Monday, July 13, 2015

Celebrating Celebrity Superheroes

Years ago, when I first visited the Henney History Room, I browsed the shelves and wondered why did they have so many books on Helen Keller?

The answer is that our region has been home to many famous celebrities including Helen Keller who summered here and who was great friends with Nella Braddy and Keith Henney, the founders of the Henney History Room at the Conway Public Library.

Using the Dewey Decimal system as a guide, one can search the 920 section for many interesting biographies. These folks are only the “tip of the iceberg” of famous people with connections to the area: Rachel Adams, Josiah Bartlett, Admiral Richard Byrd, Benjamin Champney, E.E. Cummings, Joe Dodge, Mary Baker Eddy, Robert Frost, Harvey Dow Gibson, William Glackens, Samuel Hale, the Hutchinson Family (Singing Yankees), Henry and William James, Rudyard Kipling, Lucy Larcom, Lady Blanche Murphy, Otto Ninow, Franklin Pierce, Babe Ruth, Hannes Schneider, Arthur Walden, Daniel Webster and Jim Welch, the famous High Sheriff of Carroll County.  

One of our most famous local heroes was a dog, the great Chinook. Descended from one of the lead dogs on Peary’s North Pole expeditions, Chinook himself was destined to lead Byrd’s teams at the South Pole. He even has his own set of action figures made by the famous Steiff Company. He is honored by statues, bronze plaques, a road named after him, clubs, and oh yes, he founded New Hampshire’s state dog breed.

In addition to the books, we have vertical files on many other local celebrities as well as many diaries and journals that can help one explore their lives. We also have selected works in other sections, such as the novel Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, sheet music from Englishman Thomas Murphy, engineering books by Keith Henney, a book on business etiquette by Nella Braddy Henney, and stories of polar expeditions by Admiral Byrd, etc.

Perhaps we will collect a biography on you when you become famous for your contributions.  

Now who is the guy in the tree? It is our own Keith Henney. The Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room was established in 1976 by Keith Henney in memory of his wife Nella Braddy Henney. The Henneys were real history super heroes. Through hard, dirty and sometimes dangerous work, they saved fragile historical records, researched many subjects ranging from Civil War soldiers to lost poets to ocean-going sea elephants and shared their findings through articles, books and lectures.  

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