||James Phinney Baxter was born on March 23, 1831 in Gorham, Maine, the youngest son of Dr. Elihu Baxter and Sarah Cone Baxter. He attended Master Jackson's School, Lynn Academy and Portland Academy, while taking private foreign language lessons. The family moved from Gorham to China, Maine and eventually settled in Portland. For several years Baxter lived and worked in Boston for the law firm of Rufus Choate, however poor health forced him to return to Portland, where he settled permanently. He instead, entered into to canning and dry goods business with William G. Davis, and became hugely successful. The pair are, in fact, credited with the industry's growth in the state. A renowned businessman, James Phinney Baxter, was also a devoted philanthropist. According to the Portland Public Library, he was a book collector, historian, civic leader, and benefactor of the library, donating over one-hundred leather-bound volumes once found in his personal collection. The library's "James P. Baxter Collection" consists primarily of works written or edited by Baxter, and according to library staff, "'are interesting for the numerous maps, portraits, engravings, and letters he interleaved and bound in them." Baxter was a historian and prolific writer authoring many volumes on New England, and particularly Maine colonial history. He was responsible for editing twenty of a twenty four volume set on the Documentary History of Maine. He served as President of the Maine Historical Society and Portland Public Library, was an overseer of Bowdoin College, Director of the Maine Industrial School, President of the Portland Provident Association, Director of the Portland Benevolent Society and provided leadership on the boards of several Portland financial institutions. He was also affiliated with the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, the Old Colony Historical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian. In addition to his philanthropic activities in Portland, Baxter retained ties to his birthplace. In 1907 he approached the then governor of Maine, Frederick Robie, regarding the establishment of a public library and museum in Gorham. Baxter offered to fund the library on the condition that his birthplace be turned into a museum. The proposal was accepted and the Baxter Memorial Library and Baxter House Museum were created as a memorial to Baxter's father. Baxter's former home was moved back from the road and the library was built in the vacated space. Both institutions remain open to the public to this day, enduring memorials to Baxter's commitment to improving educational opportunities for the citizens of Maine. Baxter's son, Percival P. Baxter became Governor of Maine.
1) James Phinney Baxter's collection is in the Portland Public Library's collection, see; http://www.portlandlibrary.com/locations/portlandroom.htm
2) The Baxter House Museum website includes a House History section, accessed on February 26, 2009 at http://www.baxter-memorial.lib.me.us/museum/history.htm The history of the Baxter Memorial Library website accessed on February 26, 2009 at http://www.baxter-memorial.lib.me.us/about/history.htm
4) Wikipedia entry for "James Phinney Baxter" accessed on March 3, 2009 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Phinney_Baxter
5) Online biographies website, "Bio of James Baxter, As found in REPRESENTATIVE MEN OF MAINE, A Collection of Biographical Sketches. Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase, Portland, ME, The Lakeside Press, Publisher 1893." Accessed on March 3, 2009 at http://www.onlinebiographies.info/me/rmm/baxter-james.htm
6) Obituary of James Phinney Baxter, Sprague's Journal of Maine History, 9:2 (April-June 1921), 78-80, accessed on March 3, 2009 at http://ftp.rootsweb.ancestry.com/pub/usgenweb/me/cumberland/gorham/baxter/sj9p78.txt