Maine History

Historic photographs of schooner Bowdoin now online

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 7:00am

The John Booras Collection of historic photographs of the schooner Bowdoin, probably taken in 1924 on a return voyage of Arctic exploration from Greenland, is now online at

Most of these 140 photographs were taken at a stop the Bowdoin made on Monhegan Island, and they provide an intimate look at an Arctic expedition making its way home. The Bowdoin’s famous captain Admiral Donald B. MacMillan, who was recruited for Arctic exploration by Robert E. Peary, is being presented with flowers by local children.

John Booras, a retired postman who collects and researches old photographs, found these negatives in a shop in Massachusetts, bought the collection, and returned it to Maine by donating it to the Penobscot Marine Museum.

The Bowdoin was built in East Boothbay in 1920-21 and designed specifically for Arctic exploration at Admiral MacMillan’s request after he spent four years stranded in northern Greenland. MacMillan made over 30 expeditions to the Arctic and, according to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, he “pioneered the use of radios, airplanes, and electricity in the Arctic, brought back films and thousands of photographs of Arctic scenes, and put together a dictionary of the Inuktikut language.”

Together, Admiral MacMillan and the Bowdoin made over 26 voyages and sailed over 300,000 miles. The Bowdoin is currently owned by the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and used as a training vessel. In 1989 she was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Penobscot Marine Museum is grateful to Mrs. Mildred Jones of the Bowdoin College Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum for her invaluable research on the John Booras Collection.

Penobscot Marine Museum has one of the largest archives of historical photographs in Maine, with more than 140,000 negatives, prints, slides, postcards and daguerreotypes available for research, reproduction and licensing.

For hours and events, go to or call 207-548-2529 or 0334. The Penobscot Marine Museum campus, 40 East Main Street, Searsport, is open May 24 through October 19, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.