ROCKLAND—Dave Davis has a collection of old, hard-bound oversized books of Maine atlases from the 1880s and they’re not only a trip down Memory Lane, but they’re a trip down every known road, street, byway and bridge “The Way Life Used To Be.”
“Maps are really quite rare,” said Davis, of South China, who was one of the vendor present at the Rockland Historical Society’s Postcard and Ephemera show in September. He runs a side business called Snow County Nostalgia, featuring historic New England and Maine images and has been collecting maps for 25 years.
“We usually find them in auctions and they come in these large bound books,” he said. “But some of these books are all stove up, so we just pull the maps out and laminate them.”
Davis said many people will buy a map of the the town they live in and frame them. And there are hidden gems in many of them.
“I had a lady looking at a Rumford map in the 1880s and in that one, there were no French names listed on the houses,” he said. “With Rumford having a large French population today, she wondered why that was and it was because, the map was printed before the mills were built. And you remember, the French people came to work in those mills.
“What’s really interesting about them is that the original printed editions were less than a 1,000 print run and they were hand-colored. When you look closer, there are houses listed on each map and the atlas even shows who lived in the house at the time.”
Davis, who has been an avid skier since the 1940s, also finds old postcards of Maine ski resorts and makes posters out of them. Now mostly retired, he displays his collection in the Fairfield Antique Mall and on eBay.
Maps and atlases still remain a source of fascination for many people, not just collectors. To that end the University of Southern Maine has reproduced Historical Atlas of Maine. The atlas provides an in-depth look into the many cultural, economic, environmental, and geological elements that have shaped Maine's history, from the earliest evidence of human population right up to today.. And this summer, they received an extraordinary gift of one of the world’s finest private collections of rare and historic maps.
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com