During the Civil War, the owner of a Gardiner paper mill, dangerously short on linen, got creative.So begins Michelle Pronovost's article, "Necessity of paper was the 'mummy' of invention," published last March in Capital Weekly.
Augustus Stanwood, of Stanwood & Tower paper mill on Dam. No. 5, began importing Egyptian mummies to convert their wrappings to pulp.
Provonost looked into the story, and discovered that the Gardiner Public Library has a "vertical 'Mummy' file." The original source, it turns out, was Stanwood's own son, who further stated that the linens were not disinfected at first, leading to an outbreak of cholera among the mill workers.
The Straight Dope dismisses all of this as a myth. Provonost concludes only that "if I want to prove it, I better start digging."
An old article in the Maine Antique Digest, citing an even older Maine Times article, includes the following passage:
Records of the Portland Sunday Telegram show that the mummies arrived by ship at the Portland harbor and large cases of them were then hauled by horse cart to Gardiner. There they were opened, the woven linen bindings unwound and put into vats to be reduced to pulp and made into heavy brown wrapping paper. The gums and oils used in embalming were an added value to the papermaking process. The mummies' remains were burned.Looks like the Portland (newspaper) morgue would be a good place to start digging.