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Setting the Stage


Despite hardships, at the time of early settlement in the 18th century the islands off the coast of Maine were more coveted than the mainland. Islands were easier to hold against attack and they provided their own boundary for keeping livestock--fencing was seldom needed. Island living also was convenient for the many people who made their living by the sea.

Edwin Hadlock, a local entrepreneur who lived on Little Cranberry Island, built the structure known today as the Blue Duck about 1850. He and his sons Gilbert and William used it as a ships' store for at least 25 years. The Blue Duck is an unadorned wood frame structure that represents a simple building style common to maritime villages in the 19th century. After 1875, it operated as a general store. About 1918, Doctor William Otis Sawtelle, a college professor, purchased the building. Sawtelle gave the store its current name, the Blue Duck, after discovering many duck decoys stored there. He painted the decoys Prussian blue and scattered them around the property.

As a summer resident, Doctor Sawtelle became interested in the history of maritime New England, especially Little Cranberry Island, and formed the Islesford Historical Society. By 1919, the Blue Duck was used to exhibit various historical objects and memorabilia collected by the Society. It soon became apparent that the ever expanding and valuable collection required a permanent home. By 1927, under Sawtelle's leadership, friends of the Society contributed sufficient funds to erect a slate roofed brick and granite building--the Islesford Historical Museum.

The Islesford Historical Museum collection preserves both documents and artifacts. Name boards for tall ships, lifesaving gear salvaged from shipwrecks, tools, instruments, and locally-built ship models identify a seafaring people. Wind-up clocks, a candlestick stand, china, and pewter housewares suggest the affluence of some of the inhabitants. Well-designed furniture such as a cradle, a china cabinet, and an assortment of elegant chairs signify an island people who appreciated beauty. Needlework, a cooper's bench, farming tools, and fishing gear bear witness to generations of independent and self-sustaining Americans. In 1948, the museum and the Blue Duck became part of Acadia National Park.

 

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