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The L.L. Bean Archive
A Living History
Cracking into the L.L. Bean archive was an absolute delight. It’s full of things that interest me: old tailored clothes (bring back the houndstooth Loafer coat!), canvas field jackets, antique fishing rods and reels, a locker full of ancient Bean boots. But it’s more than that: there are incredible old catalogs that L.L. wrote himself. There’s a letter complimeznting the shoes from Babe Ruth (written in a fountain pen on very nice stationery, way to go George Herman!). There’s another from Ernest Hemingway, to a friend, telling him what to buy from Bean when he passes through Freeport. This is downright historical.
It’s great to see clothes that are familiar—they’ve reached the end of their evolutionary line and can't really be improved upon. Then there are objects that represent a world that no longer is: wonderful old ties that men used to wear in the country, even when they went angling.
In the archive, like any good museum, I felt a connection to the past, to people who cared about the things I care about. Not just the clothes, but a connection to the natural world, to fishing, to being outside. Then, to my surprise, I felt a sense of closeness to the people in the future who would care about those things too.
You can read my full story and see more photos here.