Seal Cove Auto Museum, Antique Autos and Motorcycles from the Brass Era, Mount Desert Island, Maine
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Groundbreaking Exhibit Auto Wars: Then & Now to Open with Reception

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.”

1930 Packard on Loan to Museum

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.

Anouncing a New Exhibit for 2016

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.

Modern-Day Rusticators
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!

View photos from the picnic...
View a video of the fasion show...

New Steam Team Formed

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.

Museum Participating in Dance Off Contest - Please Vote!

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.

Local Museums and MPBN
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.

Over 100 turn out for Speakeasy

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

New Acquisition of 1904 Searchmont

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.

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