Maine, largest of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by New Hampshire (W), the Canadian provinces of Quebec (NW) and New Brunswick (NE), the Bay of Fundy (E), and the Atlantic Ocean (the Gulf of Maine; SE).
Facts and Figures
Area, 33,215 sq mi (86,027 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,328,361, a 4.2% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Augusta. Largest city, Portland. Statehood, Mar. 15, 1820 (23d state). Highest pt., Mt. Katahdin, 5,268 ft (1,607 m); lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Pine Tree State. Motto,Dirigo [I Direct]. State bird, chickadee. State flower, white pine cone and tassel. State tree, Eastern white pine. Abbr., Me.; ME
Located in the extreme northeast corner of the United States, Maine consists largely of a coastal plain of eroded valleys, with more resistant rock forming the generally mountainous west (the Longfellow Mts., an extension of the White Mts. and part of the great Appalachian system), Mt. Desert and other islands in the east, and isolated peaks including Katahdin (5,268 ft/1,606 m), the highest point in the state. Receding glaciers deposited long drift ridges across the countryside and dammed the valleys to form more than 2,200 lakes (Moosehead Lake is the largest) and to establish new, rugged watercourses for more than 5,000 streams and rivers. The major rivers are the St. John (which, with the St. Croix, forms part of the international boundary with New Brunswick), the Penobscot, the Kennebec, the Androscoggin, and the Saco. The sea has encroached on the low coastal valleys, leaving a jigsawed coastline of 3,500 mi (5,630 km), including numerous irregular and rocky islands offshore. East of Casco Bay the coast of Maine is rugged and wild, but farther west the shoreline has sandy beaches and marshy lowlands.
Over 80% of Maine is forested with great stands of white pine, hemlock, spruce, fir, and hardwoods. Sheltered by the woods and with abundant water from numerous lakes, particularly in the northern counties, wildlife includes moose, deer, black bear, and smaller animals; fish and fowl are also plentiful.
The population of Maine is centered on the cleared land along the coast and major rivers. Augusta is the capital; Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor are the largest cities. Maine's two great parks are Acadia National Park on and around Mt. Desert Island; and Baxter State Park, which includes the northern end of the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin in the N Maine wilderness.
Maine's generally poor soil, short growing season, and remoteness from industrial and commercial centers have long militated against development and population growth. Lumbering, shipbuilding, and textile production have all enjoyed booms in the past, but changes in technology and competition from other states have always undercut the state's economic position.
In the 1980s, however, Maine successfully transformed a major portion of its economy into trade, service, and finance industries, the greatest growth occurring in and around Portland. Picturesque coastal and island resorts and the promise of tranquil outdoor life hold a strong appeal for tourists, recreational and seasonal visitors, and, increasingly, retirees, and tourism is an important contributor to the state's economy.
Many of Maine's traditional economic activities have experienced difficult times in recent years. Fishing, the state's earliest industry, has declined considerably, although lobsters are still caught in abundance. Lumbering—the first sawmill in America was built in 1623 on the Piscataqua River—dominated industry and the export trade from the days when the white pines provided masts for the British navy, but with the big trees largely exhausted, Maine loggers now produce chiefly pulp for papermaking. The proximity of harbors to forests early encouraged shipbuilding, which reached its peak in the 19th cent. With the disappearance of wooden ships and the related timber trade, commercial activity slackened. Portland, the largest port, now operates far below its substantial capacity, handling chiefly oil for the pipeline to Montreal. Bath Iron Works, which builds warships, remains the state's largest single-site employer.
Manufacturing is still the largest sector in the state's economy. Maine is a leading producer of paper and wood products, which are the most valuable of all manufactures in the state. Food products and transportation equipment are also important, but production of leather goods (especially shoes) has declined. The mineral wealth of the state is considerable. Many varieties of granite, including some superior ornamental types, have been used for construction throughout the nation. Sand and gravel, zinc, and peat are found in addition to stone. However, much of Maine's abundant natural and industrial resources remain undeveloped.
Agriculture has always struggled with adverse soil and climatic conditions. Since the opening of richer farmlands in the West, Maine has tended to concentrate on dairying, poultry raising and egg production, and market gardening for the region. The growing of potatoes, particularly in Aroostook County, was stimulated by the completion of the Aroostook RR in 1894. Blueberries, hay, and apples are other chief crops, and aquaculture is growing in importance.
Government and Higher Education
Maine is governed under its 1820 constitution as amended. The state has a two-house legislature of 35 senators and 151 representatives, all elected for two-year terms; the governor is elected for a four-year term and may be reelected once. Maine politics are noted for their unpredictability. Angus King, an independent, won the governorship in 1994 and again in 1998; he was succeeded by John Baldacci, a Democrat, elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006. In 2010 and 2014 Republican Paul LePage was elected governor. The state elects two representatives and two senators to the U.S. Congress and has four electoral votes.
Among the state's leading educational institutions are Bowdoin College, at Brunswick; Colby College, at Waterville; Bates College, at Lewiston; the Univ. of Maine, with campuses at Orono and five other locations; and the Univ. of Southern Maine, at Portland.
Early Inhabitants and European Colonization
The earliest human habitation in what is now Maine can be traced back to prehistoric times, as evidenced by the burial mounds of the Red Paint people found in the south central part of the state. The Native Americans who came later left enormous shell heaps, variously estimated to be from 1,000 to 5,000 years old. At the time of settlement by Europeans the Abnaki were scattered along the coast and in some inland areas.
