The Grange of Days Gone By. . .
As an amateur deltiologist (fancy name for postcard collector), I’m always on the prowl for swell vintage postcards to share in my blog. While I usually haunt antique stores and online ephemera shops for unique finds, a few months ago I attended one of my favorite annual events: the Greater Phoenix Postcard and Paper Show. Dozens of dealers brought their thousands of vintage postcards, photos, and other paper ephemera to the show. Yours truly was lucky to scout out a number of great finds.
Among them was this gem: Snapped in 1914, this image is a picture of the patrons of the North Newport (Maine) Grange No. 195, posing on their float for Newport’s centennial parade.
As with many of the postcards I unearth, this one kindles sentimental feelings. . . I was delighted to discover this rare “real photo” postcard, not simply because the image is such a spectacular example of early twentieth century Maine life (a parade float drawn by horses!), but because, for many years, I was a Grange member. Some of my fondest memories include attending Kennebec Valley Grange No. 128 in Madison, as well as Somerset Pomona Grange No. 6 (at the Skowhegan Grange hall) with my grandparents, Maurice and Rachel Towne.
My reminiscences of “Grange days” I will save for another post; however, this postcard inspired me to consider my next writing project: With my Lakewood Theatre book finished, I am pondering the idea of writing a book on the history of the Grange in Maine -- filled, of course, with vintage photos of the beautiful old Grange halls. . .
For my readers who are not familiar with the organization, a short history of the the Grange (also known as the Patrons of Husbandry) is perhaps in order. Organized after the American Civil War, the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry was originally formed as a fraternal and political order for farmers.
The Grange came to Maine in 1873, and in its heyday, boasted more than 60,000 members in more than 400 active Grange halls statewide. For countless farmers (especially in rural areas, such as Maine), the Grange was the center of social life, connecting them with culture, education, politics and social opportunities with like-minded folks. The last half of the twentieth century witnessed a great falling off of Grange membership, and today Maine’s Grange membership numbers just under 5,000 with only 135 (or so) active Grange Halls.
But the news is not all sad. With the organic farming movement sweeping the country, interest in Grange membership is once again rising – especially in Maine. I hope the future of the Grange remains bright. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to honor the past, hunting for other images like this, to help me remember all my fraternal brothers and sisters of the Maine State Grange of days gone by.
Readers, do you have any memories of the Grange? Any past members out there willing to share old photos? Comment below, or contact me if you might have any vintage Maine Grange photos for my next (possible!) book. . .