March 15, 1820 – Maine Joins the Union as the 23rd State

Maine used to be a northern province of Massachusetts. Following the American Revolution, frontier settlers who resented being ruled from Boston pressed for separation.  But coastal merchants, who held the balance of political power at the time, resisted the separation movement until the War of 1812 showed that Massachusetts was unable or unwilling to provide adequate protection for the people of the district against British raids. 


But there were lots of other disputes over ownership of Maine even aside from the question of Massachusetts. In 1779, for example, the British adopted a strategy to seize parts of Maine, especially around Penobscot Bay, and make it a new colony to be called “New Ireland.” It was intended to be a permanent colony for Loyalists and a base for military action during the war. The plan ultimately failed because of a lack of interest by the British government and the determination of the Americans to keep all of Maine.

Maine entered the Union as part of the famous 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. 


The politics of the state can be puzzling. As a 2017 article in the New Yorker asks:

Is Maine on the left, on the right, or—imagine the thought—in the center? It’s less a swing state than a state of swing people, capable of voting all over the map in the same election and often identifying more with their quixotic, craggy state than with the starkly divided nation.”

2018 is shaping up to be a “slugfest.” The crowded field for governor to replace Republican firebrand Paul LePage (who must resign because of term limits) includes at least 22 candidates! Furthermore, as the Maine Press Herald reports:

Complicating the governor’s race in 2018 is a law passed by voters in 2016 that makes Maine the first state in the nation to switch to a system of ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, including for the governor’s office, the Legislature and Congress. The new law, which was repealed by the Legislature in 2017, could still be in effect for the June 2018 primary because advocates for the change have started another ballot drive under the state constitution that would allow for a so-called “people’s veto” of the Legislature’s repeal.”

If this sounds too complicated, you can always turn to one of Maine’s craft beers. Maine has more than 80 small breweries that have a total annual economic effect of more than $225 million in Maine. Piscataquis is now the only Maine county that doesn’t have a brewery. Piscataquis, although located at the geographic center of Maine, is the state’s least-populous county. But in land area, Piscataquis is one of the largest U.S. counties east of the Mississippi River. It is also one of two counties in the Northeast that has fewer than six inhabitants per square mile, the other being Hamilton County, New York.

Map of Maine highlighting Piscataquis County

Some Interesting Facts About Maine:

Maine is the only state in the United States whose name has one syllable.

Maine is the only state that shares its border with only one other state.

Approximately 90 percent of the nation’s lobster supply is caught off the coast of Maine.


Maine produces 99% of all the blueberries in the country making it the single largest producer of blueberries in the United States.

90% of the country’s toothpick supply is produced in Maine.

The Maine State Animal is the moose: Maine has more moose per mile than any other state. You can even sign up for a “moose safari” to see them.


If you go to Maine, though, it will be helpful to learn the accent. This website has tips on “how to speak like a Mainah.”


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