The nameplate of the Casco Bay Breeze. Published in the early 1900s, the seasonal newspaper included dispatches from Harpswell and its islands.
While doing research for my book, “The History of the Driftwood Inn on Bailey Island,” Tiffany Link, of the Maine Historical Society, as well as Ellen Steinbart and Sue Bryer, of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, referred me to the digital archives of the Casco Bay Breeze.
The paper dates back to 1901; unfortunately, all editions from 1910 through Aug. 24, 1912 are missing from the Breeze microfilm. The Casco Bay Breeze was published by Crowley & Lunt, of Portland.
The Breeze provides us with a time capsule of goings-on around Chebeague, Peaks, Littlejohn, Cousins, Long, Cliff and Bailey islands, as well as Orr’s and Harpswell. Most likely, Breeze reporters traveled via steamship from Portland to interview islanders, business owners and tourists about their interests and activities before returning their reports for publication.
It was a summer paper that provided news for residents and visitors alike at a cost of 5 cents per eight-page issue, and included news of social gatherings, visitors and festivities, as well as controversies of the islands, poetry and numerous ads.
It is a treasure trove, a real look into the past that shows us what folks did back then, in simpler times, to have fun on vacation, and the friendships developed between summer visitors and islanders.
There are 57 listings of news from the Driftwood Inn. Here are a few excerpts:
Aug. 1, 1912: “The time is passing most delightfully for the guests at this charming establishment, with sailing trips, card parties, informal gatherings of every description … to pass the summer months and all the visitors are enjoying themselves more than ever before as partakers of Mrs. Gulliver’s bountiful hospitality.”
July 22, 1915: “Clam bakes and picnics have been undertaken whenever the weather permitted. Mrs. Gulliver is planning several social functions for her guests, amongst which will be several concerts and possibly one or two dances. Many guests went in costume to the masquerade ball at Library Hall with Miss Davis as the Queen of Hearts, Mr. Bryant as Knave of Diamonds and Mrs. Puron as a Spanish Lady.”
Aug. 5, 1915: “A very clever scheme has been evolved by Mrs. Bradley and Miss N.E. Dorsey of Baltimore, (Maryland), who are popular guests at this house. They hired a small but very attractive bungalow through the Sinnett agency, not far from the hotel, which they have converted into a delightful pleasure house. In the afternoons, the ladies give many charming teas to friends and visitors of the hotel.”
“The various and frequent storms stirred up a tremendous surf in the ocean and made it roar and foam along the entire island coast. We all know how beautiful the phosphorescent animal life is when disturbed so that it gives a soft, green light. This glow does not have the effect upon the observer … intended by the small animal forms, but gives them a wonderful sight that few guests of other islands can enjoy.”
Aug. 12, 1915: “Guests have organized games of auction, bridge, Whist, Five Hundred, hearts, Making Words and Taking Words and other card delights, as well as checkers and the like. Evenings at this popular house are delightfully spent listening to Mrs. Gulliver’s fine record collection on her Victrola. A surpassing table, a superb view, congenial companions and excellence of management are the reasons for the Driftwood’s success.”
Aug. 17, 1916: “The latest fad here is getting enormous collections of sea urchins. Already the collections are bursting and it is quite possible that if it keeps up, all vestiges of sea urchins will disappear from Bailey’s. Hunting butterflies is now one of the chief occupations of the residents and many beautiful varieties are being caught and catalogued.”
July 19, 1917: “What is more restful to the tired professional or businessperson than to sit in a comfortable chair on a wide and spacious piazza, with the cool ocean breezes blowing across it, and there to breathe the refreshing air, pure and unadulterated, and to enjoy all the charms of a quiet summer resort? All these qualifications and more are to be found at this beautiful hotel, and such hospitality as is dispensed here makes one feel entirely at home. It has been a favorite place with those who come for what a vacation should really mean, rest, as well as recreation, so that they may return to their homes refreshed and reinvigorated for the summer months.”
In September 2021, guests still vacation at the Driftwood Inn, the longest-operating inn on Bailey Island. They sit on the same porch, resting in rocking chairs and reading or gazing at the ocean.
Would that those guests interviewed and quoted in the Casco Bay Breeze over 115 years ago could know that today, they have come to life again for us via a website. If I had one wish, someone with a philanthropic heart would create a book of the Casco Bay Breeze, great for summer reading.
Find the Casco Bay Breeze archives at digitalmaine.com/casco_bay_breeze.
Hannah Campbell and her family have vacationed at the Driftwood Inn for over 34 years. Her most recent published work, the poem “Kiss Me on the Cribstone Bridge,” appears in “Glimpses of Harpswell Past and Present: Stories Celebrating Maine’s Bicentennial.”