Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Maine
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Northeasternmost state of the USA and the largest of the New England states, bordered to the northwest by Québec, Canada, to the north and east by New Brunswick, Canada, to the east and south by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the southwest by New Hampshire; area 79,932 sq km/30,862 sq mi; population (2010) 1,328,361; capital Augusta. It is the sole US state to be contiguous with only one other US state, and West Quoddy Head is the easternmost US point; the state is popularly known as ‘Down East’. Over 80% of the state is forested and it has many offshore islands. The economy is led by the service industry, and manufacturing, lumber, shipbuilding, farming, and fishing are also important. Products include paper and pulp, wood products, textiles, potatoes, blueberries, and apples. The largest city is Portland, and other towns and cities include Lewiston, Bangor, Auburn, and South Portland. Originally home to the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy peoples, Maine was settled by the French in 1604. It was purchased by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677, but intensive settlement did not start until the late 18th century. Maine was admitted to the Union in 1820 as the 23rd US state.

Physical Maine divides into three main areas of land: Coastal Lowland, the eastern New England Upland, and the White Mountains region. The southeast of Maine is coastal lowland, as the state's terrain slopes gradually to the Atlantic. The coastline is heavily indented as a result of postglacial flooding of river valleys, which turned high land into more than 2,000 islands, large bays, and peninsulas. The total coastal length from Kittery in the southwest to Eastport in the northeast is 5,600 km/3,500 mi; as a direct line it measures only 367 km/228 mi. The coast is rugged, formed chiefly of granite, with salt marshes and many coves. Maine's coastal lowlands are very much at sea level but on Mount Desert Island, in Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain stands 467 m/1,532 ft above sea level, the highest point on the US eastern seaboard. To the southwest of Casco Bay there are several long sand beaches, of which Old Orchard Beach is the best known.

Northwest of Maine's coastal lowlands is the eastern New England Upland, a region of lakes and streams fed by springs and melted snow. The Aroostock Plateau has rich soils and is primarily a potato-producing region. In northwestern Maine the Longfellow Mountains extend from New Hampshire and reach 1,606 m/5,268 ft at Mount Katahdin, the state's highest point; the peak, in Baxter State Park, is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. There are many hundreds of lakes in this region.

Maine's chief rivers are the Androscoggin and Saco, originating in New Hampshire, flowing across southern Maine, and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The Penobscot and Kennebec rivers have their source in lakes in northern Maine and flow through the centre of the state. The Ste Croix and St John rivers form partial borders between Maine and New Brunswick. Maine's largest lake is Moosehead in western-central Maine, covering 310 sq km/120 sq mi. Maine's other major lakes include the Belgrades, the Grands, Rangeley, and Sebago.

Maine's rivers and lakes are rich in brook trout, salmon, bass, perch, and pickerel. Alewives, bass, and shad spawn in Maine's coastal rivers. The state's coastal waters have cod, flounder, haddock, hake, herring, mackerel, pollock, sea scallops, striped bass, and tuna. Sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and quahogs are also found. Clams, eels, mussels, oysters, shad, and waterfowl thrive in Maine's salt marshes. Most of Maine's lobsters are found around Rockland at the edge of Penobscot Bay, where there are many islands. This area has marine snails, brine shrimps, seaweed species including sea wrack and knotted wrack, and a type of algae known as Irish moss. Penobscot Bay is considered one of the most diverse and productive habitats anywhere at the oceanic-continental edge.

More than 80% of Maine is forested; pines dominate and other trees include the balsam fir, basswood, beech, hemlock, maple, oak, pine, spruce, and white and yellow birch. Speckled alder, witch hazel, chokeberries, shadbush, sumac, and thorn apples are common smaller trees and shrubs. Blueberry bushes are widespread. Maine's wild flowers include anemone, black-eyed Susan, crowberry, goldenrod, harebell, white ox-eye daisy, wild bergamot, lavender, and wild lily of the valley.

Maine's wildlife includes moose, bobcats, black bears, white-tailed deer, beavers, foxes, lynxes, martens, raccoons, and skunks. Harbour seals are year-round residents, particularly common in Penobscot Bay. Harp, ring, and hooded seals migrate into Maine during the winter. Maine has many different kinds of birds, from buntings, chickadees, grackles, owls, swallows, thrushes, woodpeckers, and wrens to cormorants, ducks, gulls, loons, petrels, razorbills, laughing gulls, and Arctic and roseate terns. Maine's mudflats provide a perfect habitat for shore birds.

