Maine makes up one of the oldest American states. It was technically already around when the US declared its independence from Britain in 1774. While it is not one of the bigger states, Maine has played various important roles throughout American history. Even today, it still plays an important role in the US. Learn more with these 50 Maine facts.
- Maine covers an estimated area of 35,000 km².
- Water makes up an estimated 14% of the state.
- An estimated 1.34 million people live in the state.
- This gives the state an estimated population density of 17 people for every km².
- On average, a household in Maine makes an estimated $56,000 a year.
- Native Americans settled in what would become Maine millennia after the last Ice Age.
- The French became the first Europeans to settle in the region, at Saint Croix Island, in 1604.
- The English followed the French with a colony of their own in 1607.
- Britain eventually took control of the region completely in the 1740s.
- The British and the revolutionaries fought over Maine during the American War of Independence in the 1770s.
- Maine originally started out as part of the state of Massachusetts.
- The British briefly occupied Maine during the War of 1812.
- After the war ended, Britain returned Maine to the USA.
- Maine later seceded from Massachusetts in 1820.
- In that same year, they joined the Union as a state of their own, the 23rd.
- Maine keeps its capital at Augusta, but its biggest city remains Portland.
- On average, the state stands 180 meters above sea level.
- At its lowest point, the state lies flat at sea level along its Atlantic coast.
- The state’s citizens call themselves Mainers.
- The state lies in the USA’s Eastern Time Zone, or GMT-5.
Several theories lie behind the state’s name.
The most plausible one involves the first French settlers naming the region after the former Maine Province in France. This stayed the case even after the English takeover, with the English government officially recognizing it as the region’s name in 1665. The modern state government also officially recognized this historical legacy in 2001, by setting May 6 as Franco-American Day.
That said, other theories exist as to the origin of the state’s name. One of them goes that Maine actually comes as a corrupted shorthand for the mainland, from when European explorers scouted out the coast in the past.
Another theory goes that Maine comes from the common Welsh place name, Mayne, usually those with rocky surroundings. Regardless of the various theories, scholars agree that as of today, no definite origin for the state’s name exists.
Various Native American tribes lived in Maine in the past.
The Red Paint People became the first to arrive in Maine, around 3000 BC. Their name comes from their elaborate burial grounds, and how they marked their dead with red ochre. Around 1000 BC, however, the Red Paint People disappeared, with the Susquehanna replacing them in Maine.
Over the following millennia, various Algonquian-speaking tribes would also settle in Maine. These included the Androscoggin, the Kennebec, the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Penobscot. In the late-17th century, these tribes banded together to form the Wabanaki Confederacy. They also allied with the Wampanoags from Massachusetts, and the Mahicans from New York. Together, they fought a failed attempt to drive European colonists out of their lands.
The Norwegians became the first Europeans to visit Maine in the 13th century.
As Vikings, Norwegian explorers first discovered the New World in the 10th century, when they landed in what would become Newfoundland. From there, they explored the Atlantic coast of Canada and the Northeastern USA. They even tried to find settlements of their own but failed to do so.
Archaeological evidence suggested that they interacted with the natives, in particular, the Penobscot people. The evidence also suggests that trade flourished between the Vikings and the Native Americans. And unlike with later contact with the Europeans, relations between the Vikings and the natives proved much friendlier and more respectful of each other.
Maine struggled as part of Massachusetts in the 1800s.
The biggest reason for this involved the physical distance between Maine and Massachusetts. Specifically, the two regions had no actual land connection with each other, with New Hampshire sitting between them. This led to a perception in Maine that the Massachusetts state government had no vested interest in their wellbeing. This perception became reinforced by biased rulings on land issues in Massachusetts.
These issues led to a vote in 1807 in the Massachusetts Assembly, with the goal of breaking Maine off as a separate state or territory. The vote failed, and the issues became worse when in the War of 1812, pro-British leaders in Massachusetts practically abandoned Maine without a fight. A second vote in 1819 finally led to Maine becoming a separate US territory a year later in 1820.
Maine became a state as part of the Missouri Compromise.
At the time, slavery played a major role in whether or not new states could join the Union. This came from the fact that whether or not slavery could stay legal depended on the state governments. Pro-slavery states maintained a balance in the US Congress, where the number of pro-slavery and anti-slavery states must remain equal. Maine counted among the latter, and this tangled up with them joining the Union as a state of their own.
In the end, this led to the Missouri Compromise, where the pro-slavery Missouri Territory also joined the Union as a state just like Maine did. This kept the balance in the US Congress, leading to no opposition for the new states joining as they did.
