Audio is available for this interview:
Interview with Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. by Don Nicoll
Summary Sheet and Transcript
Shettleworth, Earle G., Jr.
February 28, 2000
© Bates College. This transcript is provided for individual Research Purposes Only; for all
other uses, including publication, reproduction and quotation beyond fair use, permission must
be obtained in writing from: The Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library,
Bates College, 70 Campus Avenue, Lewiston, Maine 04240-6018.
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. was born in Portland, Maine on August 17, 1948. Earle’s father, Earle
Sr., was born in Connecticut and came to Maine to manage Woolworth’s on Congress Street in
Portland from 1933-1946, then opened a small chain of 5 & 10 cent stores, E. G. Shettleworth
Company. Earle wrote a history column, “Portland’s Heritage” for Portland Press Herald
during his high school and college years. He attended Colby College, class of 1970, with a
degree in architectural/art history and later Boston University, receiving a Master’s in
architectural history. He did a pictorial history of Maine for a bicentennial project in 1968-1969.
Governor Curtis appointed him to the Archives Board in 1969. He joined the Historical
Preservation Commission in 1971 and became Director of the Commission in 1976.
Scope and Content Note
Interview includes discussions of: 1954 Maine gubernatorial campaign; 1964 Senate Campaign;
1968 Vice Presidential Campaign; environmental protection; 1966 Historic Preservation Act;
Republican Party in Maine; meeting several times with Percival Baxter; Ralph Owen Brewster
and the Klu Klux Klan (KKK); Peter Kyros, Jr. and mock Kennedy/Nixon debate; 1964
Democratic National Convention celebration; President Johnson’s visit to Portland; Franklin
Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society; and the Maine Historic Preservation
Baxter, James Phinney
Brewster, Owen, 1888-1961
Bush, George, 1924-
Curtis, Kenneth M., 1931-
Damm, Robert L.
Hamlin, Hannibal, 1809-1891
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Kennedy, Jacqueline O.
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Kyros, Peter N., Jr.
Kyros, Peter N., Sr.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Longley, James, Sr.
Mitchell, George J. (George John), 1933-
Muskie, Edmund S., 1914-1996
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Reed, Thomas Brackett, 1839-1902
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Schlick, Edward C.
Shettleworth, Earle G., Jr.
Shettleworth, Earle G., Sr.
Shettleworth, Esther Knudsen
Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995
Don Nicoll: It is Monday, the 28th of February, the year 2000. This is Don Nicoll interviewing
Earle Shettleworth, Jr. at the offices of the Historic Preservation Commission, 55 Capitol Street
in Augusta. And Earle, we’ll start with asking you to state and spell your name, and give your
date and place of birth.
Earle Shettleworth: Sure, well Don, my name is Earle, E-A-R-L-E, G., Shettleworth, S-H-E-T-
T-L-E-W-O-R-T-H, Jr., and I was born in Portland on August 17th, 1948.
DN: And what were the names of your parents?
ES: My father was, of course, Earle G. Shettleworth, Sr., and my mother was Hester Knudsen
Shettleworth. And my father came from, originally from Connecticut, having come to Maine in
1933 to run the Woolworth store on Congress Street in Portland. And he had that position as
manager of Woolworth until after the war in 1946. And then he went out on his own and created
his own small chain of 5 & 10 cent stores in the Portland area.
DN: What were they called?
ES: They were called E.G. Shettleworth & Company, yes.
DN: And you grew up in the city?
ES: I grew up actually on Baxter Boulevard in Portland. My mother had always been from
Portland, and when my father decided to leave Woolworth, they wanted to stay right in Maine.
They’d built their house six years previously in 1940 on Baxter Boulevard.
DN: And did you have any brothers or sisters?
ES: I have an older sister, five years older.
DN: Now, where did you go to school?
ES: I went to Portland schools. I started out in kindergarten with the old Hazeltine School on
Ocean Avenue, and that then merged into, when I was in the second or third grade, into the
Baxter School. And if I may digress for just a moment that, going to the Baxter School up and
through the sixth grade allowed me to meet Governor Percival P. Baxter, because he would
frequently visit the school that had been named for him. And that allowed me to get to know
him and actually then visit him in his office on several occasions, and talk with him, and really
have a personal relationship with him, which was very exciting.
DN: Now is this while you were a grammar school student, or (unintelligible phrase)?
ES: Well, when I was in, I first visited him in his office when I was in the sixth grade. I was
interested in saving the previous school I had gone to, the old Hazeltine School, and I’d written a
little history of it. And I thought, wonderfully naively, that if he was the man who could
preserve a mountain and two hundred thousand acres around it, that he must know how to
preserve this old school, you know. And, of course he reported back to Katherine Jordan, who
was the principal, about the visit. And he said that, you know, this was a very earnest young
man and he had very good intentions, but of course this really wasn’t a practical thing to do.
And, of course, preservation in Portland was not even thought about at that time, you know, I
mean it was just in its nascence if anything.
DN: What stimulated this passion for preservation at such an early age?
