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Central Maine Power Company Collection

 Collection
Identifier: SpC MS 1008

Scope and Contents of the Records

The records of 40 small electric power companies later acquired by Central Maine Power Company make up this collection.

Each company forms its own record group within the collection, and companies are listed in the order in which they were acquired by CMP. Records of only a few companies date after their acquisition by Central Maine Power. The earliest acquisition, of the Sebasticook Water Power Company, took place in 1911, the latest, of the Casco Bay Light and Power Company, took place in 1965.

Most companies have only a few volumes of records, reflecting their short existence before being acquired by CMP. The Kennebec Light and Heat Company, Androscoggin Electric Company, Cumberland County Power and Light Company, and Rumford Light Company have more extensive holdings.

Records for each company are primarily financial and include cashbooks, daybooks, voucher registers, journals, and ledgers. Payroll records, purchasing records, and operating journals are included for a few companies. Some companies have ledgers and balance sheets that reflect their finances and activities at the time of their mergers with CMP.

Information for each company, including a brief history and list of contents, follows. Each company also has a separate record in URSUS, the Library's on-line catalog, therefore its assigned manuscript number is included in its description. In addition, the ledger number used as a location identifier has been added to each description.

Dates

  • 1883-1965
  • Majority of material found within 1902-1928

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.

Restrictions on Use

Information on literary rights available in the repository.

Historical Note

The collection contains records from 40 small electric companies established in Maine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The companies subsequently were acquired by Central Maine Power Company between 1910 and 1965.

These records reflect the nature of the early electric power business in Maine. Maine's rivers, with their changes in altitude between their source and sea level, led to the early development of hydroelectric power in the state. By the 1890s, many communities had a small gas or electric company, often begun to furnish power for a few hours a day for street lighting. The companies were mostly locally owned, and each served only a few communities at best. Power transmission was limited to short distances by the use of direct-current technology. In a rural state like Maine, residential accounts were the last sought by these electric companies, they concentrated on street lighting, electric trolleys, and businesses until about 1910.

Central Maine Power Company (CMP) was founded in 1899 when Harvey D. Eaton, an attorney from Waterville, Maine, and Walter S. Wyman, an engineer, bought the Oakland Electric Company. This company, organized in 1887, owned a hydroelectric generator which provided street lighting and electricity to the community of Oakland, Maine.

Eaton and Wyman recognized early on the potential for generating electricity that Maine's rivers provided. Around 1901 they offered a contract to the city of Waterville for street lighting using the name Messalonskee Electric Company, the company was chartered by the Maine legislature in 1905. During this time the partners issued bonds and stocks to raise capital to purchase other small companies and to build new power plants. The company's name was changed to Central Maine Power Company in 1910, and in 1912 its main office moved from Waterville to Augusta. The company continued to acquire small hydroelectric companies and to develop new sites to supply hydropower. Between 1910 and 1917, CMP bought electric companies in Bingham, Dexter, Skowhegan, Vassalboro, Clinton, Corinna, Richmond and Waterville. Power plants were operating at Dennistown, Fairfield, Oakland, Belfast and Limerick. By 1919 CMP was serving over 21,000 customers.

In an effort to gain new financing, CMP in the 1920s sold its stock to Samuel Insull's Middle West Utilities holding company. Harvey Eaton also resigned as CMP president in January, 1924. By August, 1925, CMP's board of directors included three Insull appointees, with Wyman and other CMP members in the remaining seats. CMP became part of the holding-company structure and was owned by New England Public Service Company. In return, the Insull company gave cash for CMP stock which could be used for further growth. With this money CMP was able to build two hydroelectric plants: the Gulf Island plant in Lewiston and the William S. Wyman station in Bingham and Moscow, plus a storage reservoir on the Moose River.

The Insull holding company collapsed in the early 1930s and Wyman was forced to buy CMP stock from the Insull creditors, returning CMP control to local hands. Throughout these financial difficulties and those of the Great Depression, construction continued, with the hydroelectric plant at Solon, Maine, beginning operations in 1939, and construction beginning in 1940 on Mason Station, a steam plant in Wiscasset.

Walter Wyman died on November 15, 1942. CMP vice-president William B. Skelton succeeded him as president. A merger with the Cumberland County Power and Light Company late in 1942 made CMP the largest electric utility operating in northern New England.

The 1950s through the 1990s saw many changes in CMP operations. The company entered the nuclear power industry in 1954 when it joined with 11 other utility companies to form Yankee Atomic Electric Company, which built a nuclear plant in Rowe, Massachusetts. It also contributed to the cost of plants in Connecticut and Vermont and in the Maine Yankee Plant in Wiscasset, Maine. Financial problems, controversy and lack of public support for nuclear facilities eventually led CMP to withdraw from nuclear power projects, and in 1997 the decision was made to close Maine Yankee and begin its decommissioning process.

The 1990s also brought about a re-structuring of the electric power industry. In 1997 the Maine legislature passed "An Act to Restructure the State's Electric Industry," whereby customers would be able to choose their electricity suppliers as of March 1, 2000. Utilities would no longer supply energy and were required to sell their non-nuclear generating assets. They were responsible only for operating, maintaining and repairing sub-stations and power lines.

The CMP Group holding company was created in 1998. In 1999 Florida-based FPL Energy bought 31 hydroelectric plants, three oil-fired plants, and one wood-fired plant from CMP. CMP thus left the electricity generation business and became responsible only for operating and maintaining the transmission and distribution system. In August, 2000 CMP Group merged with New York-based Energy East Corporation. In over 100 years of operation the company had grown tremendously, now delivering over 9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to 570,000 customers in an 11,000 square mile area in central and southern Maine.

The researcher interested in the history of CMP may also want to consult the book, The Light from the River: Central Maine Power's First Century of Service, published to mark the company's centennial in 1999.

Extent

79.5 linear feet (ledgers)

7.25 cubic feet (boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

Records from 40 small electric companies established in Maine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The companies subsequently were acquired by Central Maine Power Company between 1910 and 1965.

Conservation Note

Part of the collection has been re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes.

Provenance

Acquired in 1978.
Title
Guide to the Central Maine Power Company Collection
Status
Box And Folder List Available
Date
May 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for uncoded script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States
207-581-1686