May, 2017 - We are pleased to introduce Alberta Willey as our new Store & Facilities Manager. Alberta is a long-time resident of Southwest Harbor and knows the Island and visitor trends well. She has previously volunteered for several events at the museum, serving drinks, working with guests, and providing food.
Alberta has very much enjoyed working with the Museum team in the past and is excited to join the team as staff. She is retired from running her own business as a seamstress; she also worked for Hinckley, and most recently in sales at Caroll’s Drugs. Based on her experience at Caroll’s, Alberta has great insight into items summer visitors enjoy, and she brings to the Museum relationships with local vendors as well. Alberta has some great ideas for enhancing the store, such as offering local Maine and MDI products, and more items that would have appeal for women. We all look forward to working with her this season; Alberta has already proven to be a wonderful addition to our team!
April, 2017 - The Seal Cove Auto Museum has been recognized for its significant work in the world of automobile museums, further establishing the institution as a cultural leader in ensuring that an important era from our collective past is shared and not forgotten, in Maine and beyond.
In April, the Museum brought home a "NAAMY" award from the annual conference of the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM). The first-place award was presented to the Seal Cove Auto Museum for their "Auto Wars: Then & Now" exhibit, which opened in 2016 and will remain on display through October of 2017. Judges appreciated the visitor-friendliness of the choose-your-own adventure presentation of the exhibit, its attractive and informative design and signage, and its overall creativity.
The "Auto Wars" exhibit commemorates the decision made in 1916 to allow cars across all of Mount Desert Island, following years of intense debate and bans on autos in some MDI towns. This historical story is told through the Museum's collection of Brass Era automobiles, as well as through the interesting characters and publicity stunts that were a part of this debate 100 years ago. The historical debate is related to the modern story of cars on MDI today, which continues to be an issue a century later.
"The exhibit is relevant on so many different levels," said Raney Bench, Executive Direction of the Seal Cove Auto Museum. "The issues about cars that residents and summer people were debating 100 years ago at the inception of the automobile are the very same things we are discussing about cars on the island today, and which the park is trying to address with its transportation plan that is currently in the works. It is a great honor to be recognized by industry experts and our peers through this award, in support of the innovative approach to our telling of this story."
The prestigious awards presented by NAAM honor the hard work, creative initiatives, and unique perspectives of automobile-focused museums throughout the United States and Canada. As an organization, NAAM's goal is to cultivate public awareness of the cultural, historical, and technological significance of the automobile and promote such museums as valuable cultural institutions.
Exciting New Goals for 2017
November, 2016 - The museum is in the midst of a period of growth. By continuing to evolve, we can expand upon the experiences, knowledge, and learning that we offer to visitors, to the local community, and to our Seal Cove Auto Museum community around the world.
We strive to make each and every visitor's experience here at the Auto Museum a pleasant one. This includes sharing the Brass Era vehicles of course, but it's much more than that. It also means treating visitors like family; providing technical information for car geeks, as well as providing interesting history for those who are NOT car geeks! Having activities for children and families so they can explore the museum together to create meaningful memories, and educating visitors about an influential time of innovation and emerging technology in American history.
To accomplish this and provide enjoyable experiences for our visitors, we need YOUR support! It takes financial resources to grow and evolve, and as a small non-profit organization we cannot do it on our own. This year we have some very exciting, and much needed, projects we are hoping to fund in part through our annual appeal.
For example, there is the 1916 Abbott Detroit, donated by Mr. & Mrs. Tom Ryan of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The Abbott Motor Car Company manufactured cars from only 1909-1917, and this car is likely one of less than twenty left. It may be the only original Model 6-44 7P Touring car in existence. Mr. Ryan originally acquired the car in "barn find" condition, and subsequently began to restore it. However, this restoration did not include the interior of the vehicle, and the original upholstery is in dreadful condition. We are hoping to raise enough funds to reupholster the seats in the vehicle, which would allow us to offer rides in this wonderful car to our visitors.
