In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Longfellow: Beloved and Enduring Poet

This Exhibit Contains 23 Items
1
Longfellow Souvenir Palette, 1882

Longfellow Souvenir Palette, 1882

Item 19232 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow's readers accorded him a degree of veneration that few people have ever known.

He wrote in a turbulent era when hard work, risk-taking, small economic gain, and displacement from the familiar were common experiences for Americans.

Longfellow's authoritative calm and his celebration of the American experience were a relief to his public.


2
Longfellow Commemorative Spoon

Longfellow Commemorative Spoon

Item 10852 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow influenced America's artistic and popular culture.

His works inspired artists and composers, and his poems were read and recited in parlors, schoolrooms and at civic ceremonies.

His poetry lent itself to performance.


3
Longfellow Commemorative Medallion

Longfellow Commemorative Medallion

Item 11146 info
Maine Historical Society

Schools, steamboats, geographic locations, and ordinary products -- even cigars -- were named for him and personalities from his poems.

In the 1870s, schoolchildren celebrated his birthday as if it were a national holiday.

Longfellow had international status as well.

In 1868, he made a triumphant tour of Europe. He was honored everywhere he went, but nowhere more than in England.

He was received by Queen Victoria and was awarded honorary degrees by Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The self-effacing New England poet received such tributes gratefully, but lightly.


4
Hiawatha Spoon Pattern

Hiawatha Spoon Pattern

Item 10850 info
Maine Historical Society

Following Longfellow's death in 1882, the "literature of tribute" to him included handsomely produced books of reminiscences and reviews of his life and work.

Perhaps the honor that most significantly reflected his achievement was the placement of his bust in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. He was the only American author ever to be so honored.


5
Poem on box of tea, 1995

Poem on box of tea, 1995

Item 10591 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow's Voices of the Night, published in 1839 when he was 32 years old, included such poems as "A Psalm of Life" and "The Wreck of the Hesperus."

He already had published a travel book, several textbooks, translations, scholarly articles, and some fiction, but it was this volume that announced him as a poet and seemed to herald a new American literature.

His poetry has been a continuous presence in our language ever since. Merchants and manufacturers quote him on their products, journalists and preachers quote him in their articles and sermons, and ordinary men and women quote him in their daily lives.


6
Longfellow Paperweight

Longfellow Paperweight

Item 10848 info
Maine Historical Society

Some of Longfellow's lines and phrases -- "A boy's will is the wind's will," "Ships that pass in the night," "Footprints on the sands of time" -- are so well known that they have entered the American lexicon, and often are quoted without the speaker knowing Longfellow penned the words.


7
Longfellow Stamp First Day Cover, 1940

Longfellow Stamp First Day Cover, 1940

Item 11319 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow's impact was not just literary. He exercised a broad cultural influence on art, music, theater, and on the public mind.

The vivid domestic images in his "Hanging of the Crane," The Courtship of Miles Standish, and "The Old Clock on the Stairs" turned ordinary objects into symbols of American life.


8
Longfellow birthplace paperweight, ca. 1930

Longfellow birthplace paperweight, ca. 1930

Item 11839 info
Maine Historical Society

During his lifetime and in subsequent decades, Longfellow's familiar image and scenes from his poems were used widely to market products as diverse as food, insurance, magazines, needlework, games and toys, household goods, and house plans themselves.

Nowhere has Longfellow been more consistently revered and memorialized than in the city of his birth, Portland.


9
Commemorative pitcher with portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Commemorative pitcher with portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Item 18275 info
Maine Historical Society

Images of his birthplace and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, his boyhood home, have been used on souvenirs for tourists.

His illustrious family name has been attached to businesses and buildings.


10
Longfellow birthplace plate, ca. 1910

Longfellow birthplace plate, ca. 1910

Item 11843 info
Maine Historical Society

His seated figure in Longfellow Square in Portland remains a valued presence in the city where he absorbed the values and culture that made it possible for him to create the idea of American life that resonated and resonates around the world.


11
Evangeline calendar, 1904

Evangeline calendar, 1904

Item 19229 info
Maine Historical Society

Evangeline was an instant success when it was published in 1847.

It was daringly written in hexameters, but the public snapped up six editions within three months of its first appearance, insuring Longfellow's literary fame and financial success.

The poem is a fictionalized account of the English expulsion of 6,000 Acadian French from Nova Scotia in 1755.

Its theme of exile, separations, search, and constancy resonated with 19th century Americans.


12
Evangeline Doll

Evangeline Doll

Item 11173 info
Maine Historical Society

William Dean Howells, arbiter of American letters, called it "the first American poem of ... stature."

Evangeline addressed public issues of the day -- territorial expansion, racial and ethnic integration, and the loss of traditional home and lifestyle.

Longfellow's displaced Acadians mirrored for his readers their own unstable situation in a rapidly changing society.


13
Theater Program for Evangeline, 1902

Theater Program for Evangeline, 1902

Item 12326 info
Maine Historical Society

Evangeline was the quintessential heroine: romantic and emblematic of faithfulness and suffering.

She was representative of the 1850s ideal of womanhood, yet her figure crossed gender lines, showing men as well as women how to bear up under the burden of change and loss of the familiar.

The landscape of her wanderings was the new America of the west. Longfellow accurately described rivers, prairies, and mountain ranges, as well as Native American cultures that were unfamiliar to easterners.