The coast of Maine, which may have been visited by the Norsemen, was included in the grant that James I of England awarded to the Plymouth Company, and colonists set out under George Popham in 1607. Their settlement, Fort St. George, on the present site of Phippsburg at the mouth of the Kennebec (then called the Sagadahoc) River, did not prosper, and the colonists returned to England in 1608. The French came to the area in 1613 and established a colony and a Jesuit mission on Mt. Desert Island; however, the English under Sir Samuel Argall expelled them.
In 1620 the Council for New England (successor to the Plymouth Company) granted Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason the territory between the Kennebec and Merrimack rivers extending 60 mi (97 km) inland. At this time the region became known as Maine, either to honor Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I, who was feudal proprietor of the province in France called Maine, or to distinguish the mainland from the offshore islands. Neglected after Gorges's death in 1647, Maine settlers came under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652. King Philip's War (1675–76) was the first of many struggles between the British on one side and the French and Native Americans on the other, all of which slowed further settlement of Maine.
French influence, which had been reasserted east of the Penobscot, declined rapidly after 1688, when Sir Edmund Andros, royal governor of all New England, seized French fortifications there. After the colonists overthrew Andros, Massachusetts received a new charter (1691) that confirmed its hold on Maine. With Sir William Phips, a Maine native, as governor and the territorial question settled, local government and institutions in the Massachusetts tradition took root in Maine. Maine soon had prosperous fishing, lumbering, and shipbuilding industries.
Revolution and Economic Development
Dissatisfaction with British rule was first expressed openly after Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765; in protest, a mob at Falmouth (Portland) seized a quantity of the hated stamps. As conflicts increased between the colonies and England, nonimportation societies formed to boycott English goods sprang up in Maine. During the American Revolution Falmouth paid dearly for its defiance; it was devastated by a British fleet in 1775. In that same year Benedict Arnold led his grueling, unsuccessful expedition against Quebec through Maine.
During the war supplies were cut off and conflicts with Native Americans were frequent, but with American independence won, economic development was rapid in what was then called the District of Maine, one of the three admiralty districts of Massachusetts set up by the Continental Congress in 1775. However, the Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812 interrupted the thriving commerce and turned the district toward industrial development.
Statehood and Prosperity
Agitation for statehood, which had been growing since the Revolution, now became widespread. Dissatisfaction with Massachusetts was aroused by the inadequate military protection provided during the War of 1812; by the land policy, which encouraged absentee ownership; and by the political differences between conservative Massachusetts and liberal Maine. The imminent admission of Missouri into the Union as a slave state hastened the separation of Maine from Massachusetts, and equality of power between North and South was preserved by admitting Maine as a free state in 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise.
With Portland as its capital (moved to Augusta in 1832) the new state entered a prosperous period. During the first half of the 19th cent. Maine enjoyed its greatest population increase. A highly profitable timber trade was carried on with the West Indies, Europe, and Asia, and towns such as Bath became leaders in American shipbuilding. The long-standing Northeast Boundary Dispute almost precipitated border warfare between Maine and New Brunswick in the so-called Aroostook War of 1839; the controversy was settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain in 1842.
Political Issues since the 1850s
Political life was vigorous, particularly in the 1850s when the reluctance of the Democrats, who had been dominant since 1820, to take a firm antislavery stand swept the new Republican party into power. Hannibal Hamlin was a leading Republican politician and was vice president during Abraham Lincoln's first administration. Antislavery sentiment was strong, and Maine made sizable contributions of men and money to the Union in the Civil War. Generals Oliver O. Howard and Joshua L. Chamberlain were from Maine. For decades regulation of the liquor traffic was the chief political issue in Maine, and the state was the first to adopt (1851) a prohibition law. It was incorporated into the constitution in 1884 and was not repealed until 1934.
State politics entered a hectic stage in 1878 when the newly organized Greenback party combined with the Democrats to carry the election, ending more than 20 years of Republican rule. The following year the coalition was accused of manipulating election returns, a charge sustained by the state supreme court, which seated a rival legislature elected by the Republicans. In 1880 the fusionists were again successful, but from that time until the 1950s the state was generally Republican, providing that party with such national leaders as James G. Blaine, Thomas B. Reed, and Margaret Chase Smith, who in 1948 became the first Republican woman U.S. senator. Former U.S. Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie, a Democrat, was elected governor in 1954. In 1964 and 1968 (when Muskie, then a U.S. senator, ran unsuccessfully for vice president) the state voted Democratic in the presidential election for the first time since 1912.
In 1969 personal and corporate income taxes were added to the sales tax within the state. Maine's population grew 13.2% during the 1970s and 9.2% during the 1980s, its largest increases since the 1840s. Environmental issues have occupied the state's attention in recent decades. In an attempt to revive native salmon populations, river logging was banned in the 1970s, and some dams have been removed or slated for removal. Maine voters narrowly defeated several referendum proposals to hasten the scheduled 1997 closing of the nuclear power plant at Wiscasset. The effects of clear-cutting practices in Maine's forests and of large-scale fish farming along the coast were also focuses of debate.
See Federal Writers' Project, Maine, a Guide Down East (2d ed. 1970); L. D. Rich, The Coast of Maine (3d ed. 1970); M. Dibner, Seacoast Maine, People and Places (1973); E. Schriver and D. Smith, Maine: A History Through Selected Readings (1985); D. Delorme, ed., The Maine Atlas and Gazeteer (1988)