Another ambition is to create a kitchen within the museum building. Each year, we hold a series of events at the museum, such as the Speakeasy in the winter, the Murder Mystery Dinner during the summer, and various other after-hour events throughout the season. But what is a party without food? A microwave, dorm fridge, and folding table currently serve as our kitchen; this severely limits the food we are able to provide for these fun events. Construction of a basic kitchen would provide our volunteers with the facilities, and our guests with the quality hot food, that they so deserve.
Finally, our research has found that most people visit our website through their mobile devices. However, our website is woefully mobile-unfriendly. In addition to creating a mobile version of the website, we would also like to add information about our exhibits and feature rotating virtual exhibits, making our online presence a resource for those who are unable to visit the museum in person.
These are just some of the goals we have for the coming season, along with continuing to care for the vehicles and create programming to enhance the museum's offerings for all. If you would like to help us achieve these goals, please considering making a gift online or through the mail. We look forward to another exciting season in 2017.
as New Head Mechanic
November, 2016 - We are thrilled to announce that we have hired a new Master Mechanic. Peter Brown of Portland has joined the staff and will work two days a week leading our talented team of volunteer mechanics, giving rides to visitors, and traveling with the cars to shows around the region.
Some of you might know Peter, he served on the Board of Directors for many years before resigning in order to apply for this position. Peter has extensive experience working on antique and modern vehicles. He is the founding owner of two garages in Portland, which he sold to his employees when he retired. Peter continues to work for private clients to help care for and repair antique vehicles.
Peter also owns several of his own antique cars, including a 1929 Model A Town Sedan in all original condition, which is how he prefers his cars, a 1928 Model A four-door Phaeton with right-hand drive, and a 1923 Model T Touring car. In the past he has owned a 1917 Model T Touring car and a 1914 Cadillac, as well as several other vehicles. Peter brings years of experience teaching mechanical skills to students, and he is excited to share those skills to our team, with the goal of expanding our student apprentice program and team of volunteers. Peter is a white-water rafting guide in his spare time.
Photo credit: Brian Fitzgerald
August, 2016 - The Museum has teamed up with the Westside Food Pantry in honor of the National Day of Service and Remembrance to generate donations for the Food Pantry. Visitors to the Museum on Saturday September 10, and Sunday September 11, 2016 will receive free admission if they leave a donation for the Food Pantry.
“The staff and Board at the Auto Museum recognize and value the important services offered to our community by the Food Pantry. We love that the Museum is on the Quietside, and this is a perfect way to give back to community that has been so kind to us,” said Raney Bench, Executive Director of the Museum.
In 2009, congress designated September 11th a National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of efforts originally launched in 2002 by the nonprofit 9/11 Day with wide support by the 9/11 community and leading national service organizations. This effort first established the inspiring tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.”
July, 2016 - At only about six feet long, this mini-Bugatti looks just like the pedal cars around it in its temporary location in Seal Cove, not accounting for its bright blue color and Bugatti styling. However this little race car isn't a pedal car at all, but is powered by a 60 amp electric engine, and can reach top speeds of up to 20 mph.
This 1928 Bugatti Baby Chassis, or Type 52, was designed as an exact half-model of the famous Type 35 Bugatti. The Baby was originally built for Ettore Bugatti's son, Roland. An extended version proved quite popular when displayed on the Bugatti stand at the 1927 Milan Auto Show, generating production of a small-scale series.
Nearly 500 were built, mostly between 1927 and 1930. At a price of 3,900 francs this was a mini-car for the wealthy. Famous owners included the Prince of Monaco, and a very young Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat. The Buenos Aries Zoo had a fleet of 23 Babies.
This Baby Bugatti is on kind loan from the Rheault family. It has been with the family since 1985, driven by the son of the family until he outgrew it around age 10.
