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John Dunn, 19th Century Sportsman

This Exhibit Contains 15 Items
1
John W. G. Dunn, Moosehead Lake, 1904

John W. G. Dunn, Moosehead Lake, 1904

Item 5887 info
Maine Historical Society

John Dunn was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1869. His father, Charles Bullen Dunn, was a wealthy businessman and great outdoorsman.

Due to huge success as a Philadelphia banker, Dunn's father had the resources to make frequent trips from urban Philadelphia to the pristine, remote and rugged Moosehead Lake region of northern Maine.


2
John Dunn, Ragged Lake area, 1901

John Dunn, Ragged Lake area, 1901

Item 5874 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1891, John Dunn dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania due to illness, ending a dream of a career in civil engineering.

To recover from illness and to regain stamina, Dunn traveled to Maine for the fresh air and rigors of the outdoors.

From 1885 to 1904, John Dunn spent weeks on end photographing, hunting and fishing around Ragged Lake, Roach Pond and Moosehead Lake.


3
Bearbrook Landing, 1895

Bearbrook Landing, 1895

Item 5882 info
Maine Historical Society

During his teenage years, John Dunn had developed a fascination for a relatively new technology: photography.

He documented his hunting and fishing trips to Maine using a bulky Graflex box camera and a heavy wooden tripod.

Dunn, with the help of guides, carried the cumbersome equipment to even the most remote and inaccessible areas.


4
Fishing catch from Ragged Lake, ca. 1887

Fishing catch from Ragged Lake, ca. 1887

Item 1016 info
Maine Historical Society

Dunn had also become an accomplished fly-fisherman. In the late 1800s, a state-of-the-art fly-fishing outfit might consist of a bamboo fly rod, a reel loaded with silk fly line and hand-tied flies to simulate any number of brook trout prey.


5
Sandy Point Camp, Ragged Lake, 1896

Sandy Point Camp, Ragged Lake, 1896

Item 5872 info
Maine Historical Society

Dunn enlisted the services of local guides with keen knowledge of where to find trophy fish and game.

Often, the guides had access to out-post camps, either owned by themselves or fellow guides.


6
Ragged Lake in the late 1800s

Ragged Lake in the late 1800s

Item 1021 info
Maine Historical Society

Deserted logging camps on the shores of pristine lakes and ponds provided protection from the elements and access to remote areas.

Ragged Lake, Socatean Stream, and the Roach Ponds were favorite destinations.


7
Steamer Henry M, Lily Bay, Moosehead Lake

Steamer Henry M, Lily Bay, Moosehead Lake

Item 5885 info
Maine Historical Society

Late 19th century travel was an arduous proposition in northern Maine.

To reach outpost camps in remote, game-rich areas, Dunn and his party traveled from Philadelphia to the southern end of Moosehead Lake, where they boarded the steamer Henry M to Lily Bay.


8
Loading up the teams

Loading up the teams

Item 5883 info
Maine Historical Society

Disembarking at Lily Bay, the party loaded gear onto horse-drawn wagons and traveled a day or more along dirt roads and wagon trails.

Depending on the destination, they transferred their gear to canoes and paddled upwards of 15 to 20 miles along one of Moosehead's tributaries.


9
Ragged Lake, 1887

Ragged Lake, 1887

Item 1019 info
Maine Historical Society

Around the turn of the century, Maine was developing a national reputation for its abundant game and had begun to experiment with game laws in an effort to protect the valuable resource.

In 1895 the bag limit was set at two deer instead of three. And in 1900, the deer hunting season opened on October 15 and was shortened from closing on January 15 to December 15.


10
Ragged Lake, 1887

Ragged Lake, 1887

Item 1024 info
Maine Historical Society

In addition, the legislature appropriated increased funding for enforcement.

There were now strong laws and money to enforce them. Hunting in Maine would be forever changed.


11
Tom and his buck from Little Blackberry Pond

Tom and his buck from Little Blackberry Pond

Item 5888 info
Maine Historical Society

Stricter game laws created tension between residents, trying to feed their families and earn a living as market hunters, and wealthy out-of-state sportsmen. The state, supported by sportsmen "from away," wanted to ensure that Maine's trophy wildlife remained abundant.

But Mainers, clinging to long-standing tradition, felt that it was their right to take as much game as they wanted, whenever they wanted.


12
Ragged Lake, ca. 1887

Ragged Lake, ca. 1887

Item 1023 info
Maine Historical Society

Before 1830, the taking of any wildlife in Maine had been largely unrestricted. The strain on the deer, moose and caribou herd was becoming serious.

Tourism became increasingly crucial to the economic development of Maine. Game laws ensured that Maine's marketable wildlife populations stayed strong.

Without trophies to pursue, wealthy sportsmen from Boston, New York and Philadelphia would have no reason to travel to Maine.


13
John W.G. Dunn's tent, Ragged Lake, 1901

John W.G. Dunn's tent, Ragged Lake, 1901

Item 5875 info
Maine Historical Society

By 1896, at the age of 27, John Dunn had settled in Minnesota along with the rest of his family and no longer traveled to Moosehead Lake.

However, Dunn cherished his time spent in Maine, and from his home in Minnesota, he sold albums of photographs taken during the numerous bivouacs to the Moosehead region.

And whether he was sleeping in a tent, a camp, under the stars, or in the comfort of his home, Dunn kept a copy of Thoreau's The Maine Woods at his bedside.


14
John W. G. Dunn cooking fish

John W. G. Dunn cooking fish

Item 5886 info
Maine Historical Society

John Dunn died in May of 1941 in St. Paul, Minnesota. A friend fondly wrote that he was considered "a good woodsman, a lover of nature, a fair rod, a strong shot, a good stayer on the tramp, and a most enjoyable companion."


15
John and Alice Dunn, Moosehead Lake region, 1904

John and Alice Dunn, Moosehead Lake region, 1904

Item 5879 info
Maine Historical Society

Works Cited:

Telephone Interview with Julia Hunter, 8/14/2001

Edward D. Ives, George Magoon and the Downeast Game War, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

James Taylor Dunn, "J.W.G. Dunn: Fisherman, Photographer and Nature Lover," in Dallas Visitor (1989) and The Country Messenger (July 4, 1989).

Harvey Elliot, "The Early Years" in Maine Fish and Game, Spring 1961.


This Exhibit Contains 15 Items