ES: Well, I was interested in history since the time I was about four years old. And I think
what triggered it was the fact that my father brought home from one of his stores, an illustrated
history of Britain. These had been actually a series of booklets that had actually been published
in Britain during the war to try to create, you know, national identity and a sense of national
history and spirit. And they’d been remaindered and they’d been sent over to this country in the
late forties and early fifties to just be sold en masse. And I ended up with a set of them and I just
poured through them. And that was my sort of visual entry into history, you know.
DN: And this when you were four?
ES: Probably I was about four, yeah, yeah. That would have been about 1952 or so.
DN: Did your parents or your sister share this interest?
ES: Not actually. I think that, well my sister really is a mathematician and a scientist, and my
mother was an English teacher; of course my father was a businessman. But the wonderful thing
about my family was that they really cared a great deal about whatever you cared about, and they
encouraged it. And from a very early age when they saw I was interested in this, why then they
took measures to see that that interest was developed, you know. And that included family trips
throughout New England and other parts of the country to historic sites at an early age, getting
involved in collecting antiques, and things like that. I mean, whatever it was, they, you know,
they encouraged and indulged it and I’m very grateful to them for it.
DN: Now you talked about visiting with Governor Baxter. What kind of a person was he and
how did he respond to the sixth grader.
ES: Well he was quite remarkable really. I had made an appointment to see him in his office
on the top floor of the Trelawney Building, which still stands today at Longfellow Square in
Portland. It was a building that his father [James Phinney Baxter] had built around 1909. And
he had his father’s office, which was good part of the top floor, beautifully paneled office, sort of
an entry area and then the big office with a wonderful bay window looking out on Longfellow
Square. It was wall-to-wall memorabilia and pictures including a huge photograph of Mt.
Katahdin. And he sat at a large desk with his back to the window, although he could swivel
around and look out at the view. And I came in and I think I brought with me something for him
to sign, to inscribe. I think it was the, his address in 1925, the dedication of the Baxter, his
father’s memorial on the Baxter Boulevard.
And I can remember very vividly some of the things from that conversation. I mean he, you
know, he was quite an elderly gentleman, but, and he was of course, you know, in some ways
quite grand, you know, I mean a sort of a grand figure. Very erect and very serious and very, of
course, very well spoken. But he told some wonderful stories that someone my age would
He pointed to a paperweight on his desk and it had a picture of the old Baxter Library, which is
now, of course, the art library for the Portland, for the Maine College of Art, and it also had an
inset of a picture of his father. And he said, “You see that building?” He said, “When I was
maybe about your age,” he said, “my father built that building.” And he said, “They were having
the cornerstone lain and they’d already built some of the superstructure before they put the
cornerstone in and I went to the dedication and I got bored by it, and I started climbing on the
superstructure of the building.” And he said, “Nobody noticed me and within a matter of, you
know, a little while,” he said, “I was up on top of a section that I couldn’t get off, and my father
had to call the fire department to get me off.” [laughter]
And of course he told the story that’s often been repeated about. . . . you know the, the fishing
experience he’d had in Rangeley with his father. And the fact that, you know, his father had
given him a certain amount of money for the fish he caught and he’d invested that and it had
grown, you know, to a tremendous amount. I mean these were, these were sort of, you know,
fables for children, you know, that he could relate to.
And he was very, I can remember when he would visit Baxter School and go to the classrooms,
he was also very attuned to, you know, to what children might be interested in, you know, and so
on. And I can remember one instance, it was around Christmas time and we had both Christmas
and Hanukkah symbols. And there were some Jewish members of the class. And he specifically
made great pains to sort of elicit from them, well, what were their holiday practices, you know,
and so on. I mean, you know, he, it was very, a sensitivity, you know, that was very interesting.
Anyway, I would keep, you know, in occasional touch with him all through the sixties until his
death, and, in ’69. And probably the most memorable experience that I have relating to him, I
mean I would go to talk with him occasionally to ask him historical questions, because of course
he went back into the 1870s and ‘80s. I mean, it was just incredible really. But, and of course
when I asked him about that very sensitive subject of Ralph Owen Brewster and the Klan, he
wouldn’t say anything. He just, his comment was, well that’s all past, that’s all history, you
know, he just wouldn’t even comment on that.
But I think it was in 1967, I had been writing both as a high school student and a as a college
student for the Portland papers, a history column called “Portland’s Heritage.” And the last set
of those articles that I did in the summer of ‘67, I did an article about his father’s work in
creating the Portland park system at the turn of the century. And he saw that article and he was
so gratified by it that he actually, I mean he was probably about ninety at the time and quite frail,
quite fragile. And he actually had his chauffeur bring him down to the Portland Press Herald
building, took the elevator to the second floor, walked into the press room where I was, I mean I
was a, you know, college reporter. Here was the whole room full of, you know, reporters and
editors and so on, and he came in to thank me personally for having written that article about his
father. It was awesome, you know, it was just amazing, you know.