May, 2016 - A particularly unique vehicle is on loan to the Museum, from the collection of Chris and Kathleen Koch. The 1934 Ford Luxus is very car was owned and designed by Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son.
Edsel Ford was the son of American industrialist and Ford Motor Company Founder Henry Ford, and served as President of the Ford Motor Company from 1919 until his death in 1943. He and his wife Eleanor had a home in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Drama, intrigue, and secrecy all played a role in Edsel’s designing his unique two-window cabriolet.
You might think that one of the giants of industry would have an easy time creating a one-of-a-kind vehicle, but that wasn’t the case for Edsel. Henry Ford was respected and admired by his staff, however he ruled by fear and intimidation, and this carried over to his family life. Henry was often disappointed with Edsel, preoccupied as Edsel was with such “nonsense” as art, culture, and design. Henry once went so far as to destroy a car that Edsel designed, chopping it with an ax in front of a horrified group of employees. As a result, Edsel had to create his one-of-a-kind cabriolet in the strictest of secrecy.
Edsel was a frequent visitor to Europe and was enamored by the continental flair displayed by European coach builders, a distinct departure from the utilitarian approach taken by most American manufacturers. To design and build this car, Edsel worked with the coach builder in Cologne, Germany, incorporating continental upgrades such as a Seth Thomas electric clock, French electric windshield wipers, and a hood ornament handcrated and gifted by French jeweler Jacques Cartier.
April, 2016 - The Seal Cove Auto Museum will open the exhibit Auto Wars: Then & Now with a free public reception on Sunday, May 1, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Part of the Acadia Centennial celebrations, the exhibit commemorates the historic debate a century ago about whether to allow cars on Mount Desert Island (MDI).
Auto Wars will be presented in a choose-your-own-adventure style, with visitors electing to follow either the pro- or anti-auto factions to explore the impact that community decisions can have upon the cultural, economic and geographic landscape.
The exhibit is multilayered, presenting the historical story through the personalities involved in the debate in the early 1900s, as well as the humorous publicity stunts carried out by some of these characters. The modern story of the impact of cars on MDI in current times is juxtaposed with this historical story through digital storytelling, revealing the pleasures and trials of getting around on the island today.
This groundbreaking new exhibit takes an innovative approach to museum interpretation. The exhibit will go beyond the walls of the Museum through an on-line forum, public programs, and educational outreach and curriculum development. Visitors will have the opportunity to offer their own voice to the discussion, contributing to the debate about transportation on MDI today. The information gathered will be archived, and will become part of an island-wide effort to help visitors and residents better understand the history of MDI and work together for a vision of the future.
A number of antique and classic cars in the exhibit have never been seen at the Auto Museum previously. A particularly unique vehicle, on loan from Chris and Kathleen Koch, is the 1934 Ford Luxus. This very car was owned and designed by Edsel Ford, Henry Ford's son. Edsel was a frequent visitor to Europe and was enamored of the continental flair displayed by European coach builders, a distinct departure from the utilitarian approach taken by most American manufacturers. Edsel worked with the coach builder in Cologne, Germany on this custom-built car, incorporating continental upgrades such as a Seth Thomas electric clock and French electric windshield wipers.
On loan from the collection of Ken and Tuyet Clark is a Packard built in 1930. The Packard is just the sort of car that would have been seen at the summit of Cadillac Mountain in July of 1932, when the road up the mountain was dedicated, giving auto drivers their first access to the top of the tallest peak in Acadia.
The 1916 Reo, on loan from the Owl's Head Transportation Museum, started off as a touring car, but was later converted to a delivery truck for the purpose of providing lumber for the reconstruction of a bridge in Wiscasset, ME.
In addition, this spring the Museum has added two antique autos to its collection. A 1916 Abbott-Detroit was generously donated by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Ryan of Glen Ellyn, IL. Thanks to a kind donation from Dr. and Mrs. Michael Werckle of Caledonia, IL, the Museum has also acquired a 1915 Detroit Electric.
