Seated by the Sea
The Maritime History of Portland, Maine, and Its Irish Longshoremen

Michael C. Connolly

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"Traces the rise of the Irish-American immigrant community in Portland, Maine, through its control of waterfront labor over eight decades before the port’s twentieth century decline. The book is a valuable contribution to local labor history that situates its subject within the broader picture of U.S. history during a crucial period in the formation of the nation's economic and social identity."--Lincoln P. Paine, author of Down East

"Vividly reveals how America's maritime culture has declined over a very short period of time."--Gene Allen Smith, coeditor, New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology series

"Provides crucial insight into the ethnic dimension of New England's longshoremen."--Josh Smith, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

"Michael Connolly has down a masterful piece of research and writing that fills in so much that is left out of the history books. Seated by the Sea documents the rise and fall of Portland, Maine's maritime fortunes, the immigrant Irish who dominated its dockside work, and the independent longshore union that the workers formed to help claim their place in Amerca. This well-written history overcomes the lack of good scholarship on Atlantic Ocean longshore unionism prior to the twentieth century and truly puts the importance of Portland's maritime heritage on the map."--John Beck, Michigan State University

For decades, Portland, Maine, was the closest ice-free port to Europe. As such, it was key to the transport of Canadian wheat across the Atlantic, losing its prominence only after WWII, as containerization came to dominate all shipping and Portland shifted its focus to tourism.

Michael Connolly offers an in-depth study of the on-shore labor force that made the port function from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. He shows how Irish immigrants replaced and supplanted the existing West Indian workers and established benevolent societies and unions that were closed to blacks. Using this fascinating city and these hard-working longshoremen as a case study, he sheds light on a larger tale of ethnicity, class, regionalism, and globalization.

Michael C. Connolly, a native of Portland, is professor of history at Saint Joseph's College of Maine. He is the editor of They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine.

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"Offers a clear view of the cyclical life of trade and work as the city developed from a small settlement in the 1630s to the present." "The six appendixes are themselves a reader's treat. Highly recommended."
--CHOICE, vol. 48 no.6

Here, in one volume, elements of the social, labour and economic history of the Irish longshorement in Portland are brought together: battles with business interests for economic independence; the social battles for acceptance by the scions of old New England, the rise of militant anti-Catholicism in the form of the Ku Klux Kland in Maine in the early twentieth century and the longshoremen's fight for better conditions and pay and the technologies they favoured. A timely addition to the cultural and economic history of Portland, Maine.
--The Northern Mariner/le martin du nord

"Economics, politics, and racial changes have all played a major role in the history of labor and the history of the working people. As a case in point, this story of the longshoremen of Portland, Maine, demonstrates the importance of outside factors in the growth and, unfortunately, the decline of unions. The moral of the book is to change with the future or die with the past."
--Labor Studies Journal

"For over a quarter century Connolly has worked to uncover and preserve the invaluable Portland sources that made possible this extraordinary book, a model of local working-class, ethnic, and religious history."
--The Journal of American History

"This study has much to commend it. It offers a story of change, hope, and resignation."
--International Journal of Maritime History, vol. XXIII, no. 1

"Maritime historians have given New England longshoremen short shrift. Until now, the people who worked the wharves have remained in the shadows. Michael C. Connolly, professor of history at Saint Joseph's College of Maine, has filled this gap with a new social history of the longshoremen of Portland, Maine, a port that once considered itself a potential rival to Boston and Halifax."
--The New England Quartely

"Connolly bravely opened an uncharted field in Portland history."
--Labour/Le Travail

"[Adds] rich detail to our understanding of the diversity of the longshore labor experience in the United States."
--American Studies

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