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Hennessy, Mark W. (1904-1965) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: Hennessy, Mark W. (1904-1965)


Historical Note: Mark William Hennessy was born in Bath, Maine, May 13, 1904, the son of William and Margaret (Conley) Hennessy.  His father worked for the Maine Central Railroad as an engineer.  The family lived at 32 Summer Street, Bath. In 1923 he graduated from Morse High School, Bath, and headed to Boston to attend art school. He later attended another art school in Boothbay, ME.  (Examples of his art work and photographic skills can be found in MS-53.)  In the summer of 1924 he worked as an office boy in the Sewall office at 411 Front Street, Bath, for Samuel S. Sewall and William D. Sewall II, remaining partners of the famous shipbuilding/ shipping firm of Arthur Sewall & Co.  Perhaps his lifelong interest in the Sewalls and in maritime history began during that time. He joined the Gannett newspapers (owners of Portland, Maine's three newspapers) in 1925 as the papers' first Bath correspondent and photographer.  Hennessy was the Bath correspondent for the Portland Press Herald in particular for almost forty years.  His feature articles and photographs about the history of shipbuilding in Bath and the people who went to sea also appeared regularly in the Maine Sunday Telegram.  In 1964 he resigned his position to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing a maritime history of Bath and the Kennebec Region for the Marine Research Society (now Maine Maritime Museum).  Unfortunately he was diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks after signing the contract, and instead of continuing his writing, he chose to organize his notes and files in the time that remained to him.  These have become collection MS-53 at MMM. The proposed maritime history of Bath was not his first book.  In 1937 he published Sewall Ships of Steel, a widely acclaimed work on America's only fleet of steel sailing ships.  Hennessy also intended to write at least three more books on the Sewalls--one on their large wooden schooners one on "The Big Four" (Shenandoah, Roanoke, Rappahannock (2), and Susquehanna) and one on Arthur Sewall, the "Maritime Prince" and vice presidential candidate with William Jennings Bryan in 1896.  To this end he worked closely with the family and even had constructed in his own basement the Sewall Ship Rooms, where he kept many of the Sewall papers and organized them for his research purposes.  Unfortunately he was not able to complete any of these works either. However, he did finish some shorter pieces over the years.  These include histories of Bath National Bank, the Knox and Lincoln Railroad, and Bath Iron Works.  He also wrote the text for a series of at least 76 advertisements prepared by Hyde Windlass Co. on historic vessels which had used their equipment.  The main body of his work, however, remains the countless articles he wrote as Bath correspondent for the Gannett newspapers.  Much of his work is documented in MS-53. Hennessy was active in community affairs.  He was a member of the Bath City Council, 1926-1930 in his capacity as Bath correspondent, he attended every City Council meeting from 1925 to 1964.  He was also a member of the Colonial Club and the Marine Research Society of Bath.  He served as trustee, secretary and treasurer of Bath City Hospital over a span of twenty years.  In 1933 he became a corporator of the Patten Free Library and later served on the Book Committee, as well as the Building Committee for the Barker-Wright Memorial Wing.  At St. Mary's Catholic Church he was a corporal worker of the Mercy Society from 1930 until his death.  Hennessy was deeply involved with the formation of the short-lived Kennebec Marine Museum in the 1930's and later on, the Marine Research Society of Bath. In 1930 he married Flora I. Fraser (ca. 1904-1977), a fellow graduate of Morse High School.  She was the daughter of Coleman and Josephine Fraser of Bath and was a stenographer at the time of her marriage.  According to the wedding announcement in the newspapers, they were married on the same day as another couple who then joined them on their honeymoon.  They had no children.  For many years the Hennessys lived at 134 Centre St., Bath. He had a fishing hut lower down on the Kennebec where he used to go to think and write--and fish.  His knowledge of local maritime history was recognized widely.  Photographs show him with a fedora, a pipe in his mouth and his faithful Speed Graphic camera in his hand.  He enjoyed people very much and maintained correspondence with many.  There are still those in Bath who remember Mark Hennessy with respect and warmth.  He died in Bath of cancer on September 16, 1965.





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