Features Maine has many surviving colonial monuments and sites as well as historic fishing and lumber towns. American Indian relics are preserved in the Robert Abbe Museum of Stone Age Antiquities in Bar Harbor. Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, near Calais and South Berwick, mark the first permanent settlements in Maine, among the oldest in the USA. South Berwick is home to Sarah Orne Jewett House (1774), where the writer spent much of her life. Also in South Berwick are Hamilton House, Sayward-Wheeler House, Gilman Garrison House, Governor John Langdon House, Jackson House, and Rundlet-May House, historic buildings preserved for public viewing by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

The oldest public building in Maine is Old Gaol Museum, in York, which dates from 1653. The oldest house in Portland is Tate House, dating from 1755. Also in Portland, Wadsworth-Longfellow House was where the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow spent his boyhood. Portland Head Light, near Portland, dates from 1791 and is one of the oldest lighthouses in the USA. Old Port Exchange, Portland, is a renovated 19th-century waterfront area.

Augusta is home to Fort Western, dating from 1754. Machias is famous for the Burnham Tavern, dating from around 1770, where colonists plotted the first naval battle of the American Revolution. First Parish Church was the site of Maine's only constitutional convention, held in 1819. Other important buildings include Black Mansion in Ellsworth (1820); Fort Kent (1839); Artist's Covered Bridge, Newry (1872); and Prout's Neck, the summer home of the artist Winslow Homer, near Portland Head Light. Ogunquit was a 19th-century artists' colony, and nearby Perkins Cove is one of the most picturesque coves in the state.

Other historic features in Maine include Perham's Mineral Store, in West Paris; the L L Bean store in Freeport; Kittery, with factory outlet stores; Poland Spring, source of mineral water; the tourist town of Camden; the University of Maine at Orono; and Bowdoin College at Brunswick (1794). The town of Norway was famous for the manufacture of snowshoes. Seashore Trolley Museum, near Kennebunkport, has a large electric railway exhibition, and Shore Village Museum in Rockland has the largest collection of lighthouse lenses in the USA.

As well as its historic towns, Maine has abundant natural beauty and is largely unspoilt by modern development. Acadia National Park – including Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island – was the first national park in the eastern USA. Baxter State Park is a wilderness area of 818 sq km/202,064 acres and home to Mount Katahdin. Roosevelt Campobello International Park includes the summer home of President F D Roosevelt. George Bush (US president 1989–93) and his son George W Bush (US president 2001–08), received many foreign leaders at their summer residence in the seaside town of Kennebunkport.

Culture Maine continues to be dominated by its fishing and lumber industries and by its rugged physical beauty. Its culture is marked by respect for, and knowledge of, the land and the sea that shaped its history. Most inhabitants of Maine have English, French, Irish, French-Canadian, or German ancestry. Maine's history is well preserved and is particularly evident at the Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, and at the Penobscot Marine Museum, in Searsport, with paintings, ship models, nautical paraphernalia, historic whale teeth and whalebone relics. The Maine State Museum in Augusta provides a chronicle of the state's long history. Blue-collar culture predominates among Maine natives, reflecting the state's fishing and logging activities.

Maine is also well known as the playground of urban New Englanders, known as the ‘summer people’, who travel from such cities as Boston and New York to summer in vacation houses, usually close to the beach. These houses are often passed down through generations of families and some date back to the early 19th century. There are also many such homes available on the rental market, and Maine has a seasonal influx of visitors, transforming some towns into tourist resorts during the warmer months. Much of the Penobscot Bay economy depends upon this holiday market, and the maintenance of summer homes is a way of life for many locals.

Dating from at least the time of Henry David Thoreau's explorations of the state, Maine has a long history of liberal education. It is home to one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the USA, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, which houses the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Maine is extremely popular with artists, writers, and musicians as a place of tranquillity and inspiration. It has a strong culture of arts promotion and is a major destination for summer arts and music camps, workshops, and conferences. Rockland is home to the William A Farnsworth Art Museum, with a specialized collection examining Maine's role in US art. The museum includes the Wyeth Center, celebrating the work of the artist Andrew Wyeth. The Portland Museum of Art has a 1983 wing designed by the firm of I M Pei that houses a collection of US art.

