Save the Dates for Summer 2018

We are happy to report that we received a wonderful response to the call for artists, makers, and collectors in our last newsletter submission, hearing from quite a few of our members and residents with offers of items and expertise for our summer theme, “Arts, Crafts, & Collections.”   We are planning to start re-contacting those who responded soon to talk about how they can participate in our exhibits and programs this summer.  In the meantime, here are some save-the-dates:

Starting June 14th we will be open again this summer on Thursday afternoons from 1-4 PM.   We will also be open on Saturday, July 21st  from 10 – 2, for Founders Day and on Saturday, August 11th  from 10 -2, on the weekend of the Paris Hill Music Festival.   Stay tuned for an announcement possibly adding another Saturday open date for June.

Thursday, June 28th at 7 PM will be our annual membership meeting at the PHHS building on Tremont Street.  We are just starting to prepare our display cases with artistic creations from both our distant past and present which will be ready to view by our opening day, so be sure to come and get one of the first looks at the new exhibits.  We will also serve refreshments.  Not yet a member?  You can become one by following the directions at the end of this article!

Tuesday, July 17th at 7 PM, at the First Baptist Church we will welcome Dr. Martha McNamara, Director of the New England Arts & Architecture Program at Wellesley College, to speak about the life and art of Pedro Tovookan Parris.  Dr. McNamara will be giving a 45 minute presentation with a 15 minute Q&A session, after which we will have refreshments in the church hall.

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Watercolor by Pedro Tovookan Parris of his journey from Rio de Janeiro to Paris Hill, Maine. Image courtesy of Historic New England’s website.

Pedro Tovookan Parris was an ex-slave, captured in East Africa in the 1840s, taken to the slave trading hub in Zanzibar, then to another hub, Rio de Janeiro, where the ship he was on, the Porpoise, was reported to the authorities.  Virgil D. Parris, then the United States Marshall for Maine, became involved in the case and eventually adopted Tovookan and brought him to live here on Paris Hill at the Parris House (now 546 Paris Hill Road).  He became an artist, speaker, and member of the community.  Tovookan was buried in the Knoll Cemetery, behind the Parris House, in 1860 at age 29 after succumbing to pneumonia.  In our collection are the diaries of Arabella Rawson Carter, sister in law and sister, respectively, to Virgil and Columbia Parris, in which she chronicles Tovookan’s illness and death.

This is only a fraction of his story which is a remarkable piece of African American history in Maine and has been written about extensively.  Dr. McNamara is working on an exhaustive contextual biography of Tovookan.  Her research on his life has taken her all over New England and even to the UK and we are very excited to have her share her knowledge with us.

TBD, August:  We are still determining the exact dates for our August event, which will be an art and craft exhibit featuring both antique and vintage items from our collection and private collections on the Hill, and contemporary works from some of the living artists and makers among us.   We will announce all the details on this program on our website at www.parishillhistoricalsociety.org and on our Facebook page.

In keeping with our theme, we are also working on having beautiful Peg Doore reproduction note cards made that will be available for sale this summer and beyond.  Sale of these cards will benefit the society and help support our programs while offering purchasers something truly unique and lovely as gifts or for personal use.

To keep up to the minute with everything that’s happening with the Paris Hill Historical Society, both during our summer season and the rest of the year, please “like” us to join our Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/parishillhistoricalsociety/.  This is a great way to interact with us and with others who follow our page because they love the village and its history.

If you would like to become a member, support our mission of preserving and promoting Paris Hill history, and possibly become more involved, please click here.

Upcoming Theme: Arts, Crafts, & Collections, Plus Two Calls for Community Involvement

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The Doe House, c.1870, on Hannibal Hamlin Drive, a bit snowed in right after the March 8th storm.

Well, we’ve just had another big snowy northeaster come through here, but…the Paris Hill Historical Society is starting to get organized for the upcoming summer open season!  This year’s theme will be Arts, Crafts, & Collections. We are in the process of lining up some great speakers and programs, including a talk by Dr. Martha McNamara of Wellesley College on the 19th century life and biographical art of Pedro Tovookan Parris.  

We have two community calls to action as we begin our 2018 season.

We know that we have many artists, crafters, and makers on the Hill.  If you are one of them and would like to participate in this season’s celebration of creativity on the Hill, past and present, please get in touch with us at parishillhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.  Your work may just fit in to one of our 2018 programs or exhibits.  Additionally, if you have in your collection an art or craft piece made by one of our forebears that you would like to share with our community, please contact us as well.  

Speaking of collections, the Advertiser Democrat wrote a nice article this past fall about our Memory Chest project.  You can read the article here: http://advertiserdemocrat.com/items-sought-paris-hill-memory-chest/  We are still very much looking for donations for this project, which do not have to necessarily be objects, although those are welcome.  They can be written memories, a letter to the future, and more. We have a form with directions on how to contribute to this time capsule, to be opened in 2042, and we would love to have you participate.  

