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3 A Region Apart: Representations of Maine and Northern New England in Personal Film, 1920–1940 Libby Bischof There is no time when the Maine landscape does not present some new and striking scene. —Maine: A Guide “Down East,” 1937 Introduction In 1930, Harrie B. Coe, general secretary of the Maine Publicity Bureau, filmed a series of promotional vignettes designed to promote Maine to those who might pay the state a visit for a vacation. The resulting short films take viewers on an abbreviated tour of Maine, emphasizing the burgeoning tourism industry as well as some of the state’s more traditional industrial and agricultural labor practices. As the film loops through the projector, the viewer is transported from the lime quarries in Rockland to the sardine industry in Eastport before getting a glimpse into the labor required to “harvest a blueberry pie”—from raking the berries to canning them. From the blueberry barrens, the film brings the viewer to pastoral Bowdoinham to witness sheep farming before finally lingering on the recreational pleasures of Maine’s rocky coastline and northern lakes. Frame by frame, tourists are shown swimming, fishing, and exploring inviting vistas on foot and in automobiles. The last intertitle of Coe’s silent promotional film attempts to entice viewers by noting “Only a few of Maine’s Manifold Attractions have been shown— come and see them all.”1 While Coe’s publicity film invites viewers to come and see Maine and engage in a process of discovery, it also invites them to consume. Ideally the viewer would consume the blueberries and sardines on display (an intertitle informs the viewer that the small fish are “ready to place between two crackers with a little lemon juice added”), but they are also invited to consume the landscape by traveling from town to town in their automobiles and taking in the scenery, as well as by participating in various leisure and sporting activities. A Region Apart | 49 The film’s trajectory mirrors, in many ways, the economic history of Maine— putting agriculture and natural-resource industries on display, and emphasizing the primacy of manual labor, before finally settling into tourism, which was Maine’s fastest growing industry by 1930. According to a chapter Coe wrote on the tourist industry in his five-volume Maine—A History, published in 1928, over one million vacationers came to Maine in 1925, and that same year it was “conservatively estimated that the tourist industry is worth $100,000,000 to the State each year—new money brought into the State.”2 He continued, “All that the tourist takes away from the State with him is renewed health and pleasant memories, leaving the State’s assets of invigorating climate, pure water and air, the beauties of an unrivalled [sic] seacoast, the gleam and glisten of myriad lakes and streams, and the grandeur of towering forests to be sold to the tourist over and over again year after year.”3 Coe’s film, like his prose, was designed to sell Maine, which meant selling the state’s natural assets and guaranteeing those assets would be there for visitors to enjoy year after year. Coe’s 1930 promotional film was just one more way the Maine Publicity Bureau—founded in January 1922 by hotelier Hiram Ricker of Poland Spring and a group of like-minded men—attempted to reach a growing audience of urban dwellers eager for respite. As Coe explains, the new publicity organization was established to “maintain and operate a bureau and offices for the purpose of acquiring and disseminating information concerning the business interests of the State of Maine including the facilities and accommodations therein for travel and transportation whether for business or recreation; to act as advertising and publicity agent for the aforesaid purposes; to buy, print, sell, publish and deal in papers, books, magazines and other publications.”4 Coe, as general secretary of the bureau, crafted promotional materials including brochures, advertisements, and guide books; worked with Maine hoteliers, railroads, restaurants, and other interested businesses; and corresponded with thousands of visitors. These promotional materials that he and others created—in print and on film—attempted to draw more visitors to Maine, and in so doing touted Maine’s unique landscape, attractions, and residents as something different from the rest of the United States. Coe, and those who advertised Maine in the 1920s and 1930s, were not alone in emphasizing the region’s unique natural features. New England regionalist writers, from Sarah Orne Jewett at...


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