Maine: An Encyclopedia

Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy

(1865-1946), a historian of the Penobscot Indians, was born in Brewer. She also wrote historical articles about the lumber and fur industries in the Penobscot Valley. She was respected for her exact research on the history of the Penobscot Indians, scientifically accurate children’s books, and her collection of ballads and how they related to social backgrounds. She became an expert in taxidermy, trail blazing and wrote ornithological articles which were published in magazines. In later years, she was active in her community, and volunteered for the Red Cross, established a public library and supported the Republican Committee. How did this woman of the mid-1800’s achieve such a wide variety of accomplishments?

Fannie was the daughter of Maine’s most famous fur trader, Manly Hardy. Manly obtained furs from the Penobscot Indian community and traded them to the European markets. Fur trading made Manly Hardy a very successful man. He was also an expert on the mammals and birds of Maine; his collection of 3,300 mounted birds was purchased in 1912 by the Rhode Island Audubon Society. Fannie was very close to her father, and she apprenticed with him by joining in his many excursions through the wilderness of Maine. Later, with her father’s encouragement, she attended school and in 1888 graduated from Smith College, majoring in anthropology.

In 1893 she met Norwegian-American, Reverend Jacob Eckstorm. They were married in Portland, Oregon, and moved to Eastport, to be closer to Fanny’s family. Jacob and Fanny had two children, Katherine Hardy, born in 1894 and a son, Paul Frederick, born in 1896. Two years later the family moved to Rhode Island, and in the next year, Jacob died. Now widowed, Fanny and her two young children moved back to Brewer, where they lived only a few houses from where Fanny was born and raised. Two years later, Fanny suffered the devastating loss of her daughter, Katherine Hardy, who died in 1901 at the age of seven.

In 1901, Eckstorm published two children’s books, The Bird Book and The Woodpeckers. In 1904 she published The Penobscot Man building on her experiences with her father. She accurately documented stories of the lumbermen making their log drives down the Penobscot River as background for her David Libbey: Penobscot Woodsman and River Driver in 1907.

In the following years she became involved in her community and subsequently founded a public library in Brewer. During the World War I era, Eckstorm became a volunteer with the American Red Cross. In 1920 she was instrumental in getting out the women’s vote in the presidential campaign for the Republican Committee.

In her 1927 publication, Minstrels of Maine, she mapped the migration of folk-songs and the different ways in which they related to their social background. She turned back to examining the Indian heritage of Maine with her Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast in 1941. In 1943 Eckstorm was struck with a third devastating blow when her son, Paul died at the age of forty-eight. She lived long enough to see the publication of her most well-known book, Old John Neptune and Other Maine Indian Shamans in 1945. Fanny Hardy Eckstorm died in 1946 of heart failure, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Brewer.

Additional resources

Barry, Phillips, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, Mary Winslow Smyth. British Ballads from Maine: The Development of Popular Songs with Texts and Airs. Publisher New Haven. Yale University Press. 1929.

Hatch, Benton L. Collection 1696-1960. (Cataloger Note: The collection also contains papers of Fannie Hardy Eckstorm including a diary and photographs taken by her in 1891 and 1892, as well as items from her personal library.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy. “The Attack on Norridgewock, 1724.” New England Quarterly, September, 1934.

Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy. The Bird Book. Boston, MA. Heath. 1901.

Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy. Papers 1730-1947. (Cataloger Note: A collection of letters, ballads, texts, clippings, and notes on ballads and folksongs collected in the Maine-New Brunswick area. Most of the material prior to 1830’s is from printed sources.)  [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Janet Wilson James, “Fanny Hardy Eckstorm.” Notable American Women, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971, vol. 1, pp. 549-551.

Ring, Elizabeth. “Fannie Hardy Eckstorm: Maine Woods Historian.” Brunswick, Me. New England Quarterly. 1953?

Whitten, Jeanne Patten. Fannie Hardy Eckstorm: A Bibliographical Census of Her Published and Unpublished Writings. 1964. (Thesis (M.A.) in English–University of Maine, 1964.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Whitten, Jeanne Patten. Fannie Hardy Eckstorm: A Descriptive Bibliography of Her Writings, Published and Unpublished. Orono, Me. Northeast Folklore Society. 1976.

Contributed by Elizabeth Ann Donnell, Greene, Maine, 2008. (with supplemental “Additional resources”)

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