The other thing that I remember in one of those early visits was he took me over to the great
picture of Mt. Katahdin, he had the big photograph, and he said, “Have you seen my mountain?”
[laughter] That was the phrase. I still remember it to this day, “Have you seen my mountain?”
So anyway, I think that he helped me develop a sense of history, a connection to history. And, of
course, I was looking for those connections to history as a young person, and I developed a
number of others as well.
When I was working for the newspapers I would seek out people in their eighties and nineties in
the 1960s and do interviews with them as well. Quite a range of people in fact, including Harry
Jones, who was a great pioneer aviator of Maine, who laid out all the airports in the twenties and
thirties, and he was an elderly man in the sixties, very interesting person to interview. Anyway,
Baxter I think inspired that connection, but I think also in many ways he’s kind of a model and a
hero in the sense of public service. And, you know, I’ve felt often that, and that’s why I have
three photographs of him behind my desk, that you know, that there’s a model there to be learned
from and I think that kind of inspires me.
DN: Did he talk much about his father?
ES: Yes, yes. Of course he was very admiring of his father. And when I visited his home
once on West Street, he had a magnificent portrait of his father just as you entered the house, in
the hallway. In fact it’s the portrait that he willed to the Portland Public Library and it’s down
on the first floor, which shows the library in the background. And he had it arranged, it’s a little
eerie, he had it arranged with a mirror across from it so that, what he said was, “If you look in
the mirror at the image mirrored,” he said, “It’s almost life like, you know.” And, I mean, it was
almost sort of like a shrine to his father in the hallway, you know, it was very interesting. And
he also had a group portrait of he and his mother and some of his brothers and sisters over his
fireplace. And he had tiles that his mother had painted, that he had moved from the Deering
Street house, 61 Deering Street where he grew up, to his house on West Street. And those
surrounded one of his fireplaces. Had beautiful antiques, many of which, of course, he willed to
different institutions you know. But it was very interesting to visit there.
DN: So you had a major stimulation for interest in history from him. Did your folks show
much interest in the active political life in the state at that time, when you were growing up?
ES: Well, I would say not, actually. I think my real, I think the political came from two
standpoints. One was the fact that, you know you, history and politics are so intertwined that
when you study American history, you know, you study American politics, so there’s that part of
it. But also, I had a very defining event, so to speak, in 1960. Of course that was a great
election, a great watershed election, and my parents had been Republicans.
Interestingly when I did the family history I found out, of course, that my mother’s father had
been a Democrat, I mean he was a Danish immigrant. And how else, the only time he was on
the police force in Portland was when the Democrats were in, you see. I mean, which all of
those jobs were political in those days at the turn of the century. But in the upward mobility, you
know, going from immigrant generation to second generation in America, the respectable thing
in Maine was to, you know, become Republican in that generation.
And in fact my mother’s family, there were thirteen children, and my, one of my uncles was
Judge Albert Knudsen and, one of my mother’s brothers. And he had been very active in
Republican politics in the twenties and the thirties, to the point where he had become county
attorney during the thirties, elected county attorney as Republican. Many people wanted him to
run for congress, but he did not want to leave Maine. But he and my Aunt Laura Reiche,
Howard Reiche’s wife, another of my mother’s sisters, and her, another of the sisters, Alma Hite;
Albert Knudsen, Laura Reiche and Alma Hite were all very involved in Republican politics, very
actively involved in Republican politics. And in fact Laura and Alma were among the staunch
supporters of you-know-who, Margaret Chase Smith. I mean, you know, that vast cadre of
Republican women who, you know, were just so totally devoted to Margaret Chase Smith, you
know. And they were among, you know, they fit right in with that, you know, that was, they just
believed that the sun rose and set on Margaret, you know. So anyway, that was the background
that I grew up in.
Well, here comes the election of 1960. So in my homeroom it’s only natural that I become the
Republican chairman. And guess who’s the Democratic chairman? Peter Kyros, Jr., yes. And
so we fought it out during the fall of 1960 in our homeroom at Lincoln Junior High School,
having been, seventh graders just entering high school. We had a debate, Peter and I debated
each other, you know, he was Kennedy and I was Nixon. And, you know, there was sort of a
mutual respect, but at the same time a mutual tension between the two of us, you know. Well
after the election was over, it was, I think it was Christmas vacation. And I got a call from Peter
and he said, “You know, I’d love to get together with you and let’s do something,” you know.
Well this astounded me, you know. And so very quickly we became fast friends and have
remained so to this day.
And it was Peter who very, along with his father of course who was just beginning to get
involved in Democratic politics. I mean Peter, Sr. had a blueprint, you know. He had some
ideas, because I can remember those earliest discussions in ‘61 and ‘62 about when we run, you
know, and what we’re going to run for, you know, is it congress, is it governor, you know, what
is it going to be, you know. I mean, there were, he was, and of course the first step was to
become chairman of the party, which of course he did and then went on to four terms in
congress. But I would be in that household frequently and just be immersed in the Democratic
politics of the early 1960s and the comings and goings in which, you know, there would be many
of the party leaders.