Soldiers from Maine played an important role during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of the American Civil War, from which point the Union could only win, and the Confederacy could only lose. The battle started on July 1, 1863, with General Lee leading the Confederate Army into Pennsylvania. He aimed to defeat the Union forces in the state, and taking control, hopefully, force the Union’s leaders to begin negotiating for peace.
The Union Army, led by General Meade, defended Pennsylvania and met the Confederates in battle at Gettysburg. On July 2, Maine’s 20th Volunteer Infantry Regiment fought on Little Round Top, in one of the heaviest fighting in the battle. They succeeded in driving the Confederates back, and in doing so, kept them from getting around the Union Army to attack from the back.
The US Navy had various ships named after the state.
The USS Maine went down in history as the first battleship to have the state of Maine as its namesake. It was sent by the USA to Cuba in 1898 to send a message to the Spaniards, who had their hands full dealing with anti-Spanish rebels on the island. Specifically, while the USA had no interest in interfering with Spanish affairs, that didn’t mean the Spaniards could just ignore American interests on the island.
The ship’s sinking on February 15, the cause of which remains unknown, would spark the Spanish-American War. The US Navy later named a new battleship after Maine in 1901, which they then decommissioned in 1920. Plans for a new battleship named after Maine was considered in WWII but became canceled after the war. Eventually, however, the US Navy launched a nuclear submarine named after the state in 1994, which has continued to serve to this day.
Maine has a distinct landscape.
In particular, there’s the fact that forests still cover an estimated 80% of Maine’s landscape. This actually makes the state the most forested in the entire USA, with large parts of Maine’s interior actually uninhabited even to this day. In fact, parts of Maine’s interior don’t have any local government at all, as there’s nothing to govern.
The Aroostook Unorganized Territory in Northern Maine makes up the largest of those, covering 6901 km², with a total population of only 10 people. Compared to the size of the area, this actually means there’s only one person for every 690 km² in Aroostook.
Lubec in Maine makes up the easternmost settlement in the USA.
Founded in 1811, the town today covers an estimated area of 200 km², with a population of 1319 people. The town takes its name from Lubeck in Germany, thanks to a large number of German settlers at the time. The town only really started to prosper after the War of 1812, primarily from fishing and farming, but also from smuggling gypsum. It later became infamous between 1897 and 1898, over a stock fraud by Prescott Jernegan, Charles Fisher, and their Electrolytic Marine Salts Company.
The two men funneled money from investors over an alleged industry of refining gold from seawater. They then vanished in 1898 with the money, leaving their scheme exposed to the newspapers. Lubec’s population peaked between the 1920s and the 1930s at over 3000, but has since then steadily declined to the modern population.
Estcourt Station stands at the northernmost point in both the state and New England.
Officially, Estcourt Station counts as a village with a very small population of only four people. It stands right on the border between Canada and the US, and shares its name with the village of Estcourt in Canada’s Quebec Province. In fact, Estcourt Station only gets populated at certain times of the day, when staff process shipping trucks moving goods between Canada and the US.
Some people move in to live in Estcourt Station during the summer, but they usually leave once summer ends. Estcourt Station literally exists as a slice of the greater Estcourt village that got off from Canada by the US border with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
Maine also has the biggest lake in New England.
Moosehead Lake covers an area of 3280 km² and with a depth of 75 meters at its deepest point. The lake gets its name from its shape, which looks like that of an antlered moose on a map. That said, plenty of moose live in the surrounding region, with statistics having an estimated three moose for every person.
Today, the lake stands largely undeveloped, but plans do exist to change that. In 2005, the Plum Creek Real Estate Development Corporation submitted proposals to develop the lake’s surroundings. However, no work actually got started, with Plum Creek going out of business in 2016, and all its plans canceled. In January 2021, though, the Provident Resources Group began planning with local developers on developing the lake’s surroundings.
They also have the biggest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere.
Specifically, Old Sow, located between Maine’s Moose Island and Deer Island in New Brunswick, Canada. Interactions between the local underwater geography and the 6.1 meter-long tidal range, which funnels waters between the two islands, cause the whirlpool. Old Sow itself has a diameter of 76 meters, and a depth of at least 5.2 meters.
The whirlpool itself poses no threat to big ships, however, small craft like canoes and others can get sucked into the whirlpool and dragged underwater. Many smaller whirlpools also surround Old Sow, along with other phenomena like jets of water erupting over a meter into the air.
Maine also has disputed territory with Canada.
