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Portsmouth NH 400th book tells the history of the city with 101 objects

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Dennis J. Wheeler

Portsmouth — What do floral cotton dresses, wooden legs, North Church steeple clockwork and pet graveyards have in common? I’m here. It is a 224-page softcover book with color photographs of objects, and the story paints a vivid and diverse picture of urban evolution.

The book was born as a 2023 Portsmouth NH 400th Anniversary project, the production of which was voluntarily led by Stephanie Secord.

Seacord is the former marketing director of the Strawbery Banke Museum, owner of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, former trustee of the Portsmouth Historical Society, and current public relations officer for the city. She headed the book’s editor, Kathleen Soldati, and her team of five editorial board members, including leaders of the Strawberry Her Bank Museum, the Athenaeum, the Historical Society, and the Portsmouth Public Library.

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

Each of the 101 objects is illustrated with a full-page photograph accompanied by an essay by a local author.

more:A little sol in downtown Portsmouth

The contents of the book are more than just a cabinet of curiosities, Seacord points out.

“The idea is that each object should represent a story at the heart of Portsmouth.”

Portsmouth 400 book production directed by Stephanie Seacord and edited by Kathleen Soldati

Tell history one photo and essay at a time

True to that vision, Elizabeth Farish’s story, accompanied by the aforementioned cotton dress photograph, sheds light on the broader story of Portsmouth’s connection to the slave trade. Foot’ offers an insight into the evolution of Civil War-era medicine. The North Church Clockwork is the focus of a story by Portsmouth city attorney Robert Sullivan about his extraordinary collaboration to save the icon. Also, Peter J. Michaud’s “Creatures Great and Small” is about pet cemeteries and tells the meaningful relationship between local citizens and their pets.

The clockwork by E. Howard & Co. in the spire of the North Church

There are 80 contributors, some with double duty, but they all have their own connection to the objects they write.

Mayor Deaglan McEachern contributed an essay accompanied by a photograph of Portsmouth’s original 1923 City of the Open Door brochure. Food writer Rachel Forrest wrote in tribute to Gilley’s Hot Dog, his D. Alan Carr, a Navy veteran, offers insight into the Portsmouth Navy Yard and the role of its submarines. Seacoast Media Group executive his editor Howard Altschiller writes about the history of the Portsmouth Herald.