At the time of Millinocket’s 50th birthday in 1951, a number of its citizens received Pioneer Badges. To receive a badge, the person had to have lived in Millinocket since it was incorporated in 1901 and register at the new municipal building. Many of these pioneers were featured in the Bangor Daily News special edition, August 18-19, 1951.
One of the ladies on the list was Rosalie Rush Ryan, famed local milliner. Recently, I found a 1963 BDN article titled “Millinocket Milliner Retires after 54 Years in Business.” Rosalie and husband Dr. Matthew Ryan came from Rumford and built a home on Highland Avenue. It was one of the first homes and was constructed by her brother Frank Rush, contractor and owner of a saw mill.
Unfortunately Dr. Ryan died two years later & Mrs. Ryan was left with two young children to raise. At this time, women rarely entered the business world, but Mrs. Ryan decided to start a millinery business. The news article details Mrs. Ryan’s journey. She placed her children in a convent so she could travel to Portland and learn to make hats. Then she traveled to New York for a six month stay to learn more. Having learned the skills of a milliner, she returned to Millinocket with her children and started a hat business in her home and hired a woman to care for the children.
Later, Mrs. Ryan moved her business to brother Eugene Rush’s women’s and children’s store on Penobscot Avenue. During the next few years, many millinery businesses came and went in Millinocket, but Mrs. Rush continued on. Women today do not realize the importance hats were to women in those days. The article states that Mrs. Ryan made two trips yearly to wholesale houses to copy new styles. The proper lady of that era would only wear a hat for a season and would need to update as the styles changed. Mrs. Ryan’s first hats sold from $8 to $25 and might be trimmed with large plumes, birds of paradise, feathers, beaver etc. Hats from past seasons would sell for $5. Attempts to train several girls to make hats, failed as they said it was too difficult.
When Mrs. Ryan retired at age 86 after 54 years in business, she claimed to have sold over one million hats. Visit the museum to see one of these creations. It is a black hat, round with a label RM Ryan, Millinocket and was probably suitable for someone in mourning to wear.
The Ryan home, demolished several years ago, was located near the Great Northern Hotel facing Highland Ave. (across from former Dr. Shippee office).

***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
…and more.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or trudy18@beeline-online.net. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.