In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Portland Press Herald Glass Negative Collection

Icons & Influencers

Charles Lindbergh, Scarborough, 1927
Charles Lindbergh, Scarborough, 1927Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

Icons & Influencers: Celebrity Photographs from the Evening Express , 1920-1935

America’s obsession with celebrity is nothing new. While photo journalism began during the American Civil War, newspapers seldom used photography to illustrate or enhance stories until nearly seventy years later.

Beginning in the 1920s, newspapers started featuring paparazzi-style candid photographs of cultural icons, including celebrities, politicians, and athletes, as a way to engage new audiences and increase sales. The Portland Evening Express was a Maine pioneer in this new publication style. The paper began featuring photographs under owner Colonel Fred Dow (son of infamous Temperance advocate, Neal Dow), but starting with Guy Gannett’s ownership in 1925, the Evening Express became known for its photo features.

Gannett capitalized on his personal love of photography, and his newspapers became nationally known for richly illustrated public interest stories. Coupled with the Evening Express’ penchant for photographs of the “everyday person”, the paper featured celebrity outings, public events, celebrations, and one of Gannett’s favorite activities—aviation. The Evening Express’ commitment to photographic journalism garnered local interest and support until it ceased publication in 1971.

This exhibition features selections from Portland Press Herald Glass Negative Collection at Maine Historical Society. While named for Gannett’s flagship title, the Portland Press Herald, the bulk of the images within the collection—19,001 in total, are from the Evening Express. MHS received an Institute of Library and Museum Services (IMLS) grant in 2015 to digitize the full collection, which is now available online.