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Essex (Images of America)


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About the Author

Dawn Robertson, a freelance writer and editor, received an honors bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of New Hampshire. She has worked with American history for 10 years. Kurt A. Wilhelm is acting curator of the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum and is chairman of the Essex Historical Commission.


Title: Local authors showcase Essex for 'Images' series
Author: Brendan Connolly
Publisher: Gloucester Times
Date: 5/2/2010

A new book from two first-time local authors focusing on the town of Essex through the rich pictorial history of archival photographs is being released today.
"Essex" is the latest focus of the Images of America series of books published by Arcadia Publishing. The series presents readers with the distinct stories of neighborhoods, towns and cities across the country and several books in the series spotlight the communities of Cape Ann.
The period collection of photographs and small clips of elapsed years highlighting the birthplace of fried clams was gathered and presented by local authors Dawn Robertson and Kurt Wilhelm. The project took a year to complete.
Robertson is a freelance writer and editor, receiving her History degree from the University of New Hampshire. She was previously a history teacher and archivist with Historic New England, Newburyport Historical Society and Ipswich Historical Society.
"I have a deep passion for American history," Robertson said. She said the digging it took to highlight some material gave her the most pleasure in the process.
"Finding the land deed Masconomo signed," she said, "was really exciting."
A brief introduction greets readers with a narrative of how Essex became the town it is today.
The opening runs from the first mapping of Cape Ann in 1605 by Samuel de Champlain to the creation of an outpost called Ipswich leading to the settlement of a new neighborhood called Chebacco which would eventually become Essex.
That in turn, leads to the humble beginnings of the ship-building industry that transformed the sleepy clamming community into some of the most productive clusters of fishing-schooner shipyards in America.
The book showcases different areas around the town, offering black and white images from the dawn of photography showing dirt roads and horse-drawn buggies. Pages of Depression-Era images of the Essex Causeway show the passivity of the ocean and the raging floods of the Portland Storm on Nov. 27, 1898.
"I wanted to arrange the book as though I were giving a tour of the town," Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm, who has been an Essex resident since 1976, has held a myriad of positions in Essex; volunteer curator of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, a member of the town historical commission and a member of the Community Preservation Committee.
Wilhelm said he used his unfettered accessibility to the annals of the museum's archives to find material for the book. Most of the photos came from a filing cabinet in the museum, he continued, that no one ever gets to see.
In the earlier stages of the photo selections, Wilhelm said he would take the images to local seniors in a monthly meeting and listen to them reminisce over the frozen moments.
A photo of the 1965 undefeated Essex Elementary basketball team turned out to affect Wilhelm closer then he imagined.
"Some of the guys in the photo are my neighbors," he said.
The book, distributed by Arcadia Publishing, is available at local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at or 888-313-2665."

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