(1831-1921) moved to Portland from Massachusetts with his family when he was nine years old. He had a varied education in academies around Portland and Lynn, Massachusetts, including classical and legal training.
Baxter, in partnership with William G. Davis, established dry goods and wholesale businesses which prospered and led to their founding the Portland Packaging Company. The company expanded throughout Maine and in other parts of the country.
After bringing his sons into the business, Baxter retired from it in the 1880’s when he was one of Portland’s wealthiest people with a variety of investments in banking, ferries and the Maine Central Railroad. In retirement, he became interested in Maine and New England history, obtaining a large collection of copied manuscripts and maps from England and France. One of the maps, of “The Province of mayne,” is now in the Maine State Archives.
He served as president of the Maine Historical Society from 1890 to 1911. A Republican, he was mayor of Portland from 1893-1897 and 1904-1905.
Baxter also loved the outdoors, taking many fishing trips into the Maine woods. In 1903 his son Percival accompanied him to the Katahdin area when they stayed at the Kidney Pond camps.
Percival cared for his father and directed his business interests until his death on May 8, 1921. James Phinney Baxter had supported several public libraries and left bequests to other institutions in his will. A memorial to the James Phinney Baxter family is in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland.
Baxter Collection Folders 1 to 60. 1915-1969. Maine State Library.
James Phinney Baxter, ed. Documentary History of the State of Maine, containing the Baxter Manuscripts. (several volumes) Bowie, MD. Heritage Books. 2000.
Baxter, James Phinney. George Cleeve of Casco Bay, 1630-1667: with collateral documents. Portland, Me. Printed for the Gorges Society. 1885.
Baxter, James Phinney. Sir Ferdinando Gorges and His Province of Maine. Boston. Printed for the Prince Society. 1890.
Baxter, James Phinney. What Caused the Deportation of the Acadians? [microform] Worcester, Mass. C. Hamilton. 1899. (Orono. University of Maine Microforms)
Baxter, Percival Proctor. James Phinney Baxter, historian, Portland, Maine, 1831-1921; a short biography written for the Maine writers’ research club. A lifelong opponent of vivisection, written for the Christian science monitor. Augusta? Published for the Maine State Library. 1924?
Johnson, Alfred. James Phinney Baxter, 1821-1931: Historian. Boston. 1921? (Reprinted from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, July, 1921.)
Krichels, Deborah Tracy. Reaction and Reform: the Political Career of James Phinney Baxter, Mayor of Portland, Maine, 1893-1897, 1904-1905. Thesis (M.A.)–University of Maine at Orono. 1986.
Rolde, Neil. The Baxters Of Maine: Downeast Visionaries.