Early Maine dwellers are known as the "Red Paint" people because of the red clay they use to line the graves of their dead. They are followed by the Susquehanna culture, which is the first to use pottery.
Maine’s two earliest Native American nations are the Micmac, of eastern Maine, and the Abenaki. These tribes often move several times each year, following the food supply. In the spring, they fish in the rivers and plant corn, squash, and beans along the rivers. In the winters, they venture deep into the forests of Maine to hunt for game.
By the time Europeans arrive in the region, the Passamaquoddy and Penobscots are also living in the area.
Norse sailors, lead by Leif Erikson, arrive in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Evidence suggests that they may also have reached as far south as Maine.
Giovanni da Verranzano becomes the first confirmed European to explore the coast of Maine.
Portuguese navigator Simon Ferdinando, working for the British Crown, lands on the Coast of Maine to search for treasure.
French cartographer Samuel de Champlain explores and maps portions of the Maine coastline and the Penobscot River. The French name the area Acadia.
1607–1700 EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT
The Plymouth Company establishes the first European settlement in Maine at Popham Beach, but the settlement fails to survive the winter.
Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason are granted rights to lands that make up what is now Maine and New Hampshire. Gorges names the territory "Maine."
(March 1) Georgeana, Maine becomes the first American city to incorporate. It is later renamed York.
Massachusetts annexes Maine as a frontier territory. Massachusetts officials consider Maine of strategic importance, since it is the first line of defense against potential French and Native American invasions.
King Charles II of England grants all the territory from the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean to James, Duke of York.
King Philip’s War is the first of a long and arduous battle between the English and the French for control of the North American territories, which eventually results in the Seven Years’ War. It is named after the main leader of the Native American side, Metacom, known to the English as King Philip. Metacom is killed by colonists in 1676, but attacks continue in Maine until 1677.
1700–1799 REVOLUTIONARY MAINE
The English governor forces the Acadians of Nova Scotia to uproot and leave. About 10,000 people migrate to destinations like Maine and Louisiana.
Built to carry the Organig Road over the York River in York, Sewall’s Bridge becomes the first pile bridge in North America. The original bridge is so well built it remains in use until 1934.
(June 11–12) The first naval battle of the Revolutionary War occurs off the coast of Machias. The Battle of Machias takes place is present-day eastern Maine when the townspeople decide to capture a British armed sloop. The people of Machias go on to capture additional British ships and fight off the landing of a large force intended to take control of the town. Machias continues to be a thorn in the British Navy’s side throughout the war.
Benedict Arnold marches a band of revolutionaries from Massachusetts through Maine in a failed attempt to capture British strongholds in Quebec City and Montreal. Less than half the Revolutionary Army survives the arduous trek, and the battle for Quebec becomes a disaster for American forces.
(October 16) The British fleet bombards and destroys Portland, Maine. The British intent is to carve off the eastern half of Maine as the new British province of "New Ireland."
The Bingham Purchase. Massachusetts disposes of large tracts of unsettled lands in Maine by lottery. William Bingham, a wealthy Philadelphia banker, draws several townships and purchases others to include a total area of one million acres.
Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow begins his teaching tenure at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Longfellow eventually becomes one of America’s most famed poets, penning the likes of The Song of Hiawatha and "Paul Revere’s Ride," which immortalizes the blacksmith in 1860 when the country is on the verge of the Civil War.
1800–1849 STATE OF MAINE
The War of 1812. Maine suffers more than any other region of New England. The British army and naval forces from nearby Nova Scotia capture and occupy the eastern coast from Machias to Castine. Commerce along the Maine coast stops, a critical situation for a region dependent on shipping. Maine’s vulnerability to foreign invasion and its lack of protection by Massachusetts become important factors in the post-war momentum for statehood.
Eastport, consisting entirely of islands, is the only United States–owned principality under rule by a foreign government. From 1814 to 1818, it is held by British troops under King George, following the conclusion of the War of 1812.
As a result of the Missouri Compromise, Missouri is allowed to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine to enter as a free state. Maine becomes the 23rd state and is admitted to the Union on March 15.
With its State Constitution, Maine becomes the first state to give voting rights and school privileges to all, regardless of race.
With the prevalence of wood and carpenters along the coastline, shipbuilding becomes an important industry in Maine’s coastal towns. The pulp and paper industry also becomes important to the state’s industrial development.
The Calais Railroad becomes the first railroad in Maine. It is built to transport lumber from a mill on the Saint Croix River to the tidewater at Calais.
The Aroostook War. Governor John Fairfield declares war on England over a boundary dispute between Maine and New Brunswick, marking the only time a sole state has declared war on a foreign power. The dispute is settled without bloodshed, although the final border is not established until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842.
Cotton and woolen textiles emerge as one of Maine’s most important industries.
(August 9) The Webster-Ashburton Treaty settles the Maine/New Brunswick border dispute; both sides compromise on a new boundary between the two regions. The British acquire the Halifax-Quebec route they desire and the U.S.-Canada border is adjusted to give the U.S. more land to the north.
1850–1900 THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERAS
Maine becomes the first state to outlaw the sale of all alcoholic beverages.