So I was quickly thrown into this whole opposite environment of what my family, you know,
with the three staunch Republicans, activists, were. But I quickly decided that Kennedy and the
Democratic Party were for me, and I got converted, you know. And of course I, to this day I’m,
you know, a totally unrelenting New Dealer, you know, I mean I believe in the New Deal; not
the New Frontier but the New Deal.
DN: You came to the ‘60 election supporting -
DN: Nixon . . . .
ES: Right, yes.
DN: - and your family was -
ES: Strong Republican.
DN: - strong Republican supporting Margaret Chase Smith. What was their attitude toward
Sen--, Governor Muskie?
ES: Well, I think it was the attitude that many strong Republican families had about Ed
Muskie, and that is that he was the exception they were willing to make. Because they just saw,
I mean he, I think when he ran in ‘54 he so, he was so clearly a quality person, you know. I
mean it just, it just was clear that he was head and shoulders above his, his opposing candidate,
who of course was Burton Cross, incumbent. And in addition to that, Don, there was not only
the fact that I think my parents always, they always voted for him, both as governor, twice as
governor and then the times he ran as senator. Because they really felt that he was such a bright
and attractive and, you know, committed person for Maine and he really was clearly the best
person running, regardless of his party.
I hate to say it, but you also have to remember, too, that there was the other issue for people to
overcome too, and that was Catholicism. And, I mean, I was brought up in a household that was,
I think, very conscious of tolerance and, you know, the teaching of tolerance. But I can
remember very vividly in the ‘50s and into the ‘60s that I was living in a very intolerant period
still, and that there were members of my family, I’ll be frank about it, my mother’s family, who
had very strong prejudices and who voiced them, you know. And I don’t mean to link that
necessarily to the Republican Party, but it was all just, you know, it was sort of them and us, you
know. It was the, you know, the Catholics and the Jews were Democrats and the Wasps were
Republicans, you know, and that kind of thing. And I know we don’t talk about this today, this
politically correct age, but it was the facts of life then.
So that really I think that Muskie, in a household such as mine, you know, there was the double
challenge of meeting the test of quality, but also, you know, there was the underlying issue too
that, you know, this individual came from, you know, an immigrant background, he was
Catholic, those sort of things, you know. So I think that that in a nut-, maybe in a microcosm, is
the kind of political magnetism that he had in Maine as he started his career in the fifties. And it
always sustained him throughout his career, that he, you know, he just, he was such a strong
person that that was just easily over-, that was overcome, you know.
DN: Did they have any personal encounters with him or any impressions given to them that
made them feel positively toward -?
ES: Yes. That of course was the other, I think, very deciding factor, particularly in 1954 when
he was an unknown. And that is that my father had, of course his first half of his career had been
spent as a Woolworth manager and he knew many of the Woolworth managers in New England.
And one of them, John Swanson, had been a Woolworth manager in Rumford at the time when
Muskie was growing up. And John and his wife Elsa had known the Muskie family very well,
liked them very much. And after John Swanson left Woolworth’s, he set up a store in Bridgton
and he and his wife were very close friends with my family. So that when this, you know,
relatively unknown young lawyer appears in 1954 running for governor on the Democratic
ticket, John and Elsa Swanson say to my parents, “You’ve got to vote for him,” you know, “we
know him personally, we knew him, you know, as a teenager. And this is a terrific person and
you really need to give your vote to him.” So I think that that was another deciding factor.
And I suspect that that kind of grapevine that exists in a state like Maine, I mean Maine in many
ways is a very small state, I like to say it’s one big interlocking directorate. And as a result, you
know, I think that that’s a very important factor in politics, you know, that word gets around as
to whether you’re a good person or not, regardless of party or regardless of background.
DN: Did you meet Governor Muskie or, while he was governor?
ES: I did not, no, not that I can remember, no, no. I would have met him in my entry into
Democratic politics in the early 1960s through Peter Kyros, Sr. and Jr. I think very quickly I
started going to party functions with Peter, Jr. and that’s, you know, that’s when I began to meet
DN: Now, what was your first real party involvement?
ES: I would say that it would have been in the election of 1962 in which I can remember, let’s
see, Maynard Dolloff was running for governor and Sen. Muskie would not have been up for
reelection at that time, that was ‘64. Anyway, as I recall, the party was headquartered in
Lewiston at that time, and they were in, upstairs of a building on Lisbon Street, maybe? And
was Ed Schlick the director maybe?
DN: Ed was the executive secretary at that time.
ES: Yes, right, right.
DN: And it was on Main Street, I believe.
ES: Main Street, right, Main Street, okay. Well, I can remember that Peter, Sr. of course went
up there a number of times and took Peter, Jr. and myself along. And I think we worked
afternoons sorting things or, oh I know what it was, it was stuffing envelopes for bulk mailings,
that’s what we were doing. I think that was my first involvement in Democratic politics, yeah.
DN: And did you graduate from that?
