What do rumrunners, the Vanderbilts and Henry Ford have in common? They were all part of the landscape of Bar Harbor in the 1920s, according to a new book.
“Bar Harbor in the Roaring Twenties,” by Luann Yetter, looks at Bar Harbor in the period between the end of the Great War through the beginning of the Great Depression. While wealthy travelers headed to Mount Desert Island and danced through the favorite clubs and ballrooms, rumrunners slipped in and out of isolated coves to move alcohol. And families with names such as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Astor visited regularly.
Yetter said she was surprised to learn how many important, famous people “were part of the story of Mount Desert Island in the 1920s. … To the extent that the Rockefellers, the Fords and other really influential families influenced the island and the island culture, that surprised me.”
That was one of the things she learned while researching the book on a topic she didn’t know much about Bar Harbor — or the 1920s.
“I learned a lot about both the 1920s and about Mount Desert Island,” said Yetter. “I really started out with just general knowledge about both and just kept delving deeper and deeper into local stories. … I read some books about 1920s in America in general, to help me understand the era a little better.”
She also spent a lot of time in Bar Harbor.
Yetter, who also is the author of “Remembering Franklin County” and “Portland’s Past,” teaches writing classes at the University of Maine at Farmington. She researched and wrote the book steadily over the course of three years, while also teaching.
“I’d written a couple other books about local history in Maine, and I was looking for a new location. And I just love Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island. Who doesn’t,” said Yetter during a phone interview Wednesday.
Her editor encouraged her to concentrate on a single era for this book — a different strategy than she used in her previous books.
“I was watching the series ‘Boardwalk Empire’ at the time. It’s set in the 1920s, and I thought, ‘I bet there were a lot of stories in the 20s in Bar Harbor,’” said Yetter.
Yetter was happy to discover that Bar Harbor remains a vibrant year-round community.
“Spending time there in the last couple years — It’s been great to see what a thriving community it still is,” said Yetter. “I spent time there in the winter as well, and even in the winter there’s a vibrancy. [The year-round residents] make the most of their time when their island isn’t so populated.
“It’s got a vibe to it that you certainly don’t find in western Maine. Things are quieter here in Farmington in the summer,” said Yetter.
Yetter will be giving a book talk and signing copies of “Bar Harbor in the Roaring Twenties” at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor. Her book is available at Sherman’s in Bar Harbor, in Acadia shops and other places where books are sold.