In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

The Indian Encampment

Wabanaki family inside tent, Bar Harbor, ca. 1885
Wabanaki family inside tent, Bar Harbor, ca. 1885

Item Contributed by
Maine Historic Preservation Commission

Rusticators were curious about the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot families who encamped every summer at Bar Harbor. Most vacationers made at least one visit to the Wabanaki village to peruse and purchase handmade baskets and a host of other wares. In addition to goods that could be carried away in hand, some bought big-tag items: rustic furniture or 18-foot birchbark canoes. Visitors also stopped by the encampment to hire Indian guides for canoe outings or sport-hunting, to place special orders for items such as personalized hand-carved paddles, and occasionally, to have their fortunes told.

Wabanaki encampment, Bar Harbor, ca. 1887
Wabanaki encampment, Bar Harbor, ca. 1887

Item Contributed by
Maine Historic Preservation Commission

The Indian encampment at Bar Harbor will be found a pleasant place to wile away an hour or two. The village is composed of a score or two of little wood and canvas shanties, in which are sold a great variety of aboriginal trinkets, skins of seal and deer, baskets of birch-bark, moccasins, bead-work, snow-shows, gulls’ breasts, stuffed birds, clubs, carved sticks, bows and arrows, etc. -Chisholm’s Mount Desert Guide, 1888

Indian Encampment advertisement, 1880s
Indian Encampment advertisement, 1880s

Wabanakis who traveled to Mount Desert Island were entrepreneurial when it came to marketing. To promote their products, services, or shows, many designed calling cards and flyers, composed ads to place in newspapers, and turned photos of themselves into postcards.

Visit a Slideshow of Treasures from the Wabanaki Encampment
Visit a Slideshow of Treasures from the Wabanaki EncampmentA wide variety of baskets, birch bark items, toys and souvenirs could be purchased at the Wabanaki encampment in Bar Harbor. Some of the tools used to make baskets and other items were collected by museums in later years.