Creating the exhibit has been a collaborative effort with partners from across the MDI community. Students from the College of the Atlantic assisted designer Khristian Mendez with the graphics and overall design of the new exhibit. Cinematographer Thom Willey interviewed officials from Acadia National Park, members of the community, and others as a part of telling the modern story. Mr. Willey and the Barn Arts Collective created the digital stories from these interviews, presented in the exhibit on touch screen televisions.
As an Acadia Centennial Partner event, the Auto Museum's exhibit will be linked to the larger centennial celebrations and events taking place on MDI and around the state. With its emphasis on finding community solutions, the exhibit and its programming align with the centennial's theme, “Celebrate our past, inspire our future.”
November, 2015 - In July of 1932, the new Cadillac Mountain Road was dedicated under cloudy skies, and for the first time automobiles had access to the top of the tallest peak in Acadia. The 1930 Packard now on loan to the Seal Cove Auto Museum is just the type of luxury car that would have been seen at the summit that day. This Packard, a 745 close coupled sedan built in 1930, is on loan from the collection of Ken and Tuyet Clark.
At the start of the Classic era, Packard was considered a leading luxury marque with strong sales. They became something of an advertising legend with their iconic slogan, "Ask the Man Who Owns One.” However during the Great Depression Packard sales of their luxurious cars began to decline. By 1930, the first year of the Depression, Packard sold just 28,386 cars. The company continued to struggle on until 1958 when it finally folded, having never regained its reputation for luxury and quality that it had enjoyed through the 1920's and early 30's.
In 1930, the Model 745 was the top of Packard's lineup. It was priced at $4,885 and only 1,789 were produced. This “close coupled” sedan has the front seats relatively close to the rear wheels, reducing the space for rear-seat passengers.
The 1930 Packard will help tell the story of the Auto Wars: Then & Now, a new choose your own adventure exhibit opening at the Seal Cove Auto Museum in May 2016 as a part of Acadia National Park's centennial. This exhibit will explore the impact of community decisions, historically and today, on the physical, cultural, and economic landscape of Mount Desert Island. It centers around the story of the debate a century ago over whether cars were an important invention that could make life easier, or a noisy nuisance that would ruin the beauty of the Island. The ultimate decision made in 1916 forever changed the nature of MDI.
September, 2015 - Next year marks the 100th anniversary of several important historic events, both on Mount Desert Island (MDI) and nationally. Acadia National Park and the National Park Service will both celebrate their centennials in 2016. And, the Seal Cove Auto Museum will commemorate the final decision that allowed cars in all of the towns on MDI, forever changing the economic, geographic, and cultural landscape of this place.
The Seal Cove Auto Museum is planning a major exhibit, Auto Wars: Then and Now, to mark these momentous events. As an Acadia Centennial Partner, the exhibit will be linked to the larger celebrations and events taking place on MDI and around the state. The exhibit will go beyond the walls of the Museum through an on-line forum, public programs, and educational outreach and curriculum development, thereby offering more than a traditional exhibit in a gallery. We will link the historic decision to allow automobiles on the island, made a century ago, to the challenges and opportunities residents and visitors to MDI face today.
The challenges brought about by allowing cars on MDI are not to be ignored, with the overcrowding of cars being a major concern. The Park recognizes these challenges and has been working with Island communities and businesses to develop solutions, which will be featured in the exhibit.
Auto Wars: Then and Now will be a ground-breaking exhibit. It will be multi-layered, presenting the historic story through the personalities and publicity stunts that make this history so interesting, and juxtaposing that with the modern story, which will be told by the community and visitors to MDI on touch screen TVs through digital storytelling. These digital stories will inspire visitors to add their own voices through an on-line forum.
