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The Earl Cunningham Collection
1892 - 1948

 

Erland (Earl) Ronald Cunningham was born in Edgecomb, Maine near Boothbay Harbor.  He was the third child of six born to Charles and Elwilda Cunningham.  His family lived and worked on the family farm that had been in the family since the early nineteenth century.

In 1905, at the age of thirteen, Earl left home to make his way in the world.  He worked as a tinker and peddler selling or trading old beads, pocket knives, and other odds and ends.  About 1909 he was living in a fisherman's shack on Stratton Island off Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  He acquired some paints and painted on salvaged wood washed in from the sea.  He painted pictures of boats, New England farm scenes and sold his paintings for fifty cents each.  He acquired a sailboat and sailed to within fifteen miles of New York City, to Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook, Long Island Sound, and up beyond the narrows of the Hudson River.

In 1912 he graduated from the Hamlin-Foster Company School of Automobile Engineering in Portland, Maine.  Later he studied coastal navigation and received a license to work as a harbor and river pilot.  He sailed on large schooners rigged with four and five masts that traveled up and down the East coast carrying coal, naval stores and other cargo, stopping at ports from Maine to Florida.  These experiences, along with family stories about the sea, would provide material for his later paintings.

On June 29, 1915, Earl Cunningham and Iva Moses, a piano teacher, were married.  Throughout their marriage Earl called her "Maggie."  They purchased a thirty-five foot cabin cruiser named "Hokona" and lived aboard.

Between 1918 and 1936 the Cunninghams divided their time between Maine and Florida.  They earned a living digging for Indian relics, collecting opalized coral, and catching fiddler crabs which Earl preserved and took back to Maine to sell.  They continued to call Maine home and maintained a twenty-five acre farm there called "Fort Valley".  Earl continued to paint.

Sometime shortly after 1936 the couple divorced.  In 1940 Earl sold his Maine farm and purchased a fifty-acre farm in Waterboro, South Carolina.  When World War II erupted the farm was converted to raise chickens for the U.S. Army.  Earl continued his painting.
 

 


 
The Cunningham Family in Boothbay Harbor, Maine Circa 1917.
 

 The Cunningham Family, Boothbay Harbor, Maine circa 1917.  Fourth and fifth
 from left:   Charles and Elwilda, Parents of Earl. Sixth from left: Earl Cunningham. 


Captain Earl Cunningham on the Hokona on 1916.
 

 Captain Earl Cunningham on the Hokona in 1916.


The Nellie G near her landing, Boothbay Harbor 1909.
 

 Written by Earl Cunningham on the back of the photograph:   "The Nellie G near
 her landing, Boothbay Harbor, Maine 1909".


The Kennebec river from ferry 1912.
 

 Written by Earl Cunningham on the back of the photograph:   "1912   Taken by
 me on River Kennebec from ferry.   Note ice in river".


A hotel fire at Boothbay Harbor, June 1913.
 

 Written by Earl Cunningham on the back of the photograph:   "I came from
 Portland Me to B. B. Harbor here on The Grace, and watched this big hotel known
 as the MENAWARMET burn.   I saw it afire inside, then the fire streamed out of
 the Sailor's Walk, where the flag is.   Burned flat, everything.   Captain Foster's
 Daughter and I went to the fire 'round 9 O'clock at night.   June 1913".


The Dirigo Earl Cunningham's camp car photographed in Freeport, Maine July 16, 1921.
 

 Dirigo, The Good Barge,  Earl Cunningham's camp car photographed in Freeport,
 Maine July 16, 1921.   Written by Earl Cunningham on the back of the
 photograph:   "July 16, 1921 Auto in yard, Freeport, me our Camp Car We Went
 to Florida in Earl Cunningham".


Earl Cunningham photographed standing on the Dixie Highway between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida in 1922.
 

 Earl Cunningham photographed standing on the Dixie Highway between
 Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida in 1922.   Written on the back of the
 photograph:   "Dixie Highway between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Fla.".


Earl Cunningham photographed with his dog in Cartersville, Georgia on April 30, 1922.
 

 Earl Cunningham photographed with his dog in Cartersville, Georgia on April 30,
 1922.   Written on the back of the photograph:   "Cartersville, Ga Apr 30, 1922.  
 Earl Cunningham and dog".


Earl Cunningham photographed his camp in Anastasia, Florida, September 1923.
 

 Earl Cunningham photographed his camp in Anastasia, Florida, September 1923.  
 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Our camp Anastasia Fla   The camp car
 we went to Florida in Earl Cunningham".


Maggie Cunningham photographed at Anastasia, Florida, 1923.
 

 Maggie Cunningham photographed at Anastasia, Florida in 1923.   Written on the
 back of the photograph:   "Storm covering (street) car track 5ft deep in sand 1923 
 Maggie my wife Earl Cunningham".


Earl Cunningham photographed at Anastasia, Florida, 1923.
 

 Earl Cunningham photographed at Anastasia, Florida in 1923.   Written on the
 back of the photograph:   "Sand dunes on Anastasia, back of St. Augustine Beach
 Fla 1923  Earl Cunningham".


Earl Cunningham photographed in 1916.
 

 Earl Cunningham 1916.   Written on the back of the photograph:   "Earl
 Cunningham 1916".


Earl Cunningham photographed in 1916.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Product of our farm 1916".


Earl Cunningham photographed at the Harraseeket River in 1916.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Harraseeket River Earl Cunningham
 1916".


Earl Cunningham photographed in 1917.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Cap'n sitting on a sand hill filled by the
 wind 1917   Captain Earl Cunningham".


Everette Pratt and Earl Cunningham photographed in Schenectady, New York in 1919.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "1919  Everette Pratt and Earl  
 Schenectady N.Y."


Earl's dog Bertha on top of a large wheel.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "1919   Bertha on top of wheels.  Fla.  
 Near St. Augustine on Dixie Highway.   Earl Cunningham"


Earl Cunningham in front of Ft. Marion in July 1924.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "E. R. Cunningham on the top of Fort
 Marion, St. Augustine Fla.   July 1924"


Earl Cunningham beside the hot shot furnace at Ft. Marion in July 1924.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "E. R. Cunningham beside the hot shot
 furnace at Fort Marion, St. Augustine Fla.   July 1924"


Written on the back of this photograph:  Aug. 16, 1942 garage and outbuildings, this is some of my carpenter work.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Aug. 16 1942   garage and outbuildings  
 this is some of my carpenter work"


Photograph of Niagara Falls taken by Earl Cunningham August 6, 1921.
 

 Written on the back of the photograph:   "Aug. 6 1921   Niagara Falls   Have to
 come down 23 flights of stairs 10 steps to a flight to get to the foot of the falls or
 can go down on an elevator "

ARCHIVIST
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E-mail: bwhite@wppl.org
Phone: (407) 623-3300 ext. 106

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