Author Harriet Beecher Stowe begins writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Brunswick, Maine. The novel serves as a source of inspiration for abolitionists prior to the Civil War.
(July 4) The Great Fire, started by a firecracker thrown in a woodpile, destroys much of the Old Port area of downtown Portland. Five years before the Great Chicago Fire, it is the greatest fire yet seen in an American city. Nearly 10,000 people are left homeless, and 1,800 buildings are burned to the ground.
In Eastport, Julius Wolff cans the first sardines. The quest for American sardines brought Wolff, owner of a New York brokerage firm, to eastern Maine. Eastport becomes the capital of the sardine industry, with over 100 sardine factories at its peak in 1952.
(July 4) Portland is struck by a freak summer snowstorm as it celebrates Independence Day.
1900–1930 EARLY 20TH CENTURY
Due to large numbers of Irish and French-Canadian immigrants to Maine, the state’s population is 40 percent Catholic by 1900. The immigrants are often forced to assimilate into Anglo-American culture.
The first forest fire lookout station in American is established at Squaw Mountain.
The Camp Fire Girls organization is formed in Lake Sebago as the sister organization to the Boy Scouts of America. The first nonsectarian, interracial organization for girls in the United States, it is formally presented to the public two years later.
Fisherman and hunter Leon Leonwood Bean founds the L.L. Bean company in Greenwood. Specializing in retail and mail-order outdoor clothing and equipment, in 2006 the company’s annual revenue totals $1.78 billion with stores as far away as Tokyo. The company still maintains a flagship store on Freeport’s Main Street.
The Maine Legislature appropriates $1 million for World War I. At the end of the war, Maine’s contribution to the war effort stands at $116 million, with 35,000 men having enlisted.
(November 5) Maine becomes the 19th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
(September) The women of Maine are the first in the nation to exercise the right to vote.
1930–1950 THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II
Governor Percival Baxter begins buying land in northern Maine to establish a game reserve. Over 30 years, Baxter purchases 90,000 acres, and the land is eventually established as Baxter State Park.
The State Prohibition Law is repealed, making the sale of alcohol legal for the first time in 84 years.
Two unusual men are sighted on the side of a rural road near Bar Harbor. They turn out to be Erich Gimpel, a German spy, and William Colepaugh, an American defector. They had slipped ashore from a German U-boat. Both men are captured, tried, and sentenced to death, although President Harry Truman later pardons them.
Moose hunting is banned in Maine due to the scarcity of the animal’s numbers in the state.
(October) A disastrous forest fire sweeps through the Maine coast, destroying more than 1,000 homes, leveling seven communities, and scorching 17,000 acres of Acadia National Park.
Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, making her the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress as well. In 1964 she becomes the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency in a major party primary.
1950–PRESENT MODERN MAINE
(June 1) Maine's Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first senator to denounce anti-communist crusader Joseph McCarthy’s tactics in the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The term "Vacationland" is added to Maine license plates in an attempt by the state to buttress retail and service industries linked to tourism.
The construction of the "Telstar" communications satellite in Andover, Maine, marks the beginning of the global communications revolution. The satellite carries the first transatlantic TV transmission, picking up broadcast signals from France and bouncing them down to an antenna in Maine. This delivers the first live television picture from Europe to America.
Tom and Kate Chappell found the natural products company Tom’s of Maine in Kennebunk with $5,000. Today its products are featured in more than 40,000 retail outlets. In 2006 Colgate-Palmolive purchases a controlling stake in the company for $100 million.
Maine native and resident Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, the first he sets in the fictional Maine hamlet Castle Rock, is published. Several of King’s wildly successful novels feature Castle Rock and other fictional Maine areas of the state, immortalizing the idea of the sleepy Maine town harboring dark secrets in the popular culture.
Native American tribes in Maine lay claim to 60 percent of state land; they eventually settle for $81.5 million.
(January 4–10) Maine’s worst natural disaster, the Great Ice Storm of 1998, hits the first week in January. The ice storm causes massive damage to trees and electrical infrastructure, leading to widespread long-term power outages. Roughly 700,000 of Maine’s 1.2 million residents are without electricity.
The 162-year-old Edwards Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River, is broken open to allow fish to move upstream.
Governor Angus King signs a bill that makes Maine the first state to threaten the pharmaceutical industry with price controls.
(May 14) A three-day deluge of rain turns streets into rivers, and Maine’s governor declares a state of emergency in the southern counties.
Governor John Baldacci signs a bill approving gay marriage, making Maine the fifth state to legalize the practice.
Governor John Baldacci signs a bill approving gay marriage, making Maine the fifth state to legalize the practice.
Click to enlarge an image
1000: Statue of Leif Erikson
1604: Artist's depiction of Samuel de Champlain
1675: Philip, King of Mount Hope
1755: Deportation of the Acadians
1775: Nautical chart of Machias Bay
1775: Benedict Arnold
1786: William Bingham
1794: Unveiling of the 2007 U.S. postage stamp in honor of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1839: John Fairfield
1842: Webster–Ashburton Treaty Ratification
1851:Harriet Beecher Stowe
1866: Ruins of the Great Fire at Portland
1912: Leon Leonwood Bean
1931: Governor Percival Baxter with his Irish Setter Garry Owen