About the Museum
|Paine Collection • Mission & Vision|
The Paine Collection
At first on his own, later with help from peers and friends, Richard Paine’s passion and taste for cars were always in motion. He bought and sold, sometimes buying several of one kind, then letting some go, only to be replaced by objects of his next great interest. The end result has inspired every “car guy” who’s ever pilgrimaged to, or tripped over, Seal Cove Auto Museum. Richard allowed this museum to be promoted only because he had to—he was happy to have it be his private domain, though he gradually enjoyed others enjoyment of his treasures.
Richard’s sense of privacy was protective, reflected in a shy and quiet manner. You might think he wasn’t paying attention, but beware thinking he didn’t understand just because he didn’t respond. The stories of his standing quietly by, unrecognized by the collectors around him, as they showed off their knowledge of his cars—and sometimes even of their reclusive owner—are legion.
Richard soaked up much of his knowledge just this way, sifting and sorting the wheat from the chaff in a way reflected in his choice of cars. He not only collected great cars, he collected relevant, arcane, enriching tidbits of knowledge that helped make him one of the world’s great collectors. Among those who experienced Richard closely, we often wished we could download his brain about those cars. As his museum friend, don’t think I didn’t tell him—usually eliciting a twinkle in his eye.
Indeed, none of us “knew” Richard very well. We only knew that he liked us because he lit up when we showed up, much like he lit up when he saw an interesting car, great food, an attractive woman. For years, I would take a museum Stanley down to Seal Cove to give him a ride, perhaps go out for lunch. For a couple of years, volunteers and I even fired up his 1911 Stanley to take him for a ride, as well as to exercise the steam car, the only make that frustrated his skilled curator-managers’ talents.
'The Paine Legacy'
After Richard’s death, a new board was chosen for the Museum with a mission to preserve this core collection, to keep the Paine Legacy alive. This board is working with the Trustee of the Paine Trust, which owns most of the cars, to find a way to continue to make the core of the Paine collection accessible to the public.
By the nature of his collecting, there were redundancies—if he liked something, he often sold and traded for more of the same. In order to create an endowment to support the centerline of this collection, the Paine Trustee, in consultation with the board of the Museum, has identified a number of cars that contribute less to the storyline of the collection as a whole; those cars will be sold to raise an endowment to support the remaining “core” collection.
The Paine collection represents not only one man’s love of automobiles, it also reflects an aesthetic wrapped in Richard’s love of Maine and his roots in New England, coincidentally the birthplace of the American automobile industry. Born near Boston in one of New England’s patrician families, his eye rather than his modest fortune created his world famous collection.
This aesthetic and the collection it assembled will be preserved by the endowment created from this sale. It will then be up to the board and the Richard C. Paine Trust to see if a museum can preserve one man’s magic.
Richard Paine: A Personal Story
Over the next several years, he became part of the family, eating with us and our children, bringing us fresh corn on the cob in late summer, teaching us to eat crushed garlic with lamb, tobasco sauce on our scrambled eggs. We always saved him the best room at our Three Stanley Avenue B&B, the former home of the youngest brother of steam car pioneer Francis E. Stanley.
In 1981, several years after Richard arrived, my husband and I started the Stanley Museum to save the historic Stanley School from demolition; it had been named for the small town’s famous native sons, F.E. and F.O. Stanley, inventors and builders of the legendary Stanley Steamer. Early in the political machinations, Richard reached in his pocket and peeled off five one-hundred dollar bills, saying, “Here, you may need this.” I was stunned to the point of embarrassment.
By 1983, the car collecting passion hit me, too. Out-of-state Stanley collectors were trying to buy a well-known model housed at my Stanley teacher’s garage in Winthrop. I was frantic that we would lose it from Maine. In Rockland on other museum business, I saw Richard coming down a busy street in his Mercedes. I ran out and flagged him down to tell him, breathlessly, “Richard, you’ve got to buy the K—some people from Out-of-State are going to get it if you don’t! We can’t lose it!”
What I didn’t know was that he had been lusting for that very car for years—along with most other Stanley aficionados. He didn’t have the cash, but with clever leveraging of cars in his collection, he got the money—and the Stanley. The 1908 Model K, the street-version of the 1906 Stanley land speed record racer, became one of his prized possessions, anchoring an impressive array of steam cars in his world-famous collection. And Stanley is perhaps the most New England of cars in his museum.
Susan S. Davis
This article first appeared in Bonhams 2008 Auction Catolog, The Richard C. Paine Jr. Collection Vintage Motorcars, Collectors’ Motorcycles and