ES: Well, to the extent that I went with the Maine delegation to the 1964 Democratic
convention in Atlantic City, and I was a page. And another of the pages was David Flanagan,
actually, and I think Peter, Jr. was too. And that was a tremendous experience in that, I think
Peter stayed with his family, but David and I stayed at the YMCA and we would join the
delegation each day, they were at a motel right on the boardwalk. And I did have a chance. That
was my first chance to really observe Senator Muskie close-up for any length of time because he
was, of course, chairman of the delegation. And he would hold daily meetings with the delegates
and I would just sort of sit there and observe from a little distance, you know. That was kind of
exciting. That was a remarkable convention to go to in that, literally within the span of two or
three days, you know, one saw, Martin Luther King was there, Jackie Kennedy was there, Robert
Kennedy was there, you know, a number of the major political figures of the day were all
assembled. And then of course the ascendency of Lyndon Johnson, you know, the apotheosis of
And I can remember that last night after Johnson had been nominated, I think the previous night,
and this was just sort of a coronation, you know, at the end. Peter, Jr. and I were standing on the
boardwalk and they had these very elaborate fireworks, and one of them was this, actually
Johnson’s face in the sky, you know, in fireworks. And Peter turned to me sort of prophetically
and he said, you know, “This is either going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to this
country, or it may be the worst.” And, of course, it was some of both unfortunately. I mean, on
the one hand, you know, the wonderful civil rights and social programs that came out of the
Johnson era, and including, and this we’ll get to in a moment, historic preservation in the mid-
sixties. But on the other hand, of course, the tragedy of Vietnam and the fact that it really left a
major impact and a major scar on the very generation that Peter and I were part of, you know,
that we were soon to be propelled into, really.
But I always think of that, how prophetic that was, you know, his sense that it wasn’t all perfect,
you know, it was almost too good to be true, you know. Because certainly that feeling of 1964, I
mean it was a foregone conclusion that Lyndon Johnson would win that election. And when
Johnson came to Portland of course, again thanks to the Kyroses, I was right up there on the
stand, I shook his hand and so on at the city hall. And that probably is the largest downtown
crowd in Portland that will, in the history of the city, I mean there were over a hundred thousand
people that poured into the center of the city to see Johnson. The feeling of euphoria and of
unity and of support for that man and for his programs was extraordinary. I think probably it
was only equaled by maybe the early days of Roosevelt, you know, I mean it was just really
remarkable, you know. And sadly, you know, within two or three years it would all be so
DN: You were by 1964, you graduated from high school that year?
ES: No, I graduated in ‘66 actually.
ES: Yes, right, yup.
DN: And ‘66 was also the year that Peter, Jr.’s father ran for Congress.
ES: That’s right, that’s right, yes.
DN: Were you involved in that campaign?
ES: Oh yes, definitely. Well, I was entering- in the fall of 1966 I was entering Colby. And, of
course, Peter was entering Yale, but I think that he made a special arrangement where I think he
actually was able to take some time off and be up here and working with his father. So I saw
him off and on. And then I spent that election night with them, of course. And I also spent, I
had forgotten this, Don, but I had also spent election night 1968 with them and with the whole
Muskie entourage as well. And I remember that it all started in Portland, I think, everybody was
down in Portland to see the early results of the election in 1968. And then Muskie and his family
drove to Waterville, and I guess they were located, what, did he have a home in Waterville still?
DN: Not then, no, they stayed at the motel.
ES: That’s it, the motel, yes, because we all went to the motel. And I didn’t get back to Colby,
of course I was going to Colby, I didn’t get back to Colby until like maybe three o’clock in the
morning. We just all stayed there of course, you know, glued to the television sets seeing what
would happen, you know, and of course we know what happened.
DN: Did you go to the armory early in the evening when there was a gathering there and Dick
Dubord and his jazz band played?
ES: No, no, you see, we were all down in Portland at that point.
DN: You were in Portland at the time.
ES: Yes. I want to add one other note to the 1964 convention that was particularly memorable.
I drove down with two very nice ladies from Portland who were delegates, and I’ll see if I can
remember their names but at the moment I don’t. But it was particularly memorable driving
back because I drove all the way back with Al Lessard, Alton Lessard, and, in his great big white
Cadillac. And if I’d only had the kind of tape recorder you have here, because he told me the
most wonderful stories about Democratic politics going back to the thirties. I just, I remember
so little of it except that I remember that apparently, and I don’t even know what the issue was
but I was so impressed by it, his telling about it.
Apparently there was an issue here in Maine that was basically unresolvable at the state level, so
the parties made an appointment to see FDR and he was involved in this, whatever this issue
was. I don’t know whether it was a party issue, whether it was a, you know, patronage issue or
what, but anyway. And so they all filed in and met with FDR and of course FDR settled it for
them, you know, very quickly, very quickly, you know. But I was so, you know, I was so
impressed to, you know, hear, talk to somebody who had talked to Franklin Roosevelt, you
know, it was just wonderful, really. Since then I’ve talked to a number of other people who
talked to Franklin Roosevelt, but anyway.
