S. L. Wadsworth & Son of Eastport, known as both the Nation’s oldest ship chandlery and Maine’s oldest retail business, has just entered its third century of operation. Founded in 1818 by Samuel Wadsworth, the business continues to be operated by the 6th generation of the same family that has called Eastport home since the beginning of the 19th century.
The year was 1818 and James Monroe was President. George Washington had died less than 20 years before and Abe Lincoln was a young boy of nine. Former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were exchanging elaborate letters in their retirement. It was the year that Congress voted to increase the number of stars on the flag from 15 to 20 and ice cream had just been invented. It was 21 years before Abner Doubleday would invent the national game of baseball. America was discovering the taste sensation of sarsaparilla and you could purchase prime ocean front property in Maine for a pound of tea.
Wadsworth’s founder, Samuel Wadsworth had been engaged in other related business in Eastport since 1812, when it was occupied by British troops. Samuel was the son of General Peleg Wadsworth, aide to George Washington during the Revolution and representative to Congress for the District of Maine for 14 years. Samuel’s sister was the mother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland was built by General Wadsworth and was the childhood home of Samuel.
Samuel Wadsworth remained active with the business until 1864 when he retired and turned operations over to the next generation. The sixth generation of Wadsworths continues to serve the sixth generation of customers. S. L. Wadsworth & Son has been in continuous operation for almost two centuries except for short periods when the city business area burned and again when the waterfront was washed out to sea in the Groundhog Gale of 1976.
For over 300 years the Wadsworth family has been an integral part of the founding and building of America. The clan is descended from two of the pilgrims that arrived on the ship Lyon. The grandparents of the present generation were dear friends of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who were also customers of S. L. Wadsworth & Son. Two US Naval Vessels were named for members of the Wadsworth family, and the mother of the present generation christened the USS Peleg Wadsworth launched at South Portland in 1943.
Located on the waterfront in the center of Eastport's old Downtown Historic District, people no longer come in to purchase harpoons or whale oil, but they do come for the same quality of service and product that has been offered for the past 190 years. They also come for the history and nostalgia that comes with passing through the front door. Today they leave with marine items, hardware, nautical gifts and a fresh memory of speaking with the present generation of Wadsworths.
Chris Brown, 6th Generation Proprietor
PHONE NUMBER: (207) 853-4343
FAX NUMBER: (207) 853-4343
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