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Biddeford History & Heritage Project

Sharing the history of a proud city rising where the water falls

James Montgomery Flagg

This slideshow contains 6 items
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I want you for U.S. Army / James Montgomery Flagg.

I want you for U.S. Army / James Montgomery Flagg.

Item 34081 info
McArthur Public Library

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) was a summer resident of Biddeford Pool who became famous as an artist and illustrator. He was probably best known for his World War I poster depicting Uncle Sam saying “I Want You!” which he created in 1917.


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Children and war stamps World War I poster, 1917

Children and war stamps World War I poster, 1917

Item 14794 info
Maine Historical Society

Known by family as Monty, James Montgomery Flagg said in his autobiography "Roses and Buckshot" that he began drawing at the age of two, though “not very well.” When he was 12, the national magazine "St. Nicholas" published one of his illustrations for $10, and by the time he was 16 he had become part of the paid staff of both "Life" and "Judge" magazines. As a teenager, he had no interest in formal education, and much preferred the company of adults to his peers.


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James Montgomery Flagg and Rupert Hughes at Biddeford Pool, ca. 1915

James Montgomery Flagg and Rupert Hughes at Biddeford Pool, ca. 1915

Item 29038 info
McArthur Public Library

Flagg’s career as an author, illustrator, and artist took him on travels from Europe to Hollywood, and his social circle included the rich and famous. He remained fond of his home in Biddeford Pool, however, and brought many of his friends to stay at the house he designed and built there. In his autobiography, James Montgomery Flagg referred to Biddeford Pool as a " tiny Maine Fishing Village." He recounted that he wrote about local folks for a magazine article, thinking he was disguising their identities by changing their names. In spite of the fact that he meant to be "funny and not at all derogatory," people saw through the ruse and stopped talking to him for a while, causing Flagg to declare, "They're powerful tetchy down East."


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In a Class by Itself

In a Class by Itself

Item 34082 info
McArthur Public Library

Never one to hold back on his opinions, James Montgomery Flagg expressed himself publicly and often about political issues, race, standards of feminine beauty, education, and motion pictures. When he became incensed by the condition of the road between downtown Biddeford and Biddeford Pool, he published a cartoon and poem in the "Biddeford Weekly Journal". By 1926 the road was improved enough so that he submitted another cartoon and poem, concluding, "Well, Mr. Mayor, Our hats off to you--Long life and more power to Doctor Precou'!"


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James Montgomery Flagg and dog, Biddeford Pool, circa 1915

James Montgomery Flagg and dog, Biddeford Pool, circa 1915

Item 29052 info
McArthur Public Library

James Montgomery Flagg was married twice, first in 1899 to Nellie McCormick, whom he met at Biddeford Pool. After she died in 1923, he married Dorothy Wadman, with whom he had a daughter, Faith.

During World War II, Flagg once again illustrated patriotic posters, and received a letter of commendation from President Franklin Roosevelt. In addition to his work as an artist and writer, he also found time to become involved in theater, both as an actor and as a writer for "motion pictures."


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Biddeford Pool, ca. 1910

Biddeford Pool, ca. 1910

Item 23618 info
McArthur Public Library

In 1946 Flagg expressed his affection for Biddeford by donating a painting of Biddeford Pool to the Webber Hospital Auxiliary, accompanied by the comment, “I loved the Pool.” James Montgomery Flagg died in 1960 at his New York apartment, leaving behind a legacy of patriotic posters, strong opinions, and a fondness for his time in Biddeford Pool.


This slideshow contains 6 items