DN: Now you were at Colby from ‘66 on.
ES: To ‘70, yes.
DN: And your major there?
ES: Was art history, actually, because I had become very interested in architectural history and
architectural history was included under art history. And then I went on to Boston University
graduate school and have a master’s in architectural history from there.
DN: And did you focus on art history and architectural history with an eye to becoming
involved in historic preservation?
ES: Well, it’s very interesting, Don. I think that when I first, well to go back a bit. When I
was in junior high and high school, I had no idea that there would be any kind of career
opportunity in historic preservation. There was virtually nothing at the time. And basically what
I had set my sights on at that point, I think inspired by my interest in politics and inspired
particularly by my uncle Judge Knudsen, was to go into the law. And that’s what I thought I
would do, that somehow history and preservation was something that you did on the side, you
know, in your spare time. And, but my real passion was for it.
Well then I, when I got into college, well just as a freshman, and took art history courses, that
whole world opened up. And I said, “Well, maybe I can teach,” you know. I mean, maybe I can
teach at the college level and that will be what I’ll do. But of course in the meantime what was
happening, and Sen. Muskie was a major player in this, was the passage of the 1966 Historic
Preservation Act. And that act resulted in the formation of state historic preservation
commissions in all fifty states and the territories. And it created a national network at the state
level of preservation entities that continues to this day, now over thirty years later, and has had
an untold impact on the identification, understanding and protection of a wide variety of cultural
resources in this country.
I mean, we look back nostalgically at some of FDR’s New Deal programs that were related to
cultural accomplishments: the WPA arts, the WPA writers’ guides projects, and so on. But of
course all that had a very short life, I mean it started in ‘33 or ‘34 and it ended when war came, if
But the remarkable thing is the Preservation Act, and some of the comparable acts that Muskie
and others worked for in the mid-sixties under the Johnson Great Society, if you put it in context,
it’s all part of that; Lady Bird’s concern about beautification for the highways and scenic
landscapes, the concern that Muskie was so critical in, about cleaning up the air and the water.
And the same thing go, and the creation of the Land and Water Fund, and the funds coming out
of the sale of oil leases to be transferred into these funds to renew, to renew the resources of this
country. And historic preservation was all part of that in the context of that. And of course
Senator Muskie was critical in all, in the leadership in all of those programs.
As I know I’ve told you before, Don, again the very prophetic thing when I look back at it, my
father was very friendly with the father of Chip Stockford, who was one of Muskie’s aides in his
office in the 1960s. And of course we’d take spring trips to Washington, and two or three times
my father arranged for us to go to Muskie’s office and talk to Chip. Well, I can vividly
remember, I would have been a, probably a junior in high school, and this was 1965. And Chip
said, “Oh I know you’re very interested in history,” he said, “I have a draft here of a bill that the
senator is going to be introducing in the next year or so. He’s involved in a study committee that
has traveled to Europe to look at historic buildings and cultural resources and how they are
managed in Europe.” And he said, “You know, in another year or so we’re going to try and put a
program in place to address this nationally, and here’s a copy of a draft of that bill.” Well, I’ve
spent my whole professional life involved in that program.
When I graduated from, well, even in fact before that, I was at Colby in the late sixties and it’s
so interesting how connections occur. And Maine is a wonderful state for connections, because I
had worked in late ‘69 I think it was on, yes, on a bicentennial project. Maine was going to have
a bicentennial in 1970. Actually, it was, I’m sorry, it was earlier, that was ‘68, ’69. And I did a
lot of preparation for a pictorial history of Maine, and it didn’t come through because the
legislature decided not to fund the budget at nearly as ambitious a level as had been proposed by
Governor Curtis. Well, I, as a student, here I was left out of, I’d done all this out of pocket, I’d
spent a lot of time, I’d traveled, I’d had pictures reproduced, and so on.
So one of my father’s business partners was a fellow named Phil Cook from, originally from
Calais, who in turn was a very, a boyhood friend of Linwood Ross, who as we know of course
was the alter ego of Ken Curtis. So Linwood, so Phil said, “Oh, well I know Linwood up in
Augusta,” he said, “He’ll take care of it for you,” you know. So I got a call at school from
Linwood Ross and he said, and of course he was the state purchasing agent, and he said, “I
understand that you’ve done a lot of work for the state and that you’re not being reimbursed for
it.” And he said, “I’m concerned about that. What can I do for you?” And so I explained, you
know, it amounted to maybe three or four hundred dollars, you know, but it was a lot for
someone going to college, you know. And so he said, “Well look, you just write out an itemized
invoice for the time you spent, the expenses you’ve incurred and so on. Send it to me, and I will
see that you get the money,” which he did. I got a check in a couple weeks.
