The Penobscot Marine Museum’s photography collections include nearly 50,000 glass plate negatives originally used as views for "real photo" postcards produced by the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company of Belfast.
The company, founded by Herman Cassens in 1909, employed photographers who traveled in company vehicles through the New England states and parts of New York State each summer, taking pictures of towns and cities, vacation spots and tourist attractions, working waterfronts and local industries, and other subjects postcard recipients would enjoy seeing.
Real photo postcards, as the name implies, were printed using traditional darkroom chemistry, a painstaking process compared to halftone press printing. The cards were printed by the millions in Belfast into the 1940s.
R. Herman Cassens, Belfast, ca. 1920
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Penobscot Marine Museum
While old postcards often evoke nostalgia, today they are important historical records. Maine is particularly well-documented in the Eastern collection, and the Penobscot Marine Museum has developed a number of regional and thematic exhibits from it.
"Washington County through Eastern's Eye" is one of a continuing series of county exhibits that tell stories regarding history of place.
Outreach to local residents and community historians has yielded personal recollections, family connections, and disappearing history, which have enriched the descriptions of the photographs.
Viewers whose memories are stirred as exhibits travel from town to town have opportunities to share that information with the Museum.