March 19, 1897: The Maine Legislature passes a law that requires hunting guides to register with the state. The first person to sign up is Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby (1854-1946), a woman whose promotional activities and nationally circulated hunting and fishing stories of the Rangeley Lake area attracted thousands of visitors to the Maine woods.

Crosby, who was 6 feet tall, left her job in a bank to do housekeeping work in Rangeley hotels, where she became friends with local guides. After a friend gave her a 5-ounce rod in 1886, she became so skilled at fly-fishing that she landed 200 trout in one day.

She writes newspaper columns touting Maine’s outdoor recreation opportunities. She also learns other ways to market the state to tourists. She organizes a hunting display at the first annual Sportsmen’s Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, appearing there holding a rifle and wearing a doeskin skirt. She often sets up an entire hunting cabin at a big-city exhibition. She becomes friends with famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

A knee injury in 1899 puts an end to her mobility, but she continues to write her columns.

Crosby assembles an album of large-format photos of hunting and fishing scenes in Maine. She attaches a note to it saying it should be given to former Gov. Percival Baxter after her death. Baxter receives it after a 10-year delay, then gives it to the state fish and game commissioner. When the current Maine State Museum is established, the album is transferred to its archives, where it remains.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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