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1965 Maine Fishing History









Frederick S. Humiston, Jr., was born on July 20, 1902 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father, also named Frederick S. Humiston, was born in 1873 in Illinois. His mother, Maude Lillian Rich, was born in 1878 in New York. His parents married in 1901 and had one child. They lived on Large Avenue in Hillsdale, NJ, where the father worked as a real estate salesmen.

Fred Humiston, Jr., grew up in Hillsdale and attended New Jersey public schools, where he became interested in a career as an artist.

In 1918 during the Great War he did not serve in the military, at which time he was still a teenage student in high school.

He graduated Hillsdale High School in June of 1920, after which he went to work as a staff artist in the art department of Vitaphone Company in NYC.

His mother's brother, Walter J. Rich, was President of the Vitaphone Company, which manufactured a popular line of phonographs and phonograph recordings. During this period the Vitaphone Company technicians worked with Bell Telephone Laboratories and Warner Brothers Motion Picture Company to develop technology for talking pictures. Thanks to the privilege of a family connection, Fred Humiston, Jr., found employment at this innovative company in NYC.

In the summer of 1920 Fred S. Humiston accompanied his parents to Popham, Maine, which is on the coast near Bath and just north from Portland, ME. The family stayed at The Hotel Riverside and became acquainted with the hotel owners. His parents were so impressed with their holiday they arranged to return the following summer as operators of the hotel. After experiencing a brisk and profitable trade in the summer of 1921 the Humistons decided to buy The Hotel Riverside. The deed of ownership was signed on February 9, 1922, after which time the family lived in Popham, ME, every summer and in Hillsdale, NJ, during the winter months.

Aside from the busy tourist trade in the summertime, Popham, ME, is a year-round fishing village. The fishing industry employs most of the residents in one way or another, such as fishermen, crewmen clammers, ship builders, lumber mill, hardware, tinsmiths and boat caulkers and painters.

In 1926 the Vitaphone Company, along with Bell Telephone and Warner Brothers, released their first production of a talking motion picture. It was Don Juan starring John Barrymore, at which time the local newspaper in Bath, ME, reported that the actors' dialogue was audible as well as the sounds of the clashing swords in the dueling scenes. The article also mentioned local artist Fred Humiston, Jr., was employed in the art department of the Vitaphone Company of NYC.

The choice to spend a portion of each year in Maine and New Jersey caused several complexities. On March 21, 1929 The Bath Independent Newspaper reported that the Humiston Family drove nineteen hours along the East seaboard on an emergency errand concerning a death in the mother's family. Eventually the family began to live in Maine year-round, but because of the prohibitive cost of heating the entire hotel during the coldest months of winter, the family also rented a cozy home at 41 Lincoln Street in Popham, ME.

In the 1930s during the Great Depression Fred Humiston, Jr., was employed by the Maine State Artists Project to paint a mural in the public school library. The WPA Federal Art Project was an enlightened government program that provided relief income for artists. Pulp artists George Avison, Delos Palmer, Elton Fax, Lee Browne Coye, and Remington Schuyler also worked on mural projects for this same government program.

On September 12, 1940 his mother died at the age of sixty-three.

On 1941 his father died at the age of sixty-seven.

Shortly after the deaths of his parents Fred Humiston sold The Riverside Hotel and resumed his career as a commercial artist. He continued to live in Popham, ME, but also spent a portion of each year at his uncle's home in Hillsdale, NJ. He sold freelance illustrations to Weird Tales and Short Stories. By 1941 these two pulp magazines each had a significant publishing history, but both magazines had recently been taken over by William J. Delaney (1892-1986), who was the owner of an Advertising Agency in New York City with important business connections in worlds of Publishing and Distribution. Under his leadership both magazines sought to reach a wider mainstream audience.

During WWII Fred Humiston did not serve in the military, at which time he was forty years old.

After WWII the pulp magazine industry had lost readership and by 1953 most illustrators had to find another source of income.

Fred Humiston moved to Portland, ME, where he lived at 63 Concord Street. He became a writer, historian and illustrator of human interest stories for his local newspaper, The Portland Herald Press.

In 1965 he wrote and illustrated Blue Water Men And Women, which was a history of the Maine fishing community published by The Portland Herald Press. Syndicated newspapers printed Mail Order advertisements for Blue Water Men And Women for several months.

Fred Humiston died at age seventy-two in a hospital in Portland, Maine, on March 27, 1976.

                             © David Saunders 2014

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