Captain Nathaniel Lord Thompson and the Ships he Built

The maritime history of the Kennebunks has been a subject of great interest to me since I started researching it 24 years ago. One of my favorite local sources of reliable information is the 1937 book, ‘Captain Nathaniel Lord Thompson and the Ships he Built’ by Captain Thompson’s bodacious daughter, Margaret Jefferds Thompson.

Margaret was born in the family home on Summer Street in Kennebunk during the Civil War. She remained single all her life, which was unusual in her day, but perhaps slightly more common among women of means. Margaret resided with her brother Nathaniel’s family for a while, and with her sister’s family for a while. When she was 28 years old, in 1891, she built herself a large oceanfront cottage at Kennebunk Beach. It burned to the ground the following year, but she immediately had it rebuilt. As a middle-aged suffragette in the 1910s, she fought overtly for women to get the right to vote.

I was lucky enough to buy an eBay lot in 2017 that had originally come from Margaret’s own estate. The lot consisted of some of the Thompson family tintypes and cabinet cards and her correspondence with Charles E. Lauriat Co., the publisher of her 1937 book. She and Lauriat discussed a complementary introduction written by Lincoln Colcord, who had recently written his own popular book about vessels built on the Penobscot River. The publisher promised to publish a limited edition of Margaret’s book which would include a front piece drawing of the locks on the Kennebunk River by Edith Barry. 121 copies would be printed on “Utopian deckle-edge white laid paper” with Penobscot Marine Museum Searsport, Maine written on the title page. This edition would be bound and boxed in a vivid blue. One thousand copies of the much less expensive, tan trade edition were also printed in 1937.

The Kennebunkport Historical Society has one of each edition of Margaret’s book in our collection, but neither is in fine condition. Please look in your attics and your grandma’s library. If you ever decide to relinquish a copy in fine condition, please consider donating it to The Kennebunkport Historical Society for our research library.

Margaret Jefferds Thompson’s summer “cottage” at Kennebunk Beach built in 1892 after her 1891 cottage burned. Margaret on stage in a theatrical performed at Kennebunk Town Hall, and Margaret relaxing with her sisters and friends.
Captain N.L. Thompson, his bodacious daughter, Margaret. The picture at the bottom right is of Margaret and her sisters playing dressup as kids.
The Nathanial Lord Thompson House where his daughter Margaret was born in 1863, the tan trade edition of her 1937 book about her father’s ships and the blue limited edition that includes Edith Barry’s drawing of a ship passing through the locks on the Kennebunk River.

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