So then, lo and behold, I get a call from Linwood a few weeks later. And he said, he said
“Now,” he said, you know, “we know you’re very interested in history and politics and so on,
and we really need some young people on these state boards,” he said. He said, “Now how old
are you?” And I think I wasn’t quite twenty-one. Well, I guess you had to be twenty-one to
serve at that time. So anyway the first thing they thought of, and I vetoed this myself, I thought
it was really, would have been very awkward even if it was very thoughtful, they needed a
student representative on the university board, you know, university system board. I said oh, no,
no, no, the, Colby, that would not do, you know. Well then the next thing that came, and by that
time I was twenty-one, this was ‘69, I had just turned twenty-one I guess, yeah, I had just turned
twenty-one, fall of ‘69, the Archives Board. So Governor Curtis, Linwood had me appointed by
Governor Curtis to the Archives Board. So what this is leading up to, Don, is that when the
National Preservation Act went in in ‘66, it created a chain reaction of creating the state
commissions. And in 1971 the Maine Historic Preservation Commission was created. Well that
commission required citizen members to create a board. And a very interesting thing was
happening politically: the state museum at the time was run by Robert Damm, who was a real
empire builder. He did not want the commission to come into being, he wanted to subsume it.
And so I was very concerned about, you know, the commission coming into being on its own.
So I called Peter, Jr. and I said, you know, “Who do we know,” you know, “other than Linwood?
Who do we know in Curtis’ office who’s directly involved?” “Oh, Neil Rolde,” you know.
So I got in touch with Neil and Neil said, “Oh, by all means we want, the governor wants this to
come into being and will appoint it, despite what. . . . “ Oh and you know, the other person who
was working against it was Carrol McGary, who was commissioner of education. He was in
league with Damm. So anyway, Neil arranged a meeting with McGary and myself and basically
said to the commissioner, I can remember this, “The governor is committed to having this
commission come into being,” and basically, I want you to back off, you know. So then Neil
turned to me afterwards and said, “Now who do we put on this commission?” you know? And
he said, “Of course you’ll serve,” you know.
So that’s how. . . . And Neil of course also sowed the seeds for some wonderful leadership. He
had a very close friend in York who was a, again, Neil was a Democrat but, John Bardwell was a
Republican but John saw how wonderful Neil was and supported him very strongly. So John
Bardwell went on the commission, John ended up being my chairman when I became director,
was a wonderful leader.
So in any case, one thing led to another and I think that early involvement in Democratic politics
with the Kyroses really laid a ground work for me to be able to develop the beginnings of an
entry into state government. And then, of course, I was appointed to the commission in ’71. We
hired James Mundy as the first director, and then Jim in turn, when I got out of graduate school,
hired me as architectural historian. When Jim left in ‘75 I was appointed acting director, and
then I became director in 1976. Who was also on that first board? Jane Muskie. So I got to
know Jane very well through her term on the board. And, you know, she was of course a
wonderful person, wonderful to talk to.
DN: We’re going to turn the tape over and I’m going to have some other questions for you.
End of Side A
DN: This is the second side of the tape of the interview with Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. on
February 28th, the year 2000. Earle, you’ve been talking about your involvement in and career
in the Historic Preservation Commission. Early in your comments you observed that similar
programs, cultural programs in the New Deal did not last beyond the New Deal essentially, but
that many of the Great Society programs including especially the Historic Preservation program
has lasted. Do you have a sense of why the difference?
ES: Well, I think that for one thing, I think that the New Deal programs were in a sense created
with the concept that they weren’t permanent, that they were stopgap. That they were really the
helping hand to many different aspects of society; to the artists, to the writers, to the playwrights,
you know, and on down the line. But the idea was that once things got better, then it might not
be necessary to have them any more. And of course as we know, the reality of economics was
such that while things gradually got better during the thirties, they never really returned to full
prosperity until the war broke out in ‘41 and then got under way in ’42. And then very quickly,
if they hadn’t already been terminated in the late thirties or the early forties, the New Deal
programs for cultural activities in this country ended with the war effort.
I think the intention of the great society programs was different. I think it was more long term
and more far reaching, and more visionary. In that, I think that when the National Preservation
Act was created in ‘66, when the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, which
we haven’t mentioned yet but were also part of this whole effort of the mid sixties, were created,
it was with the idea that these would be lasting contributions, that they would be ongoing
contributions, that the Great Society, the very definition of it, included not only trying to solve
the human problems but also to reach out to human creativity and human vision. And it was a
kind of multi-level, multi-planed approach to American society that had I think a more, you
know, long term commitment to it.
Now that’s not to say that it’s been easy sledding politically for many of these programs in the
last thirty to thirty-five years. They have had their detractors. They have gone through very
difficult political and budgetary times sometimes. I mean we have seen, of course, the very
direct attacks from time to time on the National Endowments, both arts and humanities. In the
1981 through ‘88 budgets Historic Preservation funding was totally zeroed out for the states, and
it was only through the Congress that it was put back each year. And then, of course, when
President Bush got back in, there was a sort of kinder, gentler approach to things. And he began
to put monies back in and it’s been steadily growing back since then.
