Membership

Community

The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association was founded in 1815 by prominent business- and tradesmen. The mechanics of that era were stonemasons, blacksmiths, bakers, hatters, coopers, carpenters, and other skilled tradesmen. These mechanics, along with their apprentices, helped build the City of Portland.

While our membership has changed over the centuries, the pride of being part of this association has never changed. Today’s Mechanics are members of the Creative Economy, which includes craftsmen, artisans, and entrepreneurs as well as digital innovators.

Membership in today’s MCMA can link you to others in your profession and make you part of a large, diverse group of individuals who share your love of Portland and of Mechanics’ Hall.

Membership Benefits

Here are three levels of membership: Individual, Family & Maker. All levels include use of the library and reading area, the newsletter, discounts on rental space in the Hall, free WiFi, and free admission to all MCMA-sponsored programs. Corporate and nonprofit memberships are also available.

  • Individual

  • $25/mo
    • Participation in a historic organization
    • Free programming and admission to exhibits
    • Subscription to the newsletter
    • Use of the MCMA library and boardroom



  • Family

  • $50/mo
    • Individual membership benefits for the entire family



  • Maker

  • $100/mo
    • All of the Family membership benefits + 2 guest passes



Corporate & Non-Profit Memberships are available.

Historic Members of MCMA

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Neal Dow

1804 – 1897 MCMA Member, Leader of Men, Father of Prohibion and Temperance

Neal Dow was born in 1804 in Portland, the son of a tanner in a Quaker family. In 1827, at age 23, he joined the MCMA as a tanner and in that same year founded the Maine Temperance Union. Mr. Dow’s 1829 ora on at the MCMA Triennial Celebra on (available in our library) was a powerful speech with points that are s ll relevant today, 186 years later. In 1828, at age 24, he built a brick home at what is now 714 Congress St. Today this na onal landmark is the home of the Maine Women’s Chris an Temperance Union and also a museum that is open to the public at certain  mes on certain days. Dow served the MCMA as Corresponding Secretary in 1830-1831 and also served as Chief Engineer for the Portland Fire Department. In 1851 he was elected Portland’s ninth mayor. During that same year he helped pass the Prohibi on Bill (“the Maine Law”) with the help of Governor John Hubbard. In 1855 he was reelected as Portland’s eleventh mayor. On June 2 of that year the infamous “Rum Riot” erupted at City Hall, which at the  me stood in Monument Square. (If you missed the Honorable Herb Adams’s recent talk on this event, you can view it on the MCMA CTN Member page by clicking on h! p://www.ctn5.org/ shows/member-highlights/member-highlight-portland-rum-riot-8949.) Dow was a passionate aboli onist and made his home a stop on the Underground Railroad. Although he was 57 in 1861, when the Civil War broke out, he volunteered for the army and was commissioned Colonel; a year later he was promoted to Brigadier General, serving un l 1864. In 1880, at age 76, Dow ran for president of the U.S. as the Prohibi onist Party candidate, fi nishing fourth to Republican James A. Garfi eld. Neal Dow died in 1897 at the age of 93. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Also members of MCMA were Dow’s sons Fredrick N., a tanner, who joined in 1863, and William H., a publisher, who joined in 1907.
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General Phinehas Varnum

1778-1858 Founding Member of MCMA, Soldier, Legislator
General Phinehas Varnum was born in Dracut, Mass., in 1778. He came to Portland in 1801 as a blacksmith. After working for one year for Joseph Thaxter, he carried on the trade for another fifteen years before going into the business as a merchant. In 1815 he became a founding member of the MCMA, serving as its first vice-president from 1815 to 1817 and its second president from 1818 to 1820. He represented Portland in the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1818 and 1820. Following are some highlights in Varnum’s life and career. • He made all the gun mountings for Fort Preble. • On June 9, 1807, he headed a petition to the Legislature of Massachusetts for a company of artillery in Portland, attached to the 1st regiment, 2nd brigade, 6th division of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, captained by Lt. Colonel Nichols. • From 6/17/1812 to 9/21/1814 he served under Major Alfred Weeks in Portland and Cape Elizabeth. • From 9/28/1814 to 10/27/1814 he served during the War of 1812. • After Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820, he served in Maine as Colonel and Brigadier General in 1826. • He served as City Street commissioner and Director of Casco Bank for several years. The General died in Portland on Oct. 13, 1858, at the age of 79. His obituary in the Eastern Argus of 10/14/1858 describes him as being of “vigorous constitution and strong powers of mind; acquired a large estate. Member of the Executive Council of the State. Respected and beloved. “ His body was interred in the family tomb in the Eastern Cemetery. Information on Phinehas Varnum came from death notices in the Portland Transcript and Eastern Argus; see also “Varnum History” at ancestry.com. His picture can be seen in the Mechanics’ Hall library

Our Current Featured Members

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Meghan Reedy

What do you do/make?

I make as much as I can, really. In particular I make clothing and paper-work – which means I get to engage in a lot of different processes.  To make clothes, I dye fabric, sew, and embroider; I weave and knit.  To make things in paper, I letter in ink and illuminate with paint; I fold and stitch the pages.  I write.  I do a lot of my work by hand – needle and thread, ink and pen.

