If you grew up in Central Maine, there's a good chance that you have heard the story of Gardiner paper maker Isaac Augustus Stanwood.

In the mid-19th century, he owned a paper mill in the Gardiner area.  During the Civil War, the nation faced a severed paper shortage.  This shortage was, primarily, caused by the increase in newspaper readership (people desperately wanted to latest news on the war).  Back then, paper was made from cloth, not wood pulp as it is today.

According to legend, and Wikipedia, in order to keep up with the demand, Stanwood began to import Egyptian mummies.  His plan was to strip the mummies for their cloth wrappings.  His staff would then turn those wrappings into paper.  Supposedly, several shiploads of mummies were brought to Gardiner.

While this is a great story, most-likely, it is just a story.  No one had heard the story before Stanwood's son, Dan, told it to a man writing a book on the subject in the 1940s.  Local experts say that Stanwood never purchased the paper mill until the end of 1865 - months after the conclusion of the Civil War.  Because of that, most people do not believe he would have needed to resort to using mummies to make his paper.

That being said, Stanwood was responsible at least one major paper making innovation. He was responsible for helping the industry make the move from making paper from cloth to making it from wood.

This interview tries to dispell some inaccuracies in the legend


 

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