The Portsmouth NH 400 book tells the history of the city in 101 pieces

Dennis J Wheeler

PORTSMOUTH – What do the floral cotton dress, wooden leg, clockwork in the North Tower Church and a pet cemetery have in common? These images appeared in the soon-to-be-published A History of Portsmouth New Hampshire in 101 Objects, a 224-page book of color photographs of objects whose stories paint a vivid and diverse picture of the city’s development.

The book came as a legacy project for Portsmouth NH 400 The anniversary is in 2023 and it was voluntarily produced by Stephanie Secord.

Seacord is the former Marketing Director of Strawberry Bank Museuma Portsmouth Atheneum previous owner Portsmouth Historical Society The trustee and currently the city’s media officer. She led a team consisting of the book’s editor, Kathleen Soldati, and a five-member editorial board that included leaders from Strawberry Bank MuseumThe Athenaeum, the Historical Society and Portsmouth Public Library.

Hot dog jelly is one of the 101 pieces that help tell the story of Portsmouth.  Here, Portsmouth resident Elizabeth Owlette chomps on a hot dog at Gillies' Diner in May 2022.

“This volume will give readers a sense of who we are and where we are as Portsmouth continues its journey from before 1623 to beyond 2023,” Secord said.

Each of the 101 items was photographed with a full-page photo accompanied by an article by a local author.

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Secord notes that the book’s content is not just a treasury of curiosity.

“The idea is that each element should be a representation of a central story for Portsmouth.”

Directed by Stephanie Secord, book production for Portsmouth 400 and edited by Kathleen Soldati

Retell history one photo and article at a time

According to this view, Elizabeth Farish’s narration, which accompanies an image of the aforementioned cotton dress, sheds light on the broader story of Portsmouth’s relationship with the slave trade. Jessica Ross’ “Uncle Billy’s Leg Sunday” provides insight into the development of medicine here during the Civil War era. The clocks in the North Chapel are the centerpiece of Portsmouth District Attorney Robert Sullivan’s tale of an extraordinary collaboration to preserve an icon. Peter J. Michaud’s film Creatures Big and Small about a pet cemetery conveys the meaningful relationship locals have with their pets.

E. Howard and Company's North Tower church hours are the focus

There are 80 contributing writers, some of whom do double duty, but they all have a unique connection to the topic they write about.

Mayor Deglan McKeacher contributed an article with a photo to the original Portsmouth brochure, Open Door City, 1923. Food writer Rachel Forrest wrote a tribute to Jelly’s hot dogs. Navy veteran D. Allan Kerr offers insight into the role of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and its submarines. Howard Altschler, executive editor of the Seacoast Media Group, writes about the history of the Portsmouth Herald.

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