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Maine Humorists

Represented in these collections are primarily nineteenth-century humorists who lived and wrote in Maine or were born in Maine.


John Kendrick Bangs Collection:

Bangs (1862-1922), an Ogunquit, Maine, resident for many years, was a popular author of satire and humorous fiction, including several plays, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The collection contains nearly fifty works, mostly first editions, several bearing inscriptions by the author.

Charles Farrar Browne (Artemus Ward):

Born in Waterford, Maine, in 1834, Browne wrote and lectured as Artemus Ward, a traveling showman. He died in England in 1867, after a lecture tour there. Six volumes of his are in the collections.

John Gould Collection:

Gould, a member of Bowdoin's class of 1931, was born in Boston in 1908 and has resided in Maine for many years. A journalist and humorist, he has given the College nearly 150 volumes, including all editions of his works; those edited or with a preface or introduction by him; anthologies containing pieces by him; and books about him. A small collection comprising his letters, several literary manuscripts, scrapbooks, and audio recordings is also available.

Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye Collection:

Born in Shirley Mills, Maine, in 1850, he and his family moved to Wisconsin when he was two. Nye was considered the Artemus Ward of his generation, writing pieces for newspapers and giving lectures and readings from his works. He died at his North Carolina home in 1896. Eleven volumes by him and three containing pieces by him form the core of the collection. The pamphlet, A Howl in Rome, is also part of it, as are four clippings of pieces by Nye: " 'Bill Nye' on the Art of Lecturing," "Bill Nye's Cat," "The Coupon Letter of Introduction," and "Documentary Proof of Self-defense." Finally, the 1870 first printing, consisting of nine lithographed cards, of Bret Harte's The Heathen Chinee is included. Nye features prominently in the story, and is caricatured on card three.

Seba Smith (Jack Downing) Collection:

Smith (Bowd. 1818) was born in Maine in 1792, and lived all his life there. A journalist and political satirist, he created the character of Major Jack Downing, setting a new pattern for American humor. He founded the Portland Courier, the first daily paper in Maine, and held a number of editorial positions, dying in 1868. The collection contains twelve volumes by or edited by him. A small collection of Seba Smith papers are also available (M168).

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