Maine's Surprising History
Editor in Chief Paul Doiron announces the publication of Deputy Editor Joshua F. Moore's book "What's in a Picture?"
In his novel Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner has a great line about history. “The past is never dead,” he writes. “It isn’t even past.” I thought of that quote recently while reading the letters that came in about Josh Moore’s July 2008 “What’s in a Picture?” The photograph, you might remember, showed Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, posed with his lethal creation in a field in Wayne. Given that the picture was taken in 1898, we didn’t expect a lot of feedback. But “What’s in a Picture?” has a way of proving Faulkner’s dictum to be true.
Merritt Maxim, Hiram’s great great-grandson, wrote in to tell us that he now owns the inventor’s pocket watch shown in the photo. We also heard from a Louis Wiederhold who took us to task for not mentioning another of Maxim’s creations: the American Radio Relay League. And finally we got a letter from John Maxim Lee, another relative, who said: “Mr. Moore deserves a good deal of credit for having his facts right, sometimes difficult to do with those volatile old Maxims.” Indeed, he does.
“What’s in a Picture?” has long been one of Down East’s most popular departments. The column — which dissects a vintage photograph, discovering details that aren’t quickly apparent, and putting the scene into historical perspective — looks simple on the surface. But I can vouch for the painstaking research Josh puts into his work: the hours he spends in musty places poring over antique photographs, the interviews he conducts with living witnesses to these past events, the voluminous correspondence he conducts with historical societies across the state tracking down obscure details. The goal isn’t just to find arresting images for the magazine’s last page. It’s to use these glimpses of history as tiny mirrors reflecting present-day Maine.
Down East has recently collected fifty of Josh’s photographic write-ups for a new book, What’s in a Picture? Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs, and obviously I’m of the opinion that you should go to and buy a few copies. As you read the book, you’ll discover that the past is alive and well in Maine. We nearsighted narcissists just happen to call it “the present.”
Editor in Chief
- By: Paul Doiron