Penobscot basket makers, Lincolnville, ca. 1940

Contributed by Penobscot Marine Museum


Florence Shay, a member of the Penobscot Nation from Indian Island in Old Town, made and sold baskets at her summer shop at Lincolnville Beach for thirty years. In 1930, as the effects of the Depression became palpable, she and her husband, Leo, set up a tent on a vacant lot at Lincolnville Beach with their three young sons. They lived in a tent behind the shop during the summer tourist season.

Growing in the marsh behind the row of shops at the Beach, barely a hundred yards from their camp, they found a large stand of sweetgrass, the aromatic plant used in Penobscot baskets. The Shays' summer location was perfectly located on the side of busy coastal Route One and with a key basket material nearby.

Leo and his sons harvested and prepared the ash splints that formed the body of the baskets, while women back at Indian Island braided the sweetgrass they cut. Florence used the plaited grass for decorative accents as she wove each basket.

In the 1960s their grandson, Bob Anderson, bought the business and continued to operate the popular Indian basket tent for another thirty years until he moved the operation a mile north to Ducktrap. In 2010 the Lincolnville Post Office occupied the site of the Shays' summer shop and home.

Florence Nicolar Shay was an outspoken advocate for Penobscot tribal rights. She testified on tribal topics before the state legislature and in 1942 published "History of the Penobscot Tribe of Indians." She was the subject of a 2006 book, "Florence Nicolar Shay: Penobscot Basketmaker and Tribal Advocate."

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About This Item

  • Title: Penobscot basket makers, Lincolnville, ca. 1940
  • Creator: Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company
  • Creation Date: circa 1940
  • Subject Date: circa 1940
  • Location: Lincolnville Beach, Lincolnville, Waldo County, ME
  • Media: Photo negative
  • Dimensions: 12.75 cm x 17.75 cm
  • Local Code: LB2007.1.107647
  • Collection: Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co.
  • Object Type: Image

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For more information about this item, contact:

Penobscot Marine Museum
PO Box 498, 5 Church Street, Searsport, ME 04974
(207) 548-2529

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