Franco-American Collections in the Digital Commons

LEWISTON, ME– As a member of the Board of Directors with the Franco-American Collection, at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College (USM LAC), I am learning about the timely importance of the “Digital Commons”.

This resource for research and scholarship is open to the on-line universe, for the purpose of retrieving valuable data about particular subjects that might otherwise be lost to history. As a matter of fact, the Franco-American Collection is one of the special subjects listed on the website. In fact, access to the Digital Commons is like having a library in every teacher’s classroom. Helping the Franco-American Collection to submit the enormous amount of data, already in the archives, to the digital commons is assisted by Maureen Perry, a Board member colleague and a USM LAC college librarian.

Lewiston City Planner Doug Greene

Franco-American Board of Directors President Doris Bonneau (center) greeted Lewiston City Planner Douglas Green and his wife Lily, when they visited the archives at the USM LAC.

Board members with the FAC were pleased to showcase the impressive amount of Franco-American treasures in the archives, when the Lewiston City Planner Doug Greene and his wife  Donna (Lily) Sheffield Greene, visited to learn about ongoing programs.

While I researched the history about some of Lewiston’s Franco-American family businesses, I found a hand written cursive letter from Mrs. Afred (Mailhot) LeBlanc, who wrote about how her family founded the LeBlanc “Lewiston Steam Dye House”, and later named the LeBlanc Cleaners. The original letter is among the items in the Franco-American archives, where it was at risk for being hidden in the items stored in various boxes and files.

Thankfully, Mrs. LeBlanc’s letter now available in the USM digital commons.

Mrs. LeBlanc cursive letter

Letter dated November 19, 1979 from Mrs. Alfred Mailhot LeBlanc

Mrs. LeBlanc wrote a letter on November 19, 1979, to Charlotte Michaud, to describe how the family business started. Mrs. LeBlanc wrote her letter in lovely cursive.  About the art of “cursive writing”, I wonder how long it might be in the future when learning how to read cursive will become as obsolete as understanding hieroglyphics. So, the interesting historic narrative, written in Mrs. LeBlanc’s letter, is transcribed here, from her cursive:

Dear Miss Michaud,

In response to your letter earlier this month, we are forwarding to you a short resume of the history of the “Lewiston Steam Dye House” as well as names you requested of the Joseph LeBlanc family picture I presently have in my collection.

Joseph LeBlanc acquired the Cleaning and Dyeing business in the year 1885. After his death, one of his three sons, Alfred took over as treasurer and then owner of his father’s business which he operated from 1919 to 1949. After he passed away in 1949, his two sons, Alfred Jr., and Julien became partners in the large enterprise.  In 1954 the brothers built a new and modern plant still at the former site, 10 LaPayette St, and added to the flourishing business a Reconditioning of Athletics, which is still in operation today (edit- meaning 1979).

In 1976, Alfred Jr. purchased the family business from his brother, Julien, and is now sole owner of the LeBlanc Cleaners, and Reconditioners of Lewiston, Maine.  (At this point, Mrs. LeBlanc printsoverat the bottom of the stationary page.)

2)  His son, Alfred III, a graduate of St. Francis College, now serves as manager of the Lewiston firm and he is a 4th generation des-cendant to follow in the family footsteps.

If more references is needed, I would be glad to oblige.

Mrs. Alfred (Mailhot) LeBlanc

P.S. Hope you are well “Charlotte”. We have never forgotten you and your wonderful newspaper career….Good luck.

Additionally, in another hand written document, Mrs. LeBlanc also chronicled the family’s genealogy.  She reported how the LeBlanc family was related to the first French-Canadians who, in 1860, arrived in Lewiston, from Quebec. This particular letter has not yet been submitted to the Digital Commons, but until the data is made available, the source document is stored at the Franco-American Collection, at USM LAC, on Westminister Street in Lewiston.

Thank you to Mrs. LeBlanc, for the excellent recall and time that was dedicated to writing everything in excellent historic narrative! Now, her memory will survive and be available for as long as there are Digital Commons!

For more information about the Digital Commons, contact Maureen Perry mperry@maine.edu

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.