By Earl Smith
$17.95, softcover, nonfiction
In his book, Downeast Genius, Earl Smith explores the many inventors—both well-known and obscure—that have shaped the landscape of Maine ingenuity. Several of these inventors are women and Smith, a thorough, succinct historian, has given them the recognition they deserve and yet so rarely receive in the annals of invention and creation.
Margaret E. Knight, a Maine woman who filed more than eighty patents in her lifetime and one of the few to pave the way for future female inventors to claim their intellectual property, invented a machine that could create flat-bottomed paper bags when she was just thirty-two years old. Over one hundred and fifty years later, with Maine’s recent statewide plastic bag ban, Knight’s nineteenth-century invention has become even more significant. Knight was so prolific that she was dubbed a “woman Edison” in her 1914 obituary.
Helen Augusta Blanchard also took advantage of the industrialization of the United States in the 1800s, patenting a factory sewing machine that made sturdy buttonholes with zigzag stitches. Although the zigzag stitch is her most regarded creation Blanchard invented many other things but, like Knight, she faced a male-dominated patent system. After filing twenty-eight patents, Blanchard spent her golden years providing support and opportunities for the women workers who had been displaced by her machine improvements.
Blanchard is not the only woman acknowledged for using her influence and success for good in Downeast Genius. Isabel Greenwood, the wife of Chester Greenwood, inventor of the V-shaped hinge that kept earmuffs tight to the head, spent her life fighting for the rights of working women in textile mills and women’s suffrage. She may not have patented inventions like her husband, but she, like Blanchard, is a shining example of a Maine woman who benefited from a time of unchecked industrial growth and chose not to leave other women behind.
Smith discusses female inventors, as well as those whose contributions to their loved ones’ creations and legacy were vital, but never recorded in a US patent office. It was often the women of the industrial revolution and early twentieth century who sought to prevent technological progress from being beneficial to some and such a detriment to so many others. So often, the accomplishments of women go unnoticed and unacknowledged—their names ephemeral and their legacies anonymous. Downeast Genius offers readers an opportunity to learn a few of those names and helps to restore a few of those legacies.
You Might also Like:
This Day in Maine
By Joseph Owen
$18.95, softcover, nonfiction
Since achieving statehood in 1820, Maine has developed into a sometimes mythical vacationland of moose and lobsters and lighthouses set against breathtaking vistas and endless natural beauty. But the state’s history is more real than postcards; replete with tragedy and triumph, and boasting powerful politicians, brilliant inventors, successful athletes, and talented creative professionals. Although a small state, it has often touched the world in an outsized way, from the heroics of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top during the Civil War to the inspiration and sadness of young Samantha Smith during the Cold War. Along the way, Margaret Chase Smith has inspired, Stephen King has scared, and the Ice Storm challenged. This fascinating book from Joseph Owen, a long-time newspaperman, chronicles day-by-day, from January 1 to December 31, the highlights, and lowlights, the famous and infamous, and the big and small of everyday life in Maine.
Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine.
By Earl Brechlin
$18.95, softcover, nonfiction
So, you think you know Maine? Think again! It is not just the woods, waters, mountains, lobsters, and lighthouses that define Maine. From Kittery to Eastport, from Fort Kent to Monhegan, Maine is home to natural wonders, quirky characters, remarkable inventors, and haunting ghosts and legends. Whether it’s Moxie Nerve Food, the North American Wife Carrying Competition, UFO abductions along the Allagash, or Katahdin’s role in creating Bambi, this book by long-time journalist Earl Brechlin celebrates all that makes the state unique—both real and imagined. Brechlin not only recognizes the historical giants of Maine and its natural beauty, but brings to life the myths, legends, truths, and tall tales that have been shared around Maine’s campfires for generations.
Here for Generations
By Dean Lawrence Lunt
$24.95, hardcover, nonfiction
Here for Generations tells the remarkable tale of a town and a bank that have moved in concert for one hundred and fifty years. The book captures their sweeping history through triumph and tragedy and brings to life the fascinating people and events that have shaped their journey. The bank’s roots were set in the 1830s, when the bustling city of Bangor lured the best and the brightest of Maine’s adventurers to its port and commercial center. Bangor was the Lumber Capital of the World, complete with all the intrigue of a riverfront boomtown-potential riches and busted dreams, wealthy lumber barons, and rowdy lumbermen and sailors. Among those who arrived in this city on the rise were Elijah L. Hamlin and twenty-three other men. Most came from humble origins, but all came with a dream. Through hard work and vision, they built businesses and institutions and emerged as the city’s great leaders. In 1852, these men—businessmen, lawyers, artisans, and merchants—came together in a philanthropic effort to create Bangor Savings Bank.