Biography of Guy Kendall
Flipping through the pages of the Kendall photo collection, the viewer sees the world of early 20th century Maine and New England harness racing through the eyes of Portland, Maine photographer Guy Kendall. For nearly five decades, Kendall visited race tracks in Maine and New England supplementing his income as a portrait photographer by photographing standard bred horses for owners.
World War I
Guy Kendall was no stranger to death and tragedy. He was born February 7, 1893 in Mechanic Falls, Maine, to William F. Kendall, a brick mason, and Alberta E. Whitney Kendall. He reported himself being of medium height and slender build with brown eyes and hair on his World War I enlistment papers in August 1917. Already a professional photographer when he enlisted, Private First Class Kendall trained with a medical unit at Camp Upton, Long Island, N.Y. He was stationed at Meuse-Argonne, France, 1918-1919, where he served throughout One Hundred Days Offensive—the deadliest period of WWI for American soldiers. Kendall played witness to only a portion of the over 1 million casualties on the Western front. He also doubtlessly saw the destruction of countless U.S. cavalry horses but, according to his niece, Anne Kendall Holmbom, Kendall never discussed his war experiences with family.
After the war, Kendall returned to Portland where he lived with his aunt Mary B. Kendall, worked as a photographer, and studied. He eventually owned his own portrait studio on Congress Street. The visual record of his career as a race track photographer begins July 4, 1924 at Portland Fair Grounds. Photo albums from 1924 through 1927 show Kendall’s development as a photographer with his first finish-line photo captured at Rochester, late summer 1927.
On the 10th anniversary of the Armistice, Kendall married Ruth B. Bennett Buck, a Portland widow who worked as a dental assistant. Tragically, within five years, Kendall’s bride was dead. Stricken with multiple fractures of the jaw in a car accident, Ruth succumbed to a bacterial infection of the heart four months later, in July 1933. A month following her death, Kendall returned to the race track and threw himself into his work. The number of photos taken at each event increased by several fold as Kendall shot and painstakingly documented thousands of photos over the next 15 years.
In 1948, Kendall married a second time to Elizabeth Reed Robie of Gorham. It was a first marriage for the 49-year-old nurse and granddaughter of Maine Governor Frederick Robie, MD. Following this marriage, Kendall relocated to Gorham to take up residence in what is known as the Isaac E. Dyer Estate, near the close-knit Robie family. While living in Gorham, Kendall exercised his talents as an avid gardener, breeding irises and daylilies and tending his flock of banty hens named after all the ladies in the neighborhood, according to Holmbom.
Kendall continued to pursue race track photography until 1961 when, at age 68, his organized collection of photo albums ended. Kendall died in May 1983 at Togus Veterans’ Hospital after a long illness.