Again, for either of these initiatives, please contact us at parishillhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or, if you are more comfortable with a friendly phone call, just contact Beth Miller at 207-890-8490. You can also always find us on Facebook as Paris Hill Historical Society and online at www.parishillhistoricalsociety.org.  

Thank you and let’s hope mud season is short and spring and summer seem long!  

 

A Visit with Paul Cote & His Paris Manufacturing Company Collection

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On July 19th, members of the Paris Hill Historical Society and other local societies were invited to tour Paul Cote’s amazing collection of Paris Manufacturing Company products and artifacts in Oxford, Maine.  Paul is the owner of Route 26 Antiques, but beyond that he has encyclopedic knowledge on a number of topics, including Paris Manufacturing Company, the history and identification of antique snowshoes, as well as antique firearms, American history, and more.  Perhaps most importantly, Paul is exceedingly generous with this knowledge, as we found out touring his collection that day.

Paris Manufacturing Company had its beginnings when Henry F. Morton built his first sled for sale in his kitchen in Sumner, Maine in 1861.  However, it was incorporated as the Paris Hill Manufacturing Company and relocated to Paris Hill in 1869 after Henry joined forces with Alban Maxim, who was manufacturing furniture.  At that time approximately twenty five employees made toys, furniture, baby carriages, and other products, but the most famous of the products were the sleds, which were hand painted with what can only be called original art.  Paul Cote’s collection has many examples of the fine art treatments these sled tops received.  Bear in mind that these were not made to be hung on the wall and admired. These sleds were made for children (and adults, if they wanted!) to use to barrel down the snowy hills of winter, and used they were.  Here is a photo of some of that artwork:

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One of these sled tops’ artwork is a very fine reproduction.  Can you guess which one?  If so, put a comment on this post and we’ll give the answer later.

In 1876 Paris Manufacturing Company exhibited a sled at the Centennial International Exposition (first World’s Fair) in Philadelphia and was honored with a prize.  Paul Cote, after a long acquisition process which makes for a wonderful story (ask Paul sometime, because he truly tells it best), owns this very sled.

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Honestly, it was breathtaking to see this sled.  One of our members noted that she took great pride knowing that our history and heritage here in Paris is so interesting and remarkable.  The center ringed mark on this sled is from a previous owner resting a plant on it (!) and while Paul could, theoretically, try to restore that out, he has chosen not to for solid reasons.  It is interesting to note that the original gold leaf is shiniest where that wear/staining occurred, and gives an insight in to how gleaming it must have been when new.

Another piece exhibited at the same Exposition was an elaborate baby carriage, which Paul also has in his collection.

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Paul said that this originally would have had side lamps.  This is hard to imagine today.  That surely would not pass modern day safety standards.  Along with the carriage, there is a catalog page for it.

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Not that model #34 was $20 in 1876.  According to an online inflation calculator, that would be about $445 today.  Model #36 was $30, or about $670 today.  So, these carriages were very expensive in their day and most likely the state of the art.

One very interesting feature that Paul explained to us was a change Paris Manufacturing Company made in the undercarriage of its sleds.  Instead of having straight pieces of wood as part of the structure holding on the runners, as the early sleds had, the company started using curved pieces.  This eliminated a common problem of torque, as the sled was used, wiggling the joints apart and compromising the structural integrity of the sled.  Here is Paul showing us an example of the newer design vs the older one.

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In 1883, Paris Manufacturing Company moved off of Paris Hill and down to South Paris.  A large towering stack still stands at the site today, off Western Avenue, bearing the company’s name.  Here is what it looked like when it was in full operation.

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Evidence of the popularity of these sleds still remains on Paris Hill.  Several years ago, local historian Winnie Mott allowed some metal detecting folks to search on her property, with the understanding that Winnie could keep any artifacts that had meaning to her.  Here’s one of the things they found, and that Winnie kept. Do you know what it is that she’s holding?

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It is a sleigh bell from a Paris Manufacturing child’s sled (note Winnie’s tee shirt).  A great find!

Paul also kindly showed us his collection of antique North American (including some Native American) snow shoes.  Here is one set that was particularly interesting.  Paul explained that the wool pom poms, although in some cases decorative, were also in many cases functional, especially on spring snowshoes when icy conditions created the possibility of the shoes being cut or damaged by the sharp ice.  The pom poms were protective of the snowshoe edges.

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Here is a pair of Native American snowshoes in Paul’s collection.

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Older people from the area will remember the giant fifteen foot “Norway snowshoe.”  At one time, Norway was an important hub of snowshoe manufacturing and the giant snowshoe was on display in town.  Paul has a replica.

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Finally, Paul showed us a very interesting piece of American firearm history, an Evans Repeating Rifle, which is not a commonly found weapon.  It has an unusual ammunition screw feed mechanism and other features which ultimately made it noncompetitive for American military applications, but remains a well known rarity among antique firearm enthusiasts and was made in nearby Mechanic Falls, Maine.

