Maine State History

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General State History
Historic Figures

General Maine State History

While there is evidence that Maine's earliest inhabitants were descendants of Ice Age hunters, the Micmacs and Abanakis (or Wabanakis) were credited with the earliest settlement of Maine. The Micmacs of eastern Maine and New Brunswick were largely a warlike people, while the more numerous Abnakis were a peaceful nation, given to farming and fishing as a way of life. Although dozens of tribes once inhabited the land, only two remain today. Passamaquoddies (1,500) live on two reservations, the largest of which is located Pleasant Point near Eastport. The Penobscots (1,200) live on Indian Island in the Penobscot River at Old Town.

The first white settlement was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Because the Popham colony didn't survive the harsh Maine winters, Jamestown enjoys the distinction of being regarded as America's first permanent settlement.

The question of Maine's ownership was a matter of continuing dispute between England and France throughout the first half of the 18th century. The period was also marked by a series of Indian raids on white settlements which had the active support of the French interested in seeing the English settlers driven from the land.

In the late-1700s, a number of battles flared up in Maine during the Revolutionary War. Maine opposed the oppressive colonial tax policies of the British Government. The Revolution cost Maine dearly. About 1,000 men lost their lives in the war, the district's sea trade was all but destroyed, the principal city had been leveled by bombardment, and Maine's overall share of the war debt amounted to more than would later be imposed upon it by the Civil War.

Congress established Maine as the 23rd state under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This arrangement allowed Maine to join the Union as a free state, with Missouri entering a year later as a slave state, thereby preserving the numerical balance between free and slave states in the nation.

Once Maine became a separate state there followed a period of tremendous economic growth in which a number of important mining manufacturing industries emerged. Lumbering, traditional fishing and shipbuilding pursuits entered a boom period and ice harvesting, granite and lime quarrying also developed as important industries.

Water-powered factories began to spring up beside the numerous sawmills already located along Maine's important rivers. Textiles, paper and leather products all became primary sources of manufacturing employment.

Fishing and farming were also important, but were subject to greater economic fluctuations. The overall economic picture - although periodically disturbed by such developments as the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution - continued on a relatively prosperous course throughout the remainder of the 19th century.

Maine's textile and leather industries enjoyed a dramatic upward surge following the Civil War, while farming activity correspondingly decreased. Responding to Thomas Edison's discoveries in the 1890s, Maine began utilizing its vast river resources for the development of hydroelectric power. Plants for the production of electricity were built principally on the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Penobscot and Saco Rivers.

Maine's industrial growth continued, although at a much slower pace, into the 20th century. Expansion of the pulp and paper industry offset the loss of textile mills to the South. Large potato-growing, dairy and poultry farms replaced the decreasing number of small family farms.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century' Maine has struggled to find a proper balance between resource-based industrial development and environmental protection. The state has come to rely heavily on tourism, small manufacturing enterprises defense-related activities and installations for much of its economic base.
Maine Historic Figures

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807-1882. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine and was educated at Bowdoin College. Longfellow became one of the best loved American poets of all time with works such as "The Song of Hiawatha" and "The Courtship of Miles Standish". He earned great fame as one of the first poets to use themes of the landscape and Native American culture as the focus of his work. At the young age of 19, Longfellow was asked by Bowdoin College to serve as their Chair of Modern Languages.


Harriet Beecher Stowe
1811-1896. During the time she lived in Maine, Harriet Beecher Stowe became one of the most important figures during the Civil War period by penning perhaps the most influential novel of its time. While living in Brunswick, Maine, Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, a story that was sympathetic towards the plight of slaves in the United States. Highly controversial, this novel stirred up emotions on both sides the slavery issue and was often used as a symbol to rally the abolitionist movement.


James Blaine
1830-1893. James Blaine began his career as a journalist in Maine before going on to become one of the nation's most prominent politicians. After serving in the Maine State Legislature for three years, Blaine was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served as Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1875. In 1884, Blaine earned the Republican Party's nomination for President of the United States and was narrowly defeated by Grover Cleveland. Blaine was also named the U.S. Secretary of State twice by Presidents Garfield and Harrison.


Senator Margaret Chase Smith
1897-1995. Skowhegan native Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948 making her the first ever elected to this position and also the first women to serve in both houses of Congress. Smith distinguished herself in office by being one of the politicians to openly stand against the "Red Scare" politics of the 1950's. Smith also made history by running for President in 1964, becoming the first woman be seriously considered for nomination.


Former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie
1914-1996. Muskie was born in Rumford, Maine and studied at Bates College. He began his political career as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and later served for two terms as Maine's Governor. In 1958, Muskie was elected to the U.S. Senate where served for 22 years. He became President Carter's Secretary of State in 1980 and served as in integral member of the Tower Commission during the Iran - Contra Scandal. Muskie also ran for President in 1972 and was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President in the 1968 election. A graduate program for public policy was established in his name at the University of Maine.