Jack Quinn (1898-1978) spent 50 years typing the news of Oxford Hills with his two forefingers. Photo courtesy of Paris Cape Historical Society

PARIS — If it happened in the Oxford Hills between 1925 and 1975, chances are there is a picture of it that can be found in the archives of the Paris Cape Historical Society, where local newshound Jack Quinn’s estimated 100,000 photographs, negatives and newspaper clippings are housed.

A portion of a multi-page feature spread Jack Quinn filed with the Boston Globe. Photo courtesy of Paris Cape Historical Society

John “Jack” Quinn was born in 1898 and grew up Oxford. He took his first job in 1915, clerking at Jones’ Pharmacy.

As a young man, Quinn held a range of jobs, working as a weaver at the Robinson woolen mill in Oxford, a sign letterer, a salesman for a packing firm and an insurance salesman. He also opened a general store in the 1920s shortly before marrying Jennie Lebroke of Norway.

But the career Quinn finally stuck with was news. With no education or training in journalism or photography, he took pictures throughout the community and wrote about it. He captured moments such as friends sharing a meal at Minnie’s Lunch Counter, children at play, youth sports teams, storefronts, weather and the construction of local landmarks.

Paris children stand by their completed snow fort at the Gothic Street railroad crossing, c. 1940.  Photo courtesy of Paris Cape Historical Society

Quinn’s portfolio translates to taking about 2,000 pictures a year on average, or five or six every day.

“He probably wasn’t known as being the best photographer,” laughed Ben Conant, curator for Paris Cape Historical Society. “No formal training, but he would see things happening and he’d run with it. He’d get there quickly, get his pictures and story and get out.”

Quinn was an established news reporter by the time Conant was born. Quinn’s son Joe and Conant’s older brother Jan were best friends. Conant remembers him fondly.

“Jack, he was quick to act,” Conant said. “He was outgoing, and he knew how to embellish a story.”

Quinn worked as a correspondent for several local and regional newspapers – Portland’s Evening Express, the Lewiston Sun, Boston’s Globe and Post, and later with the Portland Press Herald and Sunday Telegram.

He covered the infamous 1937 murders of Dr. James and Mrs. Lydia Littlefield of Paris Hill and subsequent trials of their accused killers Paul Dwyer and Francis Carroll.

For years the case twisted and turned with confessions and recantations, convictions, appeals – both of the accused were finally released. Quinn followed the investigations and trials, filing reports and photographs for the Associated Press and even doing radio reports on the crime.

“Back then, Jack had to file stories by train. He had to time it, develop his pictures and type out his story,” Conant said. “He’d use the down line train to get his dispatches out. He’d have to catch the train before it left.”

Quinn never hesitated to chase down a story. Vacationing in New York in 1951 as then Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip toured Canada, he rushed to Ontario, joined a crowd of 30,000 onlookers and managed to dispatch photos of the couple to the Sunday Telegram without any press credentials.

Many of his pictures capture Oxford’s and surrounding communities’ economies – bygone retailers like Shop and Save, well-known auto dealerships, restaurants and other businesses. Residents of all ages at work and play highlight Quinn’s black and white images. He documented new buildings, new bridges and the draining of Thompson Lake.

George Henry Jones (1849-1946) of Oxford, Jack Quinn’s first business mentor, c. 1936. photo courtesy of Paris Cape Historical Society

One of Quinn’s favorite portrait subjects was George Henry Jones, the pharmacist who gave him his first job as a teenager. Born in Oxford in 1849, Jones tried but failed to enlist in the U.S. Army at age 14.

Thwarted in his first attempt at a military career, Jones went to work at the Bates Mill in Lewiston. At 18, he volunteered again, this time managing to muster in with the 27th Unassigned Infantry at Augusta. Because his date of enlistment was April 7, 1865, Jones’ Civil War service was short lived. The 27th Company was discharged by May 13 having never left the state capital.

Quinn retired from reporting in 1963. He and his wife became “snowbirds,” splitting their time between Paris and Florida. But he continued documenting life in Oxford Hills through his photography. He died in 1978, leaving a wealth of news clippings and photographs.

Quinn’s son and daughter-in-law, Joe and Colleen Quinn, donated his entire collection to the Paris Cape Historical Society in 2014. Volunteers spent years pouring through the materials, cataloging, dating and identifying people in the images, work that continues today.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: