Tight corsets, outrageous bustles, picnics, hiking & tea. The Real Housewives of Camden, Maine : 1898-1900.

“Picnic at Sherman’s Point, 1900”. Theresa is 2nd from the left holding a bottle.

These rare and interesting vintage photographs by Charles Wilkes Babb (1863-1956) the treasurer at Knox Mill in Camden, Maine, present us with a rare, crystal clear window into the informal life and lifestyle of people who lived a hundred and twenty years ago.

Camden in the mid-1800s was a prosperous, bustling town, one of the most picturesque coastal villages in midcoast Maine. Its mills were well fed by the the Megunticook River’s strong current and every year shipyards along its harbor launched up to a dozen ships.

By the turn of the 19th century, Camden was a summer resort destination of choice for wealthy families who flocked there from cities as far away as Chicago and Washington. The “summer people” built large, sprawling vacation homes around the town and called them their “cottages”.

Babb’s photography focusses on his wife Theresa (1868-1948), her family and her friends from the late 19th century enjoying everyday Camden pursuits; hiking to the summit of Mt. Battie and boating on Lake Megunticook, picnicking on its rugged shoreline.

Theresa wrote descriptions on eachs photograph’s negative envelope.

Charles Wilkes Babb in his sitting room, March 1899.
“Group at Ballard Park on August 14, 1898: Mary Knight, Fannie Fuller, Marian Goodwin, Alice Merriam, & Grace Parker”.
Three negatives found in one envelope labeled “Lillie & Jessica Lewis in boat. Also picture of sailboat. October 1900.”
“Pan-American Expo buildings, October 1900”.
“The Dunes at Ipswich Beach, May 30, 1900.”
“Lighthouse & keeper at Ipswich Beach, May 30, 1900.”
“The Dunes at Ipswich Beach, May 30, 1900.”
“Mrs. Dudley Talbot standing in front of her home in Milton, MA”. Undated.
Construction of the 5-masted schooner John B. Prescott in 1898. The largest schooner in the world at that time, she was built to carry 4300 tons of coal. More than 10,000 people turned out for the launching at the Bean shipyard in Camden. The vessel was 282 feet long, weighing 2249 tons with masts 168 feet tall. The vessel was sheathed in iron to protect it from the ice.
“Children at Lake City on Megunticook Lake, 1898”.
“Grace Parker in blue silk dress, September 1900”.
“Group with camera seated on Maiden’s Cliff, October 1899”. The two women are identified in other photos as Fannie and Lillie.
“Mrs. Dudley Talbot, one of 4 daughters of Moses Parker of Camden, Maine. August 1898.”
“Flashlights & chafing dish time, Feb 1900”
“Francis Porter & bicycle, August 15, 1898.”
Nellie and baby Theodore in carriage with elderly lady
“Theresa Babb in snow, March 1899”.
“Grace G. and Grace Parker at Lake City, Sept. 1900”.
“Woman walking along Turnpike Drive, October 1899. She is carrying a camera and has a dog and bicycle with her”.
“Mr. Greenwood in the office of the Knox Woolen Company, August 1900”.
“”Picker” machinery at the Knox Woolen Mill in January 1900. This machine was used to blend fibers”.
“Eva Moore”. Undated.
Friends and family of Theresa Babb perched on a ladder by the Summit House swing on August 17, 1898.
Theresa’s sister Grace Parker is at the top of the ladder.

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