The gallery space in the Museum will be transformed into an interactive space where visitors choose their own adventure. Would they be in support of allowing cars on MDI, or against it? Once their decision is made, visitors are introduced to the people leading their cause, the ways in which the case was being made, and the outcomes of those decisions. All visitors exit to the same result: the ban on autos was lifted in 1916, with the conclusion of the historic story taking place on the top of Cadillac Mountain at the opening of the road to the summit in 1932. Featured at the end of the historic story will be a special exhibit of Edsel Ford's car, a Ford Luxus Cabriolet, which represents the automobiles that he would have had at his estate in Seal Harbor, Maine.
The uniting theme for the centennial is “celebrate our past, inspire our future,” and this exhibit, related programs, and on-line forum are designed to align with those goals. As a centennial partner, the Auto Wars exhibit will be part of an Island-wide effort to help visitors and residents better understand the history of the Island, and work together for a vision of the future.
Picnic at the Museum
August, 2015 - Modern day rusticators gathered at the Seal Cove Auto Museum at the beginning of August for a picnic among the museum’s collection of Brass Era autos. The picnic served to draw attention to the museum and all that it has to offer, as well as serving as a fundraiser for the non-profit museum. It drew on the theme of the “rusticators” - the summer visitors to MDI that escaped to the island from the heat of the city in the early 1900s, the same time period represented by the museum’s collection.
On this idyllic summer’s day, picnickers enjoyed a buffet at farm tables set up on the lawn of the museum over looking the pond and mountains across the way. This was also the perfect vantage point for guests to feast their eyes on the 1912 Crane cruising along the tree-lined drive, carrying their fellow guests on rides down the road.
In its second year, this year’s picnic offered up some new twists. There was a raffle of unique experiences, such as a ride along the coast of the Blue Hill peninsula in a 1927 Bugatti race car. Also new this year, guests were treated to a live Victorian wedding fashion show, featuring vintage clothing of a century ago from the collection of Norma Spurling. After viewing fashions for courting, wedding dresses, and clothing for the honeymoon, the highlight of the day very well may have been the “surprise” fashion at the conclusion of the show, maternity wear for the newly expecting mom!
June, 2015 - This spring a new Steam team was formed to become more familiar with the repair, maintenance, demonstration, and operation of the steam vehicles among the museum's collection. The Seal Cove Auto Museum exhibits a number of steam powered vehicles including a 1900 Locomobile, and number of Stanleys, a 1910 White, and a 1900 Skene.
The team's first venture into the world of steam was a May 9th trip to the Stanley Museum in Kingfield, Maine to learn the principles of steam power from Mark Smith. The day was extremely productive with each member of the Seal Cove Auto Museum's team enjoying the unexpected adventure of actually driving the Stanley Collection's 1908 “Gentleman's Roadster.”
The visit to Kingfield was followed up by Mark's June 6th visit to Seal Cove to guide the team in completing some repairs on the Museum's Stanley Mountain Wagon, followed by the firing of the boiler for the first time in a number of years. After a long day of fitting, adjusting, and tinkering the vehicle made a brief cruise through the neighborhood.
The team, consisting entirely of volunteers, will be meeting regularly to help enhance the visitor experience at the Seal Cove Auto Museum.
April, 2015 - With assistance from The Barn Arts Collective, we have created and submitted a dance video to a Museum Dance-Off Competition. The When You Work at a Museum blog is holding this competition for its second year to dispel the misconception that museums are stuffy, staid old institutions, and also to just have some fun and celebrate museums of all kinds.
Twenty-eight museums from around the world have submitted entries. Each day a few videos are highlighted, and viewers choose their favorite. Those favorites will ultimately battle it out in subsequent rounds, until only one is left standing. Our dance video will be up for round one of voting on April 27, so be sure to visit the competition page to place you vote on Monday! In the meantime, you can check out our awesome and sure-to-win dance video here.
