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Seated by the Sea

The Maritime History of Portland, Maine, and Its Irish Longshoremen

Michael C. Connolly

Publication Year: 2010

For decades, Portland, Maine, was the closest ice-free port to Europe. As such, it was key to the transport of Canadian wheat across the Atlantic, losing its prominence only after WWII, as containerization came to dominate all shipping and Portland shifted its focus to tourism.

Michael Connolly offers an in-depth study of the on-shore labor force that made the port function from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. He shows how Irish immigrants replaced and supplanted the existing West Indian workers and established benevolent societies and unions that were closed to blacks. Using this fascinating city and these hard-working longshoremen as a case study, he sheds light on a larger tale of ethnicity, class, regionalism, and globalization.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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Foreword: Portland, Maine’s Longshore Legacy

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pp. xiii-xiv

When my father, John J. Brennan, arrived on the shores of America from Ireland in the late nineteenth century, he was able to secure a job loading and unloading ships on the Portland waterfront. He was among friends. Many of his fellow longshoremen were, like both my father and mother, Irish (Gaelic) speakers from the same region of County Galway, Ireland, that they had only reluctantly abandoned. ...

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pp. xv-xviii

Of the many people who have had a hand in the evolution of this book over the past twenty years, I would especially like to mention a few who stand out. Foremost among these would be my father, Michael F. Connolly, and his best friend, Larry Welch, who over the years filled my head with stories about these longshoremen ...


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pp. xix-xxvi

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pp. 1-5

Why is this book needed? It seems a logical question to ask at the start of a project such as this. At the very least one should determine what this book could add to the existing body of work. Scholarly and creative treatments of the maritime world abound. This is true on the national, regional, and even state levels, and many of these works have impressive historical relevance. ...

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1. “Delightfully Situated on a Healthy Hill”: The Port of Portland before the Civil War

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pp. 6-35

Europeans first settled the area now known as Portland more than 375 years ago, in 1633, with the arrival of George Cleeve and Richard Tucker. Although originally a squatter, Cleeve by 1637 had obtained a grant for the peninsula, surrounding lands, and islands from the English proprietor Sir Ferdinando Gorges. ...

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2. Black Fades to Green on the Waterfront: Nineteenth-Century Social, Racial, and Ethnic Change

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pp. 36-64

New England lies at the periphery of the major concentration of population in North America, and within New England over various time periods certain population groups have themselves been seen as peripheral.1 This chapter will attempt to explore the relationship in the mid-nineteenth century in Portland between two such marginalized groups, ...

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3. A Mixed Blessing: Portland at the Turn of the Twentieth-Century

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pp. 65-83

The citizens of Portland, Maine, in 1900 lived in a city optimistic about its future. Portland’s population stood at 50,145, a marked increase of nearly 39 percent over the last decade alone. As late as 1860 Portland had been the twenty-third largest city in the country, but even though it continued to grow throughout the Gilded Age, ...

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4. Lost Strikes and Union Affiliation: Early Twentieth-Century Labor Militancy Alongshore

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pp. 84-112

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Portland’s maritime dockworkers witnessed a steep decline in membership and work.1 A weakening economy required fewer laborers to handle goods into or out of the port of Portland. Locally this was reflected primarily by a sharp decrease in the volume of Canadian grain being exported via Portland to Europe. ...

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5. Apex of the Union and Catholic Hierarchical Influence

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pp. 113-140

Members of the PLSBS in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were primarily first- or second-generation Irish, many tracing their ancestry to County Galway, located on Ireland’s western Atlantic coast.1 There were bound to be strong ties between these laborers and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. ...

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6. Longshore Culture and the Declineof the Port of Portland in the Mid-to Late Twentieth Century

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pp. 141-180

The post–World War I period marked a vital turning point in the history of Portland’s Irish longshore union, indeed for the maritime future of the city as a whole. The membership of the Portland Longshoremen’s Benevolent Society (PLSBS) hovered for a few years at nearly 1,300, after reaching an all-time peak of 1,366 in 1919. ...

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pp. 181-194

Portland, Maine’s maritime presence was set by nature. What is done with these natural resources, however, is very human and subject to human motivation, imagination, and choices. Olaf Janzen, in another book in this maritime series, has written, “The key to understanding changing patterns of trade and domination at sea ...

Appendix A. Portland Town

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pp. 195-196

Appendix B. Day of the Clipper

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pp. 197-198

Appendix C. PLSBS Retirement List as of January 1983

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pp. 199-200

Appendix D. Oral Histories

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pp. 201-202

Appendix E. Longshore Nicknames

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pp. 203-214

Appendix F. Membership Levels of the Portland Longshoremen’s Benevolent Society

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pp. 215-218


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pp. 219-242


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pp. 243-268


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pp. 269-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780813040202
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813037226
Print-ISBN-10: 0813037220

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 35 b&w illustrations, 2 charts, 4 tables
Publication Year: 2010