Specifically, Machias Seal Island and North Rock, both of which lie off of Maine’s Downeast coast. Machias Seal Island covers an area of over 80,000 m2 and serves as a sanctuary for various seabirds. These include Arctic terns, Atlantic puffins, common eiders, common murres, common terns, and Leach’s storm-petrels, among others.
Canada also operates a lighthouse on the island, and the US Marines once kept a base on the island back in WWI. In contrast, North Rock’s just an offshore rock with nothing special about it beyond the question of which country actually owns it. The dispute has grown heated since 2002 after lobster migration patterns caused fishermen from both countries to argue over fishing rights in the area. To this day, no resolution to the issue has developed.
Maine also shares the Isles of Shoals with New Hampshire.
They are an island group located about 10 km off the Atlantic Seaboard of the US. The state border passes through the archipelago and divides it between Maine and New Hampshire. Maine claims Appledore Island and Smuttynose Island, as well as the smaller islands to the north. As for New Hampshire, they claim Star Island, as well as the smaller islands to the south.
Both states have a town each on the islands, along with many smaller settlements. They primarily depend on fishing for their livelihood, along with the service industry for the many holiday homes on the islands. Meanwhile, scientists also operate various research stations on the islands.
Mount Katahdin stands as the highest point in the state.
The mountain’s name reflects this, with Katahdin meaning greatest mountain in the native Penobscot language. Specifically, the mountain stands 1.61 km high and was formed from non-volcanic geological activity over 400 million years ago. Maine Governor, Percival Baxter, placed it under protection in the 1930s, with the National Park Service doing likewise in 1967.
The mountain enjoys widespread popularity from hikers, backpackers, and other outdoors people. In fact, it lies on the Appalachian Trail, its northern end, actually, and forms part of what outdoor hobbyists call the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.
On another note, various wild animals call the mountain home, such as black bears, deer, and moose. An endangered species of butterflies also live on the mountain, the Katahdin Arctic Butterfly.
The last Ice Age left its mark on the state’s landscape.
Geologists call it a drowned coast geography, from when rising sea levels after the last Ice Age drowned the land. However, the melting of the glaciers also caused the land to rise as the weight of the ice disappeared. This caused the coast to recede and allowed the land to resurface.
Between the ice and the brief time the land lay underwater, however, the landscape remained marked by the past. This led to Maine’s distinctive geography of a landscape dominated by jagged rocks and cliffs, and a coastline broken by many bays and inlets. Further inland, many small rivers run through the landscape, either feeding or fed by small lakes’ leftover from melted glaciers.
Maine also has the distinction of the least populated state east of the Mississippi River.
We’ve already mentioned how Maine only has 17 people for every km², in contrast to neighboring New Hampshire’s 57 people for every km². Other neighboring states have even greater population density, like Rhode Island’s 393 people for every km², beating out New York’s 161 people for every km².
In fact, the next least-populated state lies west of the Mississippi River, Colorado, with 20 people for every km². Maine only beats out various states on the West Coast, such as Oregon, with 16 people for every km², and at the very bottom of the list, far below that, we have Alaska, at one person for every km².
Maine also has the only national park in New England.
Specifically, Acadia National Park, located southwest of Bar Harbor, is centered around the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula. It also includes around half of Mount Desert Island, part of Isle au Haut, as well as parts of 16 other islands nearby. Overall, it has an estimated total area of 199 km², linked together by a preserved carriage system originally set up by John Rockefeller Jr. US President Woodrow Wilson originally declared it as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916. However, in 1919, it got renamed Lafayette National Park, and finally, to its modern name, in 1929. Today, an estimated 2.67 million people visit it every year.
Maine enjoys a continental climate.
This kind of climate features warm, and sometimes humid summers, along with long and cold winters. The temperature averages around 26°C in the summer, and 18°C below zero in winter. It also gets hotter or colder inland than on the coast, where temperatures get moderated by the Atlantic Ocean. In summer, temperatures can peak at 41°C, while in winter, they can drop as low as 46°C below zero.
Precipitation, whether in the form of rain or snow, averages at around 5 meters per year. In addition, an average of 20 thunderstorms hit the state every year, less than what most states east of the Rocky Mountains get. As for tornadoes, at most only four hit the state every year, but the effects of climate change may cause that to increase. Hurricanes rarely hit Maine, usually striking southeast of the state, and in the few cases they do hit Maine, they do so in a weakened state.
Farming and fishing make up a large part of the state economy.
