In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Occupational Photography

The presence of a farmer and a sailor on the Maine State Seal symbolizes the importance of agricultural and maritime activities to the state’s economy in the nineteenth century. Reflecting Maine’s seagoing heritage are four portrait photographs of captains whose stern faces reflect the responsibilities of commanding a ship at sea.

Born in Topsham, James Fulton Patten (1800-1883) lived much of his life in nearby Bath, from where he sailed vessels built by his brothers George and John Patten. He later joined his brothers’ shipbuilding firm and became one Bath’s wealthiest citizens.

Like Captain Patten, Captain Israel Gross’s image is preserved in a daguerreotype. Captain Gross lived in Brunswick and Topsham until his death in 1855 at the age of 45. Slightly later in time is the ambrotype of Captain Lewis Mitchell of Portland, a veteran shipmaster whose career spanned from 1834 to 1879. The tintype of bearded Captain William Blanchard of Richmond is a reminder of that Kennebec River town’s flourishing pre Civil War shipbuilding industry and the many mariners who resided there.

Many occupational photographs depict individuals in the clothing of their trade or profession holding related tools or objects. In mid nineteenth century Maine music was popularized through the efforts of individual musicians and local musical groups, especially bands. In his ambrotype, Charles Thompson (at left) of South Berwick proudly displays his over-the-shoulder soprano horn, a band instrument of the period. A tintype of George Allen Soule of Yarmouth shows a young man with his coat and tie almost entirely covered by a smock, which the photographer has tinted blue. Wearing such a garment to protect his clothes indicates that Soule worked at a trade or in a factory, perhaps in the local textile mill.