14
Choice Thoughts from Longfellow board game, 1890

Choice Thoughts from Longfellow board game, 1890

Item 19230 info
Maine Historical Society

Like other characters from Longfellow's American myths, Evangeline inspired popular imagery.

Artists idealized her. Her story was told by composers in operas, cantatas, waltzes, polkas, and other popular music.

Her soulful image was displayed in shop windows and has been used to market bicycles, cylinder-oil, flour, butter, milk, pepper sauce, chocolates, soft drinks, mineral water, apples, bread, table syrup, eggs, flowers, and toothpaste.

There have been countless theater productions and a film, made in the 1920s, starred the popular actress Dolores Del Rio.

Statues of Evangeline promote tourism in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia; and St. Martinsville, Louisiana, where displaced Acadians settled and where Evangeline search for her lost Gabrielle.


15
Hiawatha movie handbill, ca. 1952

Hiawatha movie handbill, ca. 1952

Item 11278 info
Maine Historical Society

The Song of Hiawatha was Longfellow's most popular and most controversial work.

Published in November 1855, it sold 50,000 copies within four years.

Longfellow had a lifelong interest in America's indigenous people and was inspired to write Hiawatha after reading the great Finnish epic "Kalevala."

His use in the poem of trochaic tetrameter, the traditional meter of Finnish popular poetry, was controversial with critics, but did not seem to bother his readers, who, during the first months of publication, bought 300 copies a day.


16
Hiawatha Story Card Intro

Hiawatha Story Card Intro

Item 11397 info
Maine Historical Society

As a student at Bowdoin College in 1823, Longfellow read J.G.E. Heckewelder's account of Pennsylvania tribes and wrote to his mother, "They are a race possessing magnanimity, generosity, benevolence, and pure religion without hypocrisy."

In 1839 he read Algic Researches by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Indian agent for the Iroquois and Ojibwa tribes of the upper Great Lakes Region.

It was in Schoolcraft that Longfellow found the historical Iroquois statesman Hayowent'ha, who, along with Manabozho of Algonquin legend, was the model for Hiawatha.


17
Hiawatha Story Card 1

Hiawatha Story Card 1

Item 11376 info
Maine Historical Society

In Hiawatha, Longfellow created a cultural hero of virtue who lived American life before it was corrupted by European society.

Hiawatha is a feminized man who bonded with his male friends and shared what was essentially a bourgeois marriage with Minnehaha.

Longfellow portrayed him as a peacemaker whose principal role was to bring harmony out of discord.


18
Miniature Longfellow-Wadsworth House Pitcher, ca. 1910

Miniature Longfellow-Wadsworth House Pitcher, ca. 1910

Item 10993 info
Maine Historical Society

The Song of Hiawatha was quickly recognized as an American folk epic.

Like Longfellow's other American myths, it inspired artists, imitators, and commercial entrepreneurs of every stamp.

Moreover, the poem literally altered the map of America, for waterfalls, rivers, cities, and towns have been named for Hiawatha, Minnehaha, and Nokomis.

As one 21st-century scholar has observed, the poem "established itself in a corner of the American psyche."


19
Decorative Pin, Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1930

Decorative Pin, Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1930

Item 11846 info
Maine Historical Society

The Courtship of Miles Standish, published in 1858, was the only significant work of literature produced in America in the 19th century whose subject was the New England Pilgrims.

Longfellow called it "an idyll of old Colony times."

The poem recalled to Americans the beginning of European settlement of their country.

In the first two months of the book's distribution, readers bought 25,000 copies.

It sold 10,000 copies in London on the first day it was available in England.


20
Longfellow's Birthplace commemorative plate, ca. 1900

Longfellow's Birthplace commemorative plate, ca. 1900

Item 11850 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow was a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Mullins Alden through his mother's line.

Priscilla's response to John's proposal of marriage for Captain Miles Standish -- "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" -- was oral history in the family.

It was first written down by the Rev. Timothy Alden, who published an account of his ancestors in 1814.

Longfellow probably knew the story from his mother and from Timothy Alden's family record.


21
Longfellow Mixture Candy Box

Longfellow Mixture Candy Box

Item 10854 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow's use of his ancestors' courtship was historically accurate, but The Courtship of Miles Standish is not history.

It is a myth based on historic events.

The poem was also contemporary, drawing on then current American thought.

While Priscilla, seated at her wheel, could not have been carding "wool like a snow-drift" (there were no sheep in Plymouth in the Aldens' time), she was representative of the 1850s idea of women as more than passive domestics.


22
Visit the Longfellow House poster, ca. 1935

Visit the Longfellow House poster, ca. 1935

Item 7957 info
Maine Historical Society

To insure that her brother's memory would be part of the Portland landscape, Anne Longfellow Pierce donated the poet's childhood home and grounds to the Maine Historical Society on her death in 1901.

She had lived in the house all but three years of her life (before her husband's early death) and was its keeper from the time of her parents' deaths in the 1850s.


23
Wadsworth-Longfellow House sign, Portland, ca. 1901

Wadsworth-Longfellow House sign, Portland, ca. 1901

Item 16153 info
Maine Historical Society

During her lifetime, Anne Longfellow Pierce had entertained those who visited her brother's childhood home.

She saved the family's furniture and keepsakes and made few changes or modern updates to the home over the years.

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House became Maine's first historic house museum, and, following Pierce's will, the Maine Historical Society built its permanent home and library on the former site of the family's barn, just behind the house, further insuring the lasting memory of America's poet.


This Exhibit Contains 23 Items