Produce from Maine include apples, dairy, eggs, maple sugar, maple syrup, potatoes, and poultry. Blueberries, though, make up Maine’s primary agricultural export, with the state counting as the US’s top blueberry producer, at an estimated 46,000 tons per year.
As for fishing, lobsters make up the biggest part of Maine’s catch, along with shrimp and seaweed. In particular, the seaweed industry in Maine makes an estimated $20 million a year today. Maine also supplies 14% of the oysters eaten in the Northeastern USA. In contrast, shrimp catches have fallen since 2014, after the government placed limits on shrimp fishing to stop failing populations caused by overfishing.
Manufacturing also takes place in the state.
Various products produced in Maine include biotechnology, electronics, leather products, processed food, textiles, wood, and wood products. Maine even once had the largest toothpick factory in the US, Strong Wood Products, which produced 20 million toothpicks per day. It closed in May of 2003, however. Maine also exports large amounts of bottled water, taking advantage of the state’s many aquifers and springs.
The state also has a solid shipbuilding tradition.
Bath Iron Works calls Maine home and builds many of the US Navy’s warships, such as the Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer. First founded in 1884, Bath Iron Works has built ships both for civilian and military customers. During WWII, ships built by Bath Iron Works earned a reputation for high quality among the US Navy’s sailors. They even developed a saying about how Bath builds the best ships in the entire navy.
Maine also has Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS), which builds and repairs most of the US Navy’s nuclear submarines. This actually led to controversy in 2005, when a study found that workers at PNS suffered from a higher risk of cancer thanks to their work on nuclear submarines.
They also have a solid transport infrastructure network.
Maine has two international airports, Portland International Airport, and Bangor International Airport, servicing their respective cities. The state also has many other smaller airports, which provide domestic flights across the state and surrounding region.
Five different interstate highways pass through Maine, while US Route 1 starts in Maine before heading all the way south to end in Florida. Other major highways pass through Maine to link up with other highways in neighboring states, or cross over to Canada. Portland also handles over 13 million tons of shipping per year, also doubling as Canada’s main Atlantic port before Canada modernized their own ports in the 1950s.
Only a small number of companies have their HQs in Maine.
These include Jackson Laboratory, the world’s largest mammalian genetics research firm, and the world leader in producing lab mice. There’s also Fairchild Semiconductor, Hannaford Bros. Co., IDEXX Laboratories, L.L. Bean, and TD Bank, among others.
Maine counts as an alcoholic beverage state.
The state government actually maintains a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic products. While the state licenses small businesses to sell alcoholic products, they can only buy their supplies from state-owned suppliers. That, or they buy supplies from licensed suppliers outside the state, with the state government the only legal in-state supplier.
Maine once had a reputation when it came to electing American presidents.
Specifically, the saying of “As Maine goes, so goes the nation”, once defined US politics. This came from a trend in the early-19th to early-20th centuries, when whichever party won, the gubernatorial election in Maine also won the presidential election. The trend ended in 1936, when Maine elected a Republican governor, Lewis Barros, only for the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt to win reelection to the White House.
Ever since then, Maine only seemed to predict the outcome of the presidential election once in 1952, when a Republican victory in the state also matched the election of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of the USA.
Maine has many institutes of higher learning.
These include the oldest and biggest university in Maine, the University of Maine, founded in 1865. It keeps its main campus at Orono, while having smaller campuses in other places such as Augusta, Fort Kent, and Machias, among others. Other colleges include Bates College in Lewiston, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, and Colby College in Waterville, among others. The state only has one medical school, the College of Osteopathic Medicine, and also only one law school, the Maine School of Law.
Several sports teams call Maine home.
These include the Maine Celtics, which represents the state in the NBA’s G League. There’s also the Portland Sea Dogs, which represents Maine in minor league baseball, and the Maine Mariners, for ice hockey. Maine also participates in the NCAA, with the Maine Black Bears football team.
The state also has several state symbols.
The wild blueberry makes up the most important of them, as the state’s official berry, considering it’s also Maine’s top export. This extends to the state’s official dessert, the blueberry pie.
Other state symbols include the eastern white pine, which as the state’s official tree, also appears on the state flag. The white pinecone and tassel also count as Maine’s state flower. Lastly, the lobster also counts as the state’s official shellfish and also doubles as another one of its top exports.
Maine’s citizens speak various languages.
While the state has no official language, an estimated 92% of Maine’s citizens speak English as a first language. After English, an estimated 5% of Maine’s citizens speak French as a first language, with Spanish speakers making up the remainder.