Down East 2013 ©
Perhaps it’s best to keep the gentlemen away from the apron counter. If the expression on the face of the woman, just right of center, is any indication, that’s what the ladies of the Dorcas Society in Hollis were probably thinking as this escapade unfolded at their annual fair back in 1913. The charitable group was named after Dorcas, the biblical figure who was raised from the dead and went on to sew coats and garments for the poor. The southern Maine chapter was formed in 1897 by Hollis resident Kate Douglas Wiggin, the author of such children’s classics as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
Through annual performances (which continue to this day) of Wiggin’s play The Old Peabody Pew and fund-raising events like the Dorcas Fair, shown here, the society has aided groups such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and local libraries and shelters. In recent years, Dorcas members have been responsible for maintaining the historic Parish House in Bar Mills, a former train station that Wiggin paid to have moved up the hill from its location near the Saco River.
During the Dorcas Society’s early years, Wiggin held the fair at her home, “Quillcote,” which is where Biddeford photographer Charles E. Moody snapped this hilarious shot.
He managed to capture some of the area’s most notable residents — Charles B. Frothingham, at far left, was a physician and neighbor, and Frank Leavitt, at far right, was a decorated Civil War veteran who had held a variety of local and state positions. Moody has also included a glimpse of a Model T parked just under the curtain behind the men and, barely visible under Dr. Frothingham’s arm at far left, the face of a young girl. The bonneted man at center who seems to be the biggest ham was James W. Meserve, whose wife was the president of the Dorcas Society at the time and may well be the somewhat horrified woman seated behind him.
Though Moody captured this scene nearly a century ago, selling aprons — and having a good time in the process — continues to be part of the Dorcas Society’s activities.
“Aprons have always been one of the things we’ve sold at the fair,” says Teivy Manuel, a Buxton resident and society member for many years. “I’ve made a couple that have been in there for a couple of years, but not too many people wear aprons anymore, so they’ve not been selling too well.”
Perhaps she would be more successful if she, like her predecessors, employed three dapper models to advertise her wares.