In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Portland Press Herald Glass Negative Collection

Crime & Disaster

(Page 1 of 2) Print Version 
Crime & Disaster
Crime & DisasterA selection of photographs relating to crime & disaster in the Portland Press Herald Glass Plate Negative collection

Like contemporary news coverage, the Portland Evening Express and Press Herald covered crime and disaster vehemently, and often promoted it on the front page of the paper. There are hundreds of examples reflected in the glass plate collection that Gannett’s photographers were always at the scene of a fire, a murder trial, or a plane crash.

Harry Kirby Murders

Harry A. Kirby in front of his cell, Augusta, 1925
Harry A. Kirby in front of his cell, Augusta, 1925Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

James Crawford, alias Harry A. Kirby, was arrested in 1925 for the abduction and murder of Aida Hayward and the attempted murder of her aunt. Kirby burned Hayward's cottage with her aunt inside it before he escaped to his own cottage with the victim. He was imprisoned in Augusta, where New York police subsequently discovered that Kirby was the missing murderer of Lillian White of Brooklyn, NY. White was an inmate of Letchworth Village, a mental institution, where Kirby was an orderly. White ran away from the institution, and shortly thereafter in 1922, she was murdered. Kirby admitted to both murders before he committed suicide in an Augusta jail cell in 1925.

James Mitchell

James M. Mitchell arraignment, Portland, 1930
James M. Mitchell arraignment, Portland, 1930Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

On July 12th, 1930, James M. Mitchell murdered his coworker, Lillian McDonald, by bashing her on the head with a metal pipe and then incinerating her body. The furnace was located in the basement of Loring, Short & Harmon stationary store, at 474 Congress St., where they both worked.

Ms. McDonald was distributing the weekly pay envelopes when, according to Mitchell, they had a short verbal altercation. Mitchell, who confessed to the murder, "hit her with his fist then struck her over the head with the iron pipe,". Mitchell’s trial drew massive crowds to the Cumberland County Courthouse and was front page news, the press took every opportunity to report on the story. Ms. McDonald's boyfriend was interviewed, the parents of both culprit and victim were interviewed, and many photographs were taken of the crime scene and of Mitchell during the trial.

Fire at Deering High

Deering High School fire, Portland, 1921
Deering High School fire, Portland, 1921Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

On May 20th, 1921, Deering High School suffered a major fire that killed Captain James C. Kent of Engine 6 and injured five other firemen. Although this picture was not used in the Portland Evening Express article on May 21st, it shows the collapsed roof that killed Captain Kent. By the time the fire department arrived, after 4 am, the "roof was undulating like an inflated balloon" (page five).