORE, VISIT THE WALSH HISTORY CENTER ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE, OR CONTACT KEN GROSS AT THE LIBRARY TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO CHECK OUT THE COLLECTIONS IN PERSON. 207-236-3400

55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843 United States
207-236-3440