Maine’s contributions to America and the world are varied and fascinating, from the invention of the earmuff in 1877 to the woman who became the first official Registered Maine Guide in 1898.

“How Maine Changed The World” is Thomaston writer Nancy Griffith’s fun romp through the state’s contributions to science, technology, art, literature, politics, culture and statecraft, highlighting 50 inventions, people and events — some famous, others obscure.

Griffith tells more than just the historical tidbit that made someone famous. She also adds entertaining insight into their lives and other accomplishments. For example, most Mainers know that Chester Greenwood, of Farmington, invented the earmuff, but few know he also invented the self-priming sparkplug and the fluid shock absorber. Hiram Maxim, of Sangerville, is well-known as the inventor of the machine gun, as well as the automatic sprinkler fire system and the bronchial inhaler.

She tells of the Stanley brothers, of Kingfield, and their Stanley Steamer automobile — “the best-known and best-selling steam car of all time.” Engineering feats like the sealed underwater diving suit, the microwave oven, the zig-zag sewing machine stitch, the “bridge in a back-pack” and the breech-loading rifle are also presented.

People, too, get special note, like outdoorswoman Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, Artemus Ward (the pen name of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite humorist), the seven highly successful Washburn brothers, board game creator Milton Bradley and Margaret Knight, “the most famous 19th-century woman inventor.”

Learn how the doughnut hole was created, about toothpick manufacturing, who created the “M.A.S.H.” television show and movie, and about Maine’s world-famous opera singer.


For other interesting reading, see “Maine In The World” by Neil Rolde (2009), and “Eminent Mainers” by Arthur Douglas Stover (2006). Both are published by Tilbury House.

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When caterer Faith Fairchild is offered a huge amount of money to cater the weekend 70th birthday party of famous Broadway producer Max Dane, she is thrilled. Then Max adds a chilling warning: “One of my guests wants to kill me.”

“The Body In The Casket” is multiple award-winning Portland author Katherine Hall Page’s 24th mystery featuring Faith Fairchild, caterer and amateur detective.

Faith is surprised that Max wants to hire her, not just for her fabulous cooking skills but also because of her reputation as a detective. He expects someone will try to kill him at his party, and he wants Faith to prevent his murder.

Somebody recently sent Max an ornate, expensive casket containing no body — just a 20-year-old playbill for his most famous Broadway flop, a musical dud so bad most of the cast and crew never worked on Broadway again. The guest list has 10 men and women who worked on that spectacular dud, and each has good reason to hate Max and want him dead.

Max knows it, too, and decides his 70th birthday party weekend bash will be a fun game to flush out the potential killer. Two guests drop dead before the party, so two stand-ins and one surprising stranger are added to the list. The weekend is tense, with bickering, insults, grudges, rivalries and revenge simmering as Max smiles and Faith wonders who the killer might be.

Skip all the sappy, unnecessary melodrama in the personal lives of Faith and her friends and just enjoy the murder-mystery weekend at Max Dane’s mansion during a powerful storm (the power goes out, of course). This is like Agatha Christie playing a game of Clue, but with food.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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