AUGUSTA — Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. has compiled a book of photographs by Henry Bailey of Augusta spanning the last third of the 19th century in Maine’s capital city.
The photos were primarily done for “stereo cards,” in which two nearly identical images of the same scene were set side by side. Then, looking through binocular glasses, a three-dimensional effect could be achieved.
So far, 150 of Bailey’s stereo views of Augusta have been located, along with 150 of his stereo pictures of other places.
Shettleworth, who is director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, calls his book “Victorian Augusta,” and through Bailey’s eyes, it gives a clear view of what Augusta looked like after the Civil War and into the 1890s. Readers will be captivated to see how many buildings and streets are still recognizable today.
Born in West Gardiner in 1822, Bailey didn’t take up photography until after his wife, Elmyra, died in 1867 at the young age of 27. Bailey moved to Hallowell to live with his brother-in-law, Augustus Morse, who was a photographer and taught Bailey the trade.
Soon Henry Bailey had his own photography studio on Water Street in Augusta.
It was only two years after the great fire of 1865 had consumed much of downtown Augusta. Many businesses, such as Bailey’s own photo shop, were housed in temporary one-story wooden buildings.
Meanwhile, grand, permanent multistory city blocks were being designed and built to replace those that were destroyed in the fire.
“He was right there as all those major buildings were going up after the fire of 1865,” Shettleworth said of Bailey’s photos recording the new architecture of Water Street.
“There are still a fair number of those buildings standing,” Shettleworth said, “and his photos give people an idea how those buildings might be restored.”
Shettleworth also has organized sections on the mills that were built in the industrial North End of Augusta, the Statehouse, Togus, Capitol Park, churches, Augusta homes, surrounding towns, summer retreats, and on Henry Bailey and his family.
Shettleworth said he spent a year researching the book. The captions for the photos contain a wealth of detailed historical information.
He said he got that information “primarily from old newspapers. I read two old newspapers, page by page. The Kennebec Journal, which was a weekly until 1870 when it became a daily. They reported in great detail on all the new commercial buildings, churches and homes. Also I read a very fine weekly known as The Maine Farmer.”
Shettleworth said, “That’s how I could pinpoint dates of construction, architects and the like. The old newspapers are the collective memory of a community.”
Bailey and Morse worked together, with Bailey’s daughter, Etta Bailey Richards, setting up a tent in Bar Harbor in the summer where they took tintype portraits of tourists on vacation.
Bailey continued to take photos until his death in 1894 at the age of 71.
“I have worked in Augusta for 35 years,” Shettleworth said. “When you work in a place that long, you become fascinated with its history and its architecture. So this was really an opportunity to share that interest with people in the community.”
“Victorian Augusta” can be purchased at local bookstores for $19.99.