Announce Partnership Programs
April, 2015 - Woodlawn Museum, Seal Cove Auto Museum and MPBN are pleased to announce a joint membership promotion. To celebrate their season openings, each museum will offer free admission for all Auto Museum, Woodlawn, and MPBN members for the month of May. “The promotion stemmed from discussions about ways in which our organizations could cross promote and increase member benefits”, Kate Phenix, MPBN Development & Communication Associate.
In addition to the month-long member-to-member promotion, on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 10th, the Seal Cove Auto Museum and Woodlawn invite all mothers to enjoy a free tour at both museums. Also planned is a special community event, Mother's Day at Woodlawn. The Auto Museum will bring its 1912 Crane automobile (weather permitting) to Woodlawn for rides, free of charge during the museum's regular hours, 1-4pm. According to Seal Cove Auto Museum Executive Director Raney Bench, “The 1912 Crane is a real beauty. One of only forty produced, it was originally owned by the extremely wealthy Helen Hartley Jenkins, daughter to the owner of the Remington Arms Company. This is the first time we have brought one of the cars from our collection to Woodlawn, so visitors will have the opportunity for a very unique experience in Ellsworth on Mother's Day.” Families are invited to bring a picnic and enjoy Woodlawn's public park and walking trails.
Throughout the 2015 season, the Seal Cove Auto Museum and Woodlawn will continue to collaborate, offering visitors 20% off each museum's admission when both are visited. According to Woodlawn's executive director, Joshua Torrance, “Visitors will gain a deeper understanding of early 20th century living by visiting both museums as our collections reflect similar time periods” The Auto Museum focuses on the “Brass Era” of automobile development, 1895-1917; Woodlawn dates 1824 - 1928. The two collections reflect both everyday living and opulent lifestyles at the turn of the 20th century.
February, 2015 - More than 100 people turned out for the Seal Cove Auto Museum's Brass Club Speakeasy on a chilly Saturday night in February. Revelers had to say the password “horsefeathers” to gain admission to the fun. Dancing to a 10-piece swing band, a live belly-dancing performance, charity blackjack and prohibition-era beers were all a part of the festivities.
View a video produced by Earl Brechlin of the MDIslander about the event
December, 2014 - The Seal Cove Auto Museum has recently acquired a 1904 Type VII Searchmont Touring car. A true 'barn find' that has been lovingly restored by a previous owner, it is one of only two vehicles manufactured by the Searchmont Automobile Co. known to exist. This antique auto was purchased by the Richard C. Paine, Jr. Automobile Collection Charitable Trust, and will be on display as a part of the collection at the Seal Cove Auto Museum.
The Searchmont Motor Co. was formed in Philadelphia, PA, by Theodore C. Search in 1900. His purpose was to build an American Automobile called the Searchmont. The first car the Company produced was a 5 passenger Touring Car, with an optional surrey top, 12 horsepower engine, and a frame made of hickory wood reinforced with steel. Search later acquired the rights to manufacture a car developed by the Keystone Motor Company, a two-seater buggy, steered by a tiller, known as the Wagonette.
The design of the 1904 Searchmont reflects the Auto Company’s complete change in the design of its cars in 1903, the new design following French lines. It is a rear-entrance vehicle, powered by a two-cylinder engine that produces 10 horsepower. It has leather upholstery, wicker tonneau baskets, and brass accents as appropriate to its time period.
Following the bankruptcy of the Searchmont Motor Company in 1904, the John Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia bought the entire lot of 100 unsold cars at $750 apiece, put $1200 price tags on them, and sold them. Thanks to the Richard C. Paine Jr., Automobile Collection Charitable Trust, the Seal Cove Auto Museum’s latest addition is one of those cars.
The previous owner of the 1904 Searchmont Touring car, Bob Ames, also owned the 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile in the museum’s collection. Both the Searchmont and the Olds were driven by Mr. Ames in the prestigious London to Brighton Run, a race for cars built prior to 1905, and the longest running motoring event in the world. The Searchmont has also been awarded a national first place award from the Antique Automobile Club of America.