So that the very fact that these were created in the mid-sixties has not, you know, automatically
meant that they were going to prosper. They have had to fend for themselves, but they have
proven themselves I think as durable programs for, you know, literally, you know, no money at
all so to speak in the scheme of things and a great return for the cultural value of the country
DN: To what extent have the programs been helped by being imbedded in state government?
ES: I think that there are several benefits. One thing is that several of these programs, from
the outset, were conceived to be state-federal partnerships. And this, of course, was I think
different from the New Deal programs in that the states were impoverished during the thirties
and everything was coming directly from the federal government. And while there were state
offices of the New Deal programs, they were federal offices right in the towns and cities, as well
as at the state level. The difference here was a partnership, and that partnership was in funding
and in staffing. And so I think the fact that states were asked to ‘buy in’ has really broadened the
base of these programs, and also given them a broader built-in constituency, so that they were
not just at the whim of a small political situation or a small group of politicians in Washington if
they wanted to change them, or if they wanted to destroy them, or phase them out or whatever.
The crafting of the state-federal partnership has helped to insure the broad political base of
support that has been critical in times when these programs were threatened.
DN: Had you any opportunities over the years to talk with Senator Muskie about the Historic
ES: Well, unfortunately not. No, no I didn’t. I talked a little bit, of course, with Jane when
she was on the commission, and I mean she was very much aware of his role back in the mid-
sixties and she was a very conscientious attender of meetings. In fact she wanted to be
reappointed to the commission after her first five-year term was up, and Gov. Longley wouldn’t
reappoint her. I won’t say any more. It speaks for itself.
DN: Have you, you’ve retained close connections with Peter Kyros, Jr. over the years?
ES: Yes, yes I have.
DN: And you’re in an apolitical position even though you (unintelligible phrase).
ES: Oh yes, oh yes. No, and I’ve always of course been very careful about that from the first
day I entered state government. I mean, you know, I’m, you know, one can look it up in the
Gardiner clerk’s office. I’m a registered Democrat to this day. And as I told you I believe not so
much in the great society as in the New Deal, but, and I say that very sincerely, but, and all it
represents. But no, I’ve obviously been very careful and actually we’ve had wonderful support
over the years, in a bipartisan and nonpartisan way. And people from both parties as well as
independents have made, you know, wonderful commission members and supporters of the
program. So I think it’s, it’s a testimony to it that.
Well I think you know what we’re really dealing with, Don, here is we’re dealing with the
physical fabric of our heritage, what has survived. And one of the things that I don’t think is
fully appreciated about the Historic Preservation program, I mean the conventional wisdom is
that we’re dealing with old buildings, but actually there are far greater dynamics to it. For one
thing, written into the Act in the sixties was the fact that this program must address archeology.
And in the case of Maine that has opened up inroads into understanding, into research, into
salvage through highway and bridge projects and on and on, into creating a vast body of
knowledge that we never would have had about prehistory in Maine. From ten or eleven
thousand years ago up to the contact period when the Europeans came in the, you know, 16th,
17th centuries. That’s, you know, a rich dividend that I don’t think, you know, anyone
conceived of in the formation of the program in the mid-sixties. But that’s all part of it.
DN: As you look back on the period from 1954 on, what do you think Senator Muskie’s most
important contributions have been to the state?
ES: Well, I would say several. Clearly and probably most lastingly is the reinstitution of the
two-party system. The fact that he really developed a climate, which gave people confidence
that there was a Democratic Party alternative to the Republican Party in politics in the state, that
he encouraged many talented younger people like Peter Kyros, Sr., for example, to go into public
life, and really scores of people. And that that has had I think a very positive long lasting
dynamic on the last fifty years of the history of the state, taking us up into the new century.
Clearly I will always admire him for the fact that he once again proved that Maine can produce
leaders of national and international stature. I think that we’re very proud of this, I don’t think
we’re too chauvinistic about it, I think it is true. When you look back into the 19th century, you
know, you look at figures such as Hannibal Hamlin who was Lincoln’s vice president. You look
at Thomas B. Reed, who was really the most powerful Speaker of the House in probably in the
history of the House. And then you look into the 20th century with Muskie and with Margaret
Chase Smith. And with George Mitchell who, of course, Senator Muskie really, I mean, there
would not have been a Mitchell had there not been a Muskie. And so I think that that is a very
important contribution. And for him to, you know, find his base in the fifties in Maine, and then
move on to the national scene in the sixties and the seventies and make such major legislative
contri--, lasting legislative contributions, and then end his career as Secretary of State. You
know, clearly that is- that’s a very major contribution.
And again, it is, it is the American success story. I mean, it is the, it is what we so fervently
believe about this country, that there is this innate upward mobility about this country. And
indeed with my parents hearing about, you know, this young lawyer from Waterville whose
parents had come over from Poland. And, you know, living in Rumford, the most unlikely of
western Maine mill town settings to come out of, and he ends up as Secretary of State. I mean,
that’s the American story, you know.
DN: Thank you very much, Earle.
ES: Right, very good.
End of Interview