B A C K   T H E N


Winter Scene


Shay’s Tent


Mrs. Florence Nicolar Shay, a Penobscot from Indian Island, Old Town, weaves a basket while minding the seasonal sales tent that she and her husband, Leo, established along Route 1 at Lincolnville Beach. In their first season at this site, about 1930, Florence and Leo and two of their children lived in the back of the tent; in later years they rented rooms in their landlord’s farmhouse, seen in the background.

The tradition of Maine Indians—primarily Penobscots—selling baskets and other handicrafts at coastal summer resorts dated well back into the nineteenth century. In the early 1900s, such seasonal encampments could be found in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and even New Jersey. (The Nicolars had for many years traveled to Kennebunkport.) The Great Depression largely ended this tradition, although a few stalwart souls carried on into the 1960s.

Florence, a master basket maker, was from a prominent family and was a tireless advocate for Native American rights. During World War II she and Leo worked at the Boston Navy Yard while three of their sons served in the armed forces and a fourth was in the merchant marine.
Son Charles, an army medic, landed on Omaha Beach and was awarded the Silver Star and four battle stars, but when he returned to Maine he—like his brothers—was denied the right to vote, an outrage that Florence fought to correct.

Text by William H. Bunting from Maine On Glass. Published by Tilbury House Publishers, 12 Starr St., Thomaston, Maine. 800-582-1899.

Maine On Glass and prints of the photographs are available through the Penobscot Marine Museum: PenobscotMarineMuseum.org.


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