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Katahdin Relief Model

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

Relief model and topographical model are two terms sometimes used to describe a three-dimensional rendering of a feature found in nature. Many students have constructed such a model for a science fair or other school project.

The museum now has on display a model of Katahdin and the surrounding area made by Capt. Ellis Hall possibly in the 1950’s-60’s. The mountain and surrounding terrain were constructed in a shallow wooden box and the attached hinged lid has a topographical map of the same area. The box or encasement is about 13” wide and 18” long. The lid is hinged on the shorter end. Accompanying the model is a description of how it was made.

“Relief map of Mt. Katahdin made by Capt. Ellis Hall, formerly of Millinocket, Maine. The scale of the map is one mile to the inch. Each contour interval (brown line) represents 20 feet of elevation. In making the relief map, a sheet of cardboard was traced and cut to fit each contour line. Katahdin peak was built up by approximately 500 sheets of cardboard. Other peaks contain an approximate total of 1500 additional separate sheets of cardboard. These sheets were glued one on top of another. This was covered with a thin sheet of plaster of Paris sand and paint. It is accurate to nearest twenty feet.”

Capt. Hall, 1934 Stearns HS graduate had a distinguished military career beginning with the local Company I of the Maine National Guard. Hall, with others from the Millinocket area Co. I was sent to the South Pacific during WWII. Hall was severely wounded there on 1943 and was later discharged from federal service.

At some point Hall’s Katahdin model was in the possession of Millinocket attorney John “Jack” Ward and upon his death, Ward’s nephew in Indianapolis inherited it. The nephew recently reached out to the museum believing the model should return to Millinocket. Recent correspondence with Hall’s son (a member of MHS) revealed the son remembers his father working many hours on the model.

An article by John W. Neff titled Models of the Katahdin Massif indicate there are few known early detailed models in existence. Some mention of the early models is also noted in Katahdin Skylines by H. Walter Leavitt. The Hamlin model (prior to 1881) was made before there were topographical maps of the area. Current location of that model unknown. Another (1930’s), the Robbins model, was 42” x 60” and was made using topographical maps of the area. This was displayed at Harvard U. until it deteriorated and was removed. However, several copies were made (Baxter Park may have had one or more displayed at times). Several wooden versions were made and displayed by Donald McKay in the 1960’s and later. Again, in the 1960’s, a ceramic model was made and small copies were given to several participants who climbed Katahdin with then Gov. Ken Curtis.

We are pleased to have the Hall model displayed at the museum!

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