University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Mary R. Calvert collection, 1975-1996

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The bulk of this collection is composed of research materials used by Calvert for her works on the Kennebec River Valley. Included in the first series are photocopies of rare books, pamphlets, maps, and photographic reproductions documenting the history of the Abenaki Indians, early European settlers, and the logging industry. Also included in the collection are several drafts of essays written by Calvert, correspondence with Dorothy Healy, and biographical information about Calvert. The second series includes original dry-mounted color photographs, mostly of children, from Calvert’s travels in the 1970s and 1980s.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mary Calvert was born on November 8, 1904 in Madison, Maine, where she attended Madison High School. In 1924 she married French engineer Francis Calvert and the couple settled in Cleveland, Ohio. There they raised two daughters and ran a family business, Calvert Co., where Francis was an electrical engineer and Mary an industrial photographer for advertisements. As her skills developed Calvert became interested in photographing nature, studying with photographers Helen Manzer and Freeman Patterson and entering many competitions. She joined the Photographic Society of America and traveled with this group to South America, China, Alaska, and Iceland, taking photographs for travel books.

In 1970, Calvert and her husband moved to Sarasota, Florida. They also built a home in East Boothbay, Maine, dividing their time between the two states. Together they spent several years researching their region in Maine, developing expertise on the Abenaki Indians, French missionaries, and early economic development of the area. In 1975-1976 Calvert accompanied the Arnold Expedition reenactment and the last log drives down the Kennebec River; the photographic documentation of this trip formed the basis of her two-volume set on the subject. Dawn Over the Kennebec came out in 1983, and was followed by The Kennebec Wilderness Awakens in 1986. Also in the 1980s, Calvert published three books of her photographs: Maine Captured in Color (1980), Nature Trails (1982), and Children (1988). Her third historical work, Black Robe on the Kennebec (1991) focused on the life of 17th century French missionary Sebastian Rale. Calvert’s final book, The First Maine Cavalry (1997), was inspired by and dedicated to her grandfather, John Renier, who served at the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War.

Over the course of her career Calvert exhibited her work, lectured widely and taught photography. In addition to being a member of the Photographic Society of America, she also joined the Woman’s Photographic Society of Cleveland, the National League of American Penwomen, the Maine Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1983, Calvert received Westbrook College’s Deborah Morton Award in recognition of her artistic work and contributions to the study of Maine history. She died in Damariscotta on January 16, 2000, at the age of 95.