Saving the Banners

Ship Builders trade banner, Portland, 1841

Ship Builders trade banner, Portland, 1841

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

In August 2010, 16 Maine museums, historical organizations, and their supporters came together in an unprecedented collaboration to save an important collection of Maine artifacts, the 17 rare, 19th-century hand-painted banners commissioned by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association. The banners were purchased for $125,350 and are housed at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.

At the end of July, Maine museums and historical organizations learned that these banners were to be consigned for sale to James D. Julia Inc. auction house in Fairfield. Knowing the significance of these works and their value in keeping them in the public domain for future generations, Maine museums and historical organizations rallied together to raise funds to purchase them.

The following organizations were involved: Maine Historical Society, Portland Museum of Art, Maine State Museum, Maine Maritime Museum, the Maine State Historian, Bates College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and Colby College Museum of Art. Corporate and individual support was provided by: James Julia, L.L. Bean, Diana and Linda Bean, Chris Livesay, Elsie Viles, Libra Foundation, and an anonymous Boston foundation.

Harry Rubenstein, chair of the Division of Political History from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, was also in attendance at the auction.

The funds raised by the organizations and individuals will help to insure the conservation of the banners as well as to exhibit them at various venues around the state.