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Have you ever been driving along a lonely highway in the middle of the country someplace when you came upon an impressive looking historical marker that reads something like: On this spot in 1793 Eli Crimmons - a frontiersman and 18th century dufus - made camp, leading to what would eventually become the town of Crimmonsborough, a small backwater settlement that we're sure you've never heard of until now and we're equally sure you'll never hear of again."
You drive away from the historic spot feeling that you've “connected” with the area, that you've have learned one more piece of useless information about this great country of ours. You also realize that you've just wasted twenty precious minutes of you're allotted time on this planet.
I was thinking about such things the other day and concluded that Maine doesn't have enough historic makers cluttering up its roadsides. More should be done to mark the memorable places throughout our state where something actually happened and to let natives and visitors alike know what went on where and when.
Like what, you ask. Good question.
For starters, where is the marker in Waterville to inform mirror buffs that it was in that river community that Mildred Dunham invented the Vu-Back mirror in 1936.
The what, I hear you ask.
The Vu-Back mirror was specially made to hang around your neck, giving you free use of your hands.
OK, so Mildred's invention may not equal the discovery of penicillin or stick-um notes but it's SOMETHING and it deserves some kind of official recognition.
And while we're on the subject, where are the historic markers in Brunswick telling visitors about the different things President Franklin Pierce - 14th president of these United States (1853-57) - did while a student at Bowdoin College?
But, John, you say, Franklin Pierce is considered one of our worst presidents and when he is talked about by scholars the words “weak” and “vacillating” are most often mentioned. Why would we want to tell tourists about him and his association with our state?
Good point. It's true that Pierce had a less than stellar presidency. True, he managed to make the division in the Democratic party even worse than it was before they nominated him and party members refused to renominate him at the convention of 1856, but, hey, he was president, he did live in Brunswick, he is part of the Maine experience. And no one can deny to Pierce the crowning achievement of his failed presidency. That's right, the Gadsden Purchase.
Maybe other examples would demonstrate my point better.
Where's the historic marker in Norway to show the exact spot where golf tees were first produced?
And speaking of wooden things, are you aware of any monuments erected to honor Charles Forster of Bangor? Forster was only the inventor of the toothpick and after he invented the ingenious little things he began making them in his shop soon after the Civil War.
You'd think at least orthodontists would want to honor Mr. Forster to thank him for all the crooked front teeth his simple wooden invention helped cause.
It would also be nice to have a marker in Winthrop that tells people all about that town's famous native - Ezekiel J. Bailey.
OK, John, I'll bite again. Who was he?
Bailey built the nation's first oilcloth factory in his hometown of Winthrop in 1845. Many more oilcloth factories would soon follow but Bailey was the first. And despite that fact that some might think I'm all wet, I think he and other famous Mainers deserve a little recognition.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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