When did you begin to do this and why?

I started doing both when I was in third grade or so.  Why?  It seemed to my friend and me like the best and funnest way to spend Thursday afternoons.

 

Now that I make things more seriously, and for serious reasons, that feeling is the one that I aim to recapture in order to compensate, to keep a light touch.

Why does this matter?

Gosh, where to begin?  Clothing and paper-things are both complicated to make – there’s a lot to do between shearing a sheep and wearing a sweater! – and yet all that work, and all the mess it makes, is invisible most of the time.

 

Making things by hand is my way of making some of the work visible again – showing that it is work that is both possible and valuable for anyone to do.

Where can people learn more?

You can learn more about what I do at aRicherVernacular.com

And I’d be happy to teach you what I know!

How did you find out about MCMA and decide to join?

I first saw the ballroom and met some of the members at a 2-degrees event – the MCMA has such a long history of bringing together people who make things … I joined on the spot!

What do you hope to gain from your membership?

I’m hoping to meet others who are interested in making things and in the ramifications of making.  There are so many fascinating, difficult skills to share; so many real challenges, both practical and philosophical, to confront.  There’s so much to do!  I’m hoping we at the MCMA can do some of it together.

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Art Gaffer

What do you make?

I am a retired Boilermaker and now collect and research tool makers of the MCMA and Maine in the 1800’s

When and Why?

After restoring Ford Cars, trucks, John Deere Tractors and also vintage Farm Engines(all 1900’s), I found History of the Maine Tool Makers very interesting and began collecting and learning about the Mechanic’s that were making things in the nineteenth and eighteenth century in Maine.
Why does this matter?

I think that it is hard to understand the Makers of the future unless you have an understanding about the struggles, methods and organizations of the past.

Where can people learn more?

MCMA library, I have a web site that has some information about Maine Tool Makers – maine-lytools.com , Maine Historical Society in Portland and the Maine State Museum in Augusta are all great sources.
How did you find out about the MCMA and decide to join?

About eleven years ago I purchased 1916 and a 1876 MCMA Constitution books while I was researching the life of a Portland toolmaker Joseph Bradford who was a MCMA member from 1835, he is Portland’s most prolific maker of tools for the Housewright, Joiner, Shipwright, Bookbinder and Cooper’s, I located Mechanics’ Hall and finally figured out when it would be open to ask questions. The librarian at the time asked if I would  be interested in joining and gave me an application and I gave her twenty dollars to be able to walk the halls of Portland’s early Mechanics. Sadly Joseph Bradford’s picture was not on the library wall as he only served as a vice president and trustee and other committees and not president.
What did you hope to gain from your membership?

Information about the life and times of the mechanics of the 1800’s.

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Douglas Green

What do you do/make?
I’m an industrial designer and inventor.  Green Design Furniture Co. was founded in 1993 to produce and market furniture designs that featured a unique assembly system that I had developed and patented.
When did you begin to do this and why?
My first career was as in traditional cabinetmaking, handcrafting solid wood furniture, mostly using traditional hand tools and machinery.  I was in my early twenties when I began woodworking and as my skills at working with my hands became second nature, my brain kicked in and started to ask uncomfortable questions about the deeper issues about the how and why of making things. It was my nature to question conventional wisdom (of any kind) so at 27, I found myself enrolled in Pratt Institute’s graduate program of Industrial Design. At Pratt, I learned the nuts and bolts of modern product manufacturing and fluency in the various disciplines that are required to bring a design from drawing board to completion (ergonomics, material science, manufacturing technology, concept development and prototyping).
In the early 1990’s, I stumbled upon an idea for a new way to construct furniture that (I believed) had tremendous potential to change the paradigm for how furniture could be produced. By teaching the new generation of programmable machinery (CNC) a new form of ‘craftsman programming’ I was able to demonstrate a way to make furniture structures that assembled without fasteners, glues or even tools. Green Design Furniture Co. was originally formed as kind of a laboratory to prove the technology was viable and ultimately, to license the patent to large manufacturers who would populate the world with furniture using my assembly system.
Why does this matter?
In a world of depleted and diminishing resources finding ways of reducing the carbon footprint of manufactured goods is economically and morally essential. When you look at the world of manufactured furniture, the system I developed offered a radical approach for extracting waste in every aspect of the manufacturing process, from the factory floor to the delivery and installation in the customer’s home. Perhaps more importantly, we proved that furniture designed with this process could be aesthetically pleasing, remarkably durable and structurally superior to traditionally crafted products.
Where can people learn more?
You can visit our website at ‘greendesigns.com’, or call 207-450-3684 to make an appointment to visit our showroom at 250 Commercial Street in Portland’s Old Port district. Our workshop is in the old Blue Star Match Co. building on West Commercial St. and if you’re interested in a tour of the shop, please call.
How did you find out about MCMA and decide to join?
I first learned about MCMA at a Pecha Kulcha presentation at Space Gallery but really got interested in the organization after being asked to participate in a recent effort to update it’s mission in the creative community.
What do you hope to gain from your membership?
I hope to meet and learn more about Maine’s creative entrepreneurs and to offer my assistance to anyone who might gain from my own experience.