The Maine Port Authority is a state agency focused on transportation – providing resources and facilitating the movement of freight through our state and ports. First established in 1929 by an act of the Maine State Legislature, the Maine Port Authority covers all Maine ports along the ocean and rivers, from Kittery to Eastport, providing information and resources to anyone using the port.

Ed Langlois, left, general manager of the Maine Port Authority, with two unidentified men. If you can help identify either of the two men, please contact the South Portland Historical Society. South Portland Historical Society photo

They can provide information on harbor specifications, pilotage (all large vessels are required to hire a Portland pilot to come on board and take them into and out of a port), safety provisions (required by the Coast Guard), transportation details related to trucking, railroad and air freight, and any other piece of information related to shipping, ferrying, cruising or any other types of boating in our ports.

Throughout its history, the Maine Port Authority has been under the direction of a board of directors (each director appointed by the governor), one of whom serves as its president. The Authority has been based in Portland, Maine’s largest port. When the Authority was first created, it was called the Port of Portland Authority and replaced the former port authority that had been put in place by the city of Portland. It wasn’t until 1945 that the Port of Portland Authority had its name changed by the State Legislature to the Maine Port Authority.

For most of its first two decades in existence, the Authority was headed by a strong leader, Henry F. Merrill, who served as its president from 1929 to 1947. He had previously served for 10 years on Portland’s Port Authority. Merrill was also the vice president and treasurer of Randall and McAllister, a retail and wholesale coal company in Portland, for 62 years.

John Toft, vice president and general manager of the R.J. Peacock Canning Company’s sardine packing plant in Portland. Toft was also a long-time member and president of the Maine Port Authority. Atlantic Fisherman Collection/Penobscot Marine Museum

During Merrill’s last three years with the MPA, William “Pete” Newell also served as a director of the port authority. Newell was the president of Bath Iron Works and the man who brought the Ocean and Liberty shipbuilding program to South Portland during World War II.

After Merrill retired and Newell resigned as a director in 1947, Archibald Main was appointed as a director and became the president of the Port Authority. Archie Main was a former vice president at Bath Iron Works. In September, 1947, the Port Authority hired its first managing director with the city of Portland agreeing to fund two/thirds of the position. This staff person was James B. Sweeny from Baltimore. He stayed in the position through early-1951.

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Another leader of the Maine Port Authority was A. Edward Langlois, Jr., who was hired in 1956 under the title of general manager of the Authority. Langlois served in that position for 24 years, from 1956 to 1980.

Ed Langlois was born in 1921, the son of Helen Ball and Alfred Edward Langlois, a paint salesman. He grew up in the family home at 43 Fairlawn Ave., graduated from South Portland High School in the class of 1939, and attended Maine Maritime Academy. During World War II, he first worked at the South Portland shipyards, then joined the Navy and served in the Pacific.

After the war, he moved to Castine where he ran an inn from 1946 to 1949 and also worked as an instructor at Maine Maritime Academy. He moved back to the Portland area in 1956 when he was hired by the Maine Port Authority. As general manager of the Authority, he was responsible for managing the Maine State Pier and overseeing the Maine State Ferry Service. After leaving the Port Authority in 1980, he became general manager of Casco Bay Lines and also served as the executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association for many years.

Henry F. Merrill, president of the Maine Port Authority (previously known as the Port of Portland Authority) from 1929 to 1947. South Portland Historical Society photo

Langlois was the founder and president of the Shipyard Society, a group formed “for the preservation of the historic World War II contribution of the workers of the Todd-Bath Iron and South Portland Shipbuilding Corporations.”

The group began in the spring of 1980 when Langlois and six other former shipyard workers met to plan for a reunion of shipyard workers. Over 500 former workers attended that first reunion in October, 1980. At the same time, Langlois was also involved in the National Liberty Ship Memorial, the organization that worked to restore the Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien, built in South Portland, as a national monument and floating museum.

He took the momentum from that first reunion to continue planning annual reunions and he also started collecting shipyard memorabilia in the hopes of someday establishing a shipyard museum.

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In 1994, Langlois came close to his dream when he made arrangements to lease the Cushing’s Point House to become home to a new shipyard museum. It didn’t come to be, however, and Langlois died in 1998 at the age of 76. It was just nine years later when the South Portland Historical Society approached Portland Pipe Line Corporation about acquiring the Cushing’s Point House as its permanent home and museum in 2007. Portland Pipe Line donated the building to the historical society in 2009.

I think Ed Langlois would be very pleased to see that his dream of a museum in the shipyard has finally come true.

Ed Langlois in 1994, with the Cushing’s Point House in the background. Langlois had made plans to lease the building at the time. The photo accompanied a Press Herald article about his plans to open a shipyard museum in the building. David Carson photo/Press Herald

Note: We hope to see you at the Independence Day Classic Car Show, presented by Yankee Ford. The car show will be held in Bug Light Park on Monday, July 4, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food will be available by food truck. The Summer in Maine Auction will close just after the reading of the Declaration of Independence from the front porch of the museum at noon. For more information, call the historical society at 767-7299 or email [email protected].

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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