I am embarrassed to say, that for 12 years I have been driving down to Southwest Harbor, and have passed the sign for the Seal Cove Auto Museum. Well, this summer I finally made it, and let me tell you, what a beautiful museum it is! If you haven't been, what are you waiting for? They even offer rides, and I took a ride in a Model T!

Raney Bench, the Executive Director of the Seal Cove Auto Museum provided the following description of the museum.

The Seal Cove Auto Museum celebrates the cultural and industrial history of the early 1900s through interactive exhibits, demonstrations, events, and public programs. Open May 1 through October 31, seven days a week, the Museum offers demonstrations every Tuesday. The Auto Museum is a history museum that explores the innovations and inventions that took place at the turn of the last century, making the invention of the car possible. The early 1900s was a dynamic time in American history, with rapid social changes for women and immigrants, as well as greater distribution of wealth and availability of material goods. For the first time the middle class had access to watches, sewing machines, bicycles, and other luxuries.

1900 Skene - Photo Courtesy Seal Cove Auto Museum

The earliest automobiles were impractical and out of reach for most people, despite the economic changes. Before mass production, cars were often custom ordered and were luxury toys for wealthy clients. Many of the cars at the Auto Museum are one-of-a-kind; the only examples known to exist, or one of few that remain. Termed "the Brass Era" (1895-1917) for the beautiful and elegant brass that make up the headlights, exhaust whistles, horns, and other features, the cars are moving works of art.

1909 Corbin - Photo Courtesy Seal Cove Auto Museum

To increase demand and drive up excitement, early cars powered by steam, electricity, and gasoline were competing for market share, and racing became a popular way of marketing the early autos and motorcycles. The collection at the Seal Cove Auto Museum has examples of electric cars from 1910 and earlier, as well as a collection of rare steam cars. Most of the cars in the collection pre-date mass production, which made cars accessible to the middle class. The collection includes early motorcycles, "horseless carriages" as examples of early body styles, and touring cars and luxury automobiles made to be driven by chauffeurs. Stories about changes and growth in American society, biographies of wealthy car owners and car makers, and the bust in car manufacturing that came with World War I are all explored though the new exhibit Motoring into the 20th Century. Hands on activities and games make the Seal Cove Auto Museum the perfect place for families and people of all ages. For more information go to www.sealcoveautomuseum.org.

The Seal Cove Auto Museum is hosting a picnic on its grounds overlooking Seal Cove Pond and the mountains of Acadia on August 10, from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

The picnic is inspired by the traditions of Mount Desert Island’s Rusticators of the early 1900s. “Rusticators” is a term for the summer visitors of the time who fled to the “rustic” island from their luxurious homes in such cities and Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, to escape the heat and crowds.  The island was the playground for these elite visitors, and an elegant picnic in the park was a typical pastime on a summer’s afternoon.

A variety of different activities are planned, including a special exhibit of early 1900s fashion, from the collection of Norma Spurling; a costume contest (costumes are entirely optional) with prizes awarded; croquet on the lawn overlooking Seal Cove Pond; live jazz performed by the Ellis Quartet; and a buffet of rusticator-inspired food provided by Country Fare Catering.

Handmade Native American ash baskets will be given to guests to take home, containing commemorative wine glasses and other treats.

1912 Alco - Photo Courtesy Seal Cove Auto Museum

Guests will additionally have the opportunity to ride in some the of the Auto Museum’s vintage automobiles. One of the vehicles is an Alco from 1912, on loan to the Auto Museum from the collection of Mr. Andy Oldman. This car, built by the American Locomotive Company, was among the most expensive American cars of its time, costing in the $6,000-$7,000 range. This is understandable, given that it took one year and seven months to build a single one.

There are limited tickets available for this event, at a cost of $75 per person. Tickets may be purchased by calling the museum at 207-244-9242. In the event of rain, the picnic will be held indoors.