Maine is also rich in music practice and performance, ranging from folk to modern and classical. The Maine Country Music Association and Down East Country Music Association are both dedicated to preserving old-time and modern country music, including the Maine tradition of yodelling. Based in Lewiston-Auburn and touring throughout rural Maine, the Maine Music Society supports the Maine Chamber Ensemble and the Androscoggin Chorale. The Down East Friends of the Folk Arts provides a full schedule of folk music and dance events.

Maine's chief opera companies are Augusta Opera, Opera Maine in Steuben, and the Portland Opera. The Rockport Opera House is home to the Bay Chamber Concerts featuring classical, jazz, and other concerts year round. Maine has two symphony orchestras, the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. There are numerous chamber music ensembles throughout the state.

The Arcady Music Festival presents classical music concerts in northern Maine, with an emphasis on programmes for young listeners. The Bowdoin International Music Festival incorporates a music school and the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music at Bowdoin College. The Portland Chamber Music Festival takes place annually in August and features international artists. Maine has numerous theatre and dance companies. Maine State Ballet is based in Falmouth and the Maine State Music Theatre is in Brunswick. The Maine Shakespeare Festival takes place July to August and is produced by the Penobscot Theatre Company. The Maine Sidewalk Art Festival takes place in late August or early September in Portland.

Maine's traditional fishing and seafaring culture is reflected in the Clam Festival in Yarmouth; the Belfast Bay Festival in the town of Belfast in Penobscot Bay; Windjammer Days at Boothbay Harbor; and the Retired Skippers Race in Castine. There is a Blueberry Festival in Union every August, and various summertime fairs take place in Bangor, Cumberland Center, Farmington, Fryeburg, Presque Isle, Skowhegan, Topsham, Union, and Windsor. Recreation centres on outdoor activities such as deer and moose hunting, mountaineering, fishing, yachting, boating, canoeing on the Allagush Wilderness Waterway, and hiking.


Maine's state constitution Maine is governed under its original state constitution, adopted in 1820 when Maine first became a state.

Structure of state government The Maine legislature is a 35-member Senate and a 151-member House of Representatives. There are 35 senators, one for each senatorial district, and 151 representative districts, each of which elects one representative. Senators and representatives serve two-year terms. Two representatives and two senators are sent to the US Congress, and the state has four electoral votes in presidential elections.

The people of Maine elect a governor to a four-year term who may serve any number of terms but not more than two in succession. Republican Paul LePage took the governorship in January 2011. Maine has no lieutenant governor. The state has a tradition for electing candidates on the moderate wings of the Democrat and Republican parties and has elected a number of independent governors in recent decades.

The highest court is the Supreme Judicial Court, with a chief justice and six associate justices each serving a seven-year term. The Superior Court is Maine's trial court of general jurisdiction and is the only level of court where jury trials are available. The district court has 36 judges who preside in 13 districts at locations throughout the state.

Maine's 22 cities all have home rule of a mayor-council or city-manager form of government. There are 432 towns and 34 incorporated areas, known as plantations. The chief town officials are called selectmen. Each plantation is governed by a board of assessors. There are hundreds of townships grouped together into territories, and three self-governing American Indian townships governed by tribal councils.

Economy Maine's state economy is led by the service industries that cater to millions of tourists each year. Manufacturing, however, remains important, as are lumber and farming. Maine has the highest percentage of forested area in any US state, and much of it is privately owned. Maine's most important industrial product is paper and pulp, followed by wood products, electrical components, footwear, and leather and textiles, especially woven wool products. Fishing is significant; Maine has an extremely valuable annual catch, particularly of soft shellfish, and ranks as one of the leading fishing states in the USA. Shipbuilding and boat repair are important activities. Maine is the largest exporter of blueberries in the USA, and other agricultural products include dairy and market garden produce, especially apples. Potatoes are the most valuable agricultural crop, and oats and vegetables are also grown. Canneries, food processing, and packing also take place. Maine has notable resources of copper, silver, lead, and zinc as well as brick clay, feldspar, garnet, peat, sand and gravel, and stone.

