sometimes enjoying summer in Maine is about knowing the right people. For haberdasher Leonard D. Alger, shown here waiting at the Strickland's Ferry train station, that meant keeping in touch with Livermore native Silas R. Morse, who took this photograph around 1900. A school administrator who had invested wisely while living in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Morse would occasionally bring friends such as Alger back with him to Livermore during the summer months. While his out-of-town guests relaxed at his home and at his camps in Leeds and Rangeley, Morse passed the time by photographing the area, creating about 300 glass-plate negatives that form the largest pictorial record of this northern tip of Androscoggin County.
"This fellow looks like he might've come right off the Monopoly board, but in some ways Morse himself did," explains Dennis Stires, a Livermore historian. "He moved to New Jersey during the early Civil War, but he'd come home in the summers and take photographs here — he had the money to do it."
The composition of this image attests to Morse's expertise. The converging lines created by the gutters and roofline, at far left, and the fencepost and tracks, at right, all lead our eyes to Mr. Alger's distinctive smile. His black bowler hat contrasts perfectly with the sky above him and with the more working-class caps worn by the men positioned at left. The kerosene lamp, at upper left, angled surfaces of the wooden baggage cart, and even the stub of a cigar, barely visible in the man's hand at lower left, all return us ever-so-subtly to this jolly gent from away.
Life was not always so uncomplicated in this rural corner of Maine, where the mighty Androscoggin River flowed through many communities. During the first half of the nineteenth century several hand-powered ferries, including one that bore the same name as the platform shown here, helped unite Livermore's residents during summer, fall, and winter. But during spring floods, when town meetings were held, the crossing often proved impossible, a harsh reality that led to the separation of Livermore and East Livermore in 1844.
But for this dapper visitor and his photographer friend such divisions were simply part of the landscape they had come to adore, a fact of life that, along with ferry crossings and rural train stops, were all part of a summer vacation in Maine. —Joshua F. Moore