Monday, January 14, 2013

Tourists by the Boatload Nothing New for Peaks Island

A few years ago, I wrote a curriculum for the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum called "The Captain, Smiling Bill, & the Carousel Horse." The lesson plans encourage students to examine historic photographs, images of artifacts and historic documents, as well as historic architecture in order to interpret what historical forces brought together Captain William Trefethen, sharpshooter “Smiling Bill” Leavitt, and a little girl who loved a carnival horse named Jewels, on Peaks Island.  

Horatio Hall. Courtesy Fifth Maine Museum
After leading a professional development workshop with teachers, I realized how much adults loved the subject matter as well. Who can resist ferries?


By 1900, most people worked regular hours for six days a week. For the first time, families began to take vacations once a year.  The regular pattern of work created a new experience – leisure time for workers. More leisure time and more income created a demand for recreation, especially traveling as tourists to see and experience new places.
Machigonne. Courtesy Fifth Maine Museum

Tourists rode on a steamboat, like the Horatio Hall, directly to Portland from Boston, New York, or Philadelphia.
The steamship Horatio Hall was built in 1898 and served the New York to Portland route until she sunk in 1907. Once passengers arrived in Portland, twelve different steamboat lines ferried ferried them to the islands of Casco Bay. During the summer, Peaks island became crowded with tourists. They traveled to enjoy the seashore and the Greenwood Garden amusement park.

Peaks Island sits approximately three miles east of Portland. It is one of four islands that protect Portland Harbor from the open sea.
Map of Casco Bay, Maine and ferry lines. Courtesy Fifth Maine Museum

The Machegonne was built in Philadelphia in 1907.  She ferried passengers from Peaks to Portland and back until 1913.  People called her “the queen of the fleet.” The Machegonne was built with carpeted floors, upholstered seats in the cabins, and a special men’s “smoking cabin.”  The ferry had stewardesses, and a brass band played on Sundays. 

A crew member and passenger sitting inside the luxurious cabin of the Machigonne. Courtesy Fifth Maine Museum.

-Excerpt from “The Captain, Smiling Bill, & the Carousel Horse” curriculum written by Patricia Erikson for

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful article and blog! I'd love to see more about Peaks.