HistoryEarly settlement Maine was first of all home to the Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy, Abnaki, and Etchemin tribes of Algonquian Indians, who lived along the Penobscot River in relative harmony with white settlers. There were probably many early visitors to the region, including the Vikings, and possibly Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto, but the French sent the largest number of explorers to the area. Samuel de Champlain explored and named Mount Desert, the largest island along Maine's coast, for France as early as 1604. British explorers Ferdinando Gorges and George Popham attempted a settlement in 1607 at Popham Beach (now in Phippsburg), which was followed in the 1620s by the establishment of numerous small coastal communities and offshore fishing stations. The region acquired the name of Maine during this period.

There were many land ownership disputes during the 1600s. Ferdinando Gorges established Maine's first government in 1636, and in 1641 a community named Gorgeana, now York, became the first chartered English city in what is now the USA. After Gorges' death in 1647, Casco Bay, Kennebunk, Saco, and Scarborough organized to join the Massachusetts Bay Colony but in 1664 an English board of commissioners restored Maine to the Gorges family. The Massachusetts Bay Colony purchased Maine from the Gorges family in 1677, but intensive settlement did not occur until the late 18th century. The French and Indian wars, a series of conflicts that culminated in the French and Indian War, the North American arm of the Seven Years' War, brought disruption to life in the state during the 1740s and 1750s that was not ended until the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

The Revolution and statehood As anti-British feeling spread through the colonies, Maine patriots burned a supply of British tea stored at York in 1774. Falmouth (now Portland) was later burned by the British. In the first naval battle of the American Revolution, off Machias, in June 1775, Maine patriots captured the British ship Margaretta. British troops occupied Castine in 1779.

The Embargo Act of 1807 slowed Maine's shipping and shipbuilding industry, but the region was able to diversify its manufacturing industries and began to develop a more secure economy. Bitterness at the Massachusetts government's taxation policy and at the lack of transport development funding in the Maine region led to a separatist movement that achieved statehood for Maine in 1820. Portland was the first capital, and Augusta became the capital in 1832. Boundary disputes led to the Aroostook War of 1839 and the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which finally settled the border with New Brunswick.

In 1846 Maine was the first US state to impose a temperance law, banning the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Maine fostered many religious movements, particularly Baptist and Congregationalist, that opposed slavery on moral grounds, and many Maine natives fought on the Union side during the Civil War. The vice president of the USA during the Civil War was Hannibal Hamlin, a former US senator and governor of Maine.

Industrial development Both the natural forest resources and the sea have been major determinants in Maine's history: shipbuilding, for example, utilizing towering ‘mast pines’, among other resources, was important from the 18th century. During the 19th century the leather and textile industries in Maine grew rapidly. Hydroelectric power developed during the 1890s.

Maine's economy expanded significantly during World War II, when mills and factories were required to produce army clothing and footwear. The tourist industry developed throughout the 20th century, with manufacturing remaining important: at the end of the 20th century Maine had the largest papermaking capacity of any of the US states.

The state's harsh winters and difficult soil have combined throughout its history to limit population growth, and in general terms it has remained economically depressed. More recent issues for Maine have included Indian tribal land claims and negotiations, environmental protection, nuclear waste disposal, and overfishing. Globalization has adversely affected some of Maine's industries, particularly in fishing and footwear manufacturing.

Famous peoplethe arts Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), poet; Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909), author; Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856–1923), author; Edward Arlington Robinson (1869–1935), poet; Edna St Vincent Millay (1892–1950), poet; John Ford (1895–1973), film director; Stephen King (1947– ), horror writer

science Marston Morse (1892–1977), mathematician

society and education Dorothea Dix (1802–1887), medical reformer

politics and law Ferdinando Gorges (c. 1566–1647), English colonial leader and governor; George Popham (unknown–1608), English colonial leader; Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891), vice president of the USA; Margaret Chase Smith (1897–1995), first woman elected to both houses of the US Congress; Edmund S Muskie (1914–1996), Democratic politician.


Eagle Lake, Maine

Maine – flag

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Maine
Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

\mān\ A northeast state of U.S.A., bounded on N and E by Canadian province of New Brunswick, on S by Atlantic Ocean, on W by New...

Full text Article Maine
Philip's Encyclopedia

State in New England , extreme NE USA; the capital is Augusta . The largest city is Portland . The land is generally rolling country with...

See more from Credo