The Bowdoin Boys in Labrador: An Online Exhibit

Story posted February 22, 2010

In 1891 a group of Bowdoin College students and recent graduates sailed from Rockland, Maine, to Labrador, aboard the schooner Julia A. Decker.

The "Bowdoin Boys," as they called themselves, were keen to experience the environment and culture of coastal Labrador, and spent the majority of their trip collecting various artifacts and scientific specimens under the guidance of their leader, Professor Leslie A. Lee.

Young Sealskin300.jpg
"Bowdoin Boy" Ernest B. Young, of the Class of 1891, in sealskin clothing, Brunswick. Click to view the online exhibit.

The Bowdoin Boys were also determined to make history and be credited with discovering the Grand Falls, a waterfall feeding into the Grand River, deep in the interior of Labrador.

The four men who undertook this part of the expedition experienced a true adventure, braving injury, fire and starvation along the route to the falls.

Only two of this party, Austin Cary and Dennis Cole, would make the full journey to the Grand Falls, after injury forced their companions to turn back.

Cary would later be responsible for the planting of the Bowdoin Pines.

The public can now learn more about this expedition by viewing an online exhibit of historic photographs the Bowdoin Boys took while in the Arctic and back in Maine.

The exhibit, titled "Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador," can be accessed through the Maine Memory Network, a digital museum and archive of historical items from across the state, and a project of the Maine Historical Society.

It features photographs, documents and images of artifacts from more than 200 museums, archives, historical societies and libraries.

The photographs composing this exhibit come from collections at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and the Farnsworth Art Museum.

The two institutions shared material in order to create a complete picture of the events of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador.

The exhibit was researched and assembled by Hillary Hooke '09, the Arctic Museum's current curatorial intern. Watch a video about Hillary Hooke and her work with the Arctic Museum.


She had help from Candace Kanes of the Maine Historical Society, as well as from staff of the Arctic Museum, the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, and the Farnsworth Art Museum.


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