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After the tour, Paul and some of the attendees were able to follow up with a nice luncheon at the Paris Hill Country Club Cafe to chat some more.  Then they went over to the Paris Hill Historical Society to see our very own Paris Manufacturing sleigh!  You too can take a peek at that sleigh during our open hours, 1PM to 4PM, every Thursday this summer.

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This amazing tour was by invitation to members of the Paris Hill Historical Society and was just one of the benefits of membership this season.  Please consider becoming a member, if you are not already. The membership form is HERE.

We hope you have enjoyed this post and that you will contact Paul Cote at Route 26 Antiques with questions regarding his collection, or for anything in this realm you are seeking.    We also have a pretty thick folder on Paris Manufacturing Company at the society on Tremont Street, so stop in.

Many, many thanks to Paul Cote for his generosity, knowledge, and time.

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Letter to Hannibal Hamlin from his Father in Law, Stephen Emery, upon Hamlin’s Election as Vice President

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We can thank Paris Hill resident Tony Kleitz for this wonderful piece of history he discovered at the Maine State Archives in Augusta.  It is a copy of the letter Hannibal Hamlin’s father in law, Stephen Emery, wrote to him upon his election in 1860 as Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President.  It reads as follows:

“Auburn, Nov. 7, 1860

Dear Son;

Language is almost powerless to express my joy at the result of yesterday’s labor, and I should do violence to my feelings, were I to neglect to express that joy to you, altho’ you will be nearly overwhelmed with congratulatory letters.  My better way perhaps would be to rejoice in silence, but the very “stones” should be permitted “to cry out” in shouts of exultation. O, how glorious the triumph!

“The powers of Hell are captive led, dragged from the portals of the sky.”

My faith in human nature, which years of rascality & barefaced corruption had gradually but steadily impaired, is renewed again and hope our country & the right return with beaming eye and elevated crest.  May the victory now won be used wisely & well, and become as memorable for lasting good, as it is gratifying to the feelings.

Please say to Dear Ellie, I rec’d her letter yesterday.  I thank her very much for it.  May Heaven guide, and keep, and bless you all.

Your affec. father

Stephen Emery

Hope I shall see you before many weeks. Burlingame, who has vindicated the honor of Massachusetts, and promoted her interest, with singular ability & fidelity, is sacrificed by a cold, heartless, corrupt aristocracy.  Shame, shame, on such base ingratitude!”

Would you like to know more about the presidential election of 1860?  If so, come on out to our program, “Hannibal Hamlin, the 1860 Presidential Campaign, and its Impact on Paris, Maine” tomorrow night, August 9th, at 7 PM at the First Baptist Church of Paris here on Paris Hill.  Hope to see you then!

The Birth of Modern Baseball Presentation, July 27th – A Good Time Had by All!

Last Wednesday we had the good fortune to have Paris Hill resident and accomplished sports expert Bob Moorehead give a presentation on the birth of modern baseball and the 1919 World Series scandal.  John Brooks also presented his extensive memorabilia and replica baseball jersey collection, along with a very informative talk.   It was a wonderful time, well attended, and I think we all learned a lot about America’s favorite pastime.

The evening started with a gathering at our host’s, the First Baptist Church of Paris.  Reverend Mary Beth Caffey greeted the attendees and gave a blessing for the food.

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This was followed by a meal of what else?  Hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack!  Special thanks to Tony Rice for grilling the dogs.

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Following the meal, John Brooks gave a very interesting presentation in the church hall about his collection of baseball jerseys and the history they represent.

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For a slideshow view of the exhibit see below:

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After John’s presentation it was time to go upstairs to the historic sanctuary and hear Bob Moorehead’s talk.  He was introduced by our president, Nancy Schlanser, and thanked by her at the conclusion of the program.  Bob’s in depth explanation of the 1919 World Series scandal demonstrated a rare depth of knowledge and understanding of the sport, its history, and…given the elements at play in the betting and “fixing” scandal…human nature itself.

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We would like to thank everyone involved who made this program such a success, from our presenters to our hosts to everyone who attended.  Special thanks to Carol Rice for leading us in song for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” not once, but twice!

Did you miss this program but wish you hadn’t?  We will have another history talk on August 9th.  The topic is “Hannibal Hamlin, the Campaign of 1860, and its impact on Paris Hill.”  For more information, please click HERE.  It will also be  held at the First Baptist Church of Paris at 7 PM.  Come out and see us, and follow our Facebook page to keep up to date on everything we’re doing AND to play our on line Paris Hill History Hunt game. As always, we are open at the Paris Hill Historical Society building on Tremont Street every Wednesday this summer from 1 PM to 4 PM with our 2016 exhibit, “The Games People Play.”

Hope to see you soon!

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Our attendees leaving our beautiful venue, last Wednesday evening.