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Maine (ME) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Maine is the northernmost state on America’s East Coast and is also the easternmost state out of the entire United States. It is known for its rugged topography, with much of the area being covered with mountains and pine forests. Seafood is an important part of Maine culture, as the majority of its large communities are located on the coast.
Counties and Regions: Maine has 16 counties, which all together encompass a great deal of pine forest, a number of large lakes, and a jagged coastline. The more generally recognizable regions of Maine can be summed up as:
- Down East (eastern coastline)
- High Peaks
- Kennebec Valley
- Maine Highlands
- Maine Lake Country
- Maine North Woods
- Mid Coast
- Penobscot Bay
- Southern Maine Coast
- Western Maine Mountains
Population: Maine is the most sparsely populated state in New England, with greater than 1.3 million people spread over its large land area. The communities near the coast tend to be historic fishing towns and tourist areas, while the northern communities are historically centered around the logging industry.
Major Cities: The biggest city in Maine, Portland, has a growing population of over 66,000 people. Its greater metropolitan area is home to more than half a million people, or more than a third of Maine’s total population. The state capital, Augusta, is one of the smallest state capitals in the country with only a little over 19,000 residents.
Story Behind the Name: The name “Maine” has been used to refer to the territory for centuries, but its origins have long since been lost. The two major theories are that the state was named after the French province of Maine, or that it comes from a nautical reference to the “mainland.”
History and Colonization: Starting at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Britain and France began to found competing colonies in what would later become the state of Maine. Few of these colonies flourished, however, due to the harsh weather conditions. The native tribes that lived in Maine were frequently at odds with the colonists, and eventually allied with the French in modern-day Canadian territory. They were unable to win any major battles in Maine, however, and most retreated or were deported to the north and were absorbed into other tribes.
The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a time of great struggle in Maine. The territory was the crux of several wars between the British, the French, the United States, the local settlers, and the Native Americans (with various allegiances coming and going between the groups). Maine was considered to be a part of the territory of Massachusetts, but the geographical and cultural divide between the two areas fostered a defiant and resentful relationship on the part of the Mainers. Nevertheless, they were stoutly Patriotic during the American Civil War, more so than many other colonies with more Loyalist sympathizers.
During the next major conflict between the United States and Great Britain, the War of 1812, Maine was left to defend its territory largely on its own. It did so successfully, but resentment towards the central government in Massachusetts fanned the flames of secession in Maine. It was finally admitted as a free state as part of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, which was an attempt by the U.S. government to pacify the slavery issue by creating an equal number of “slave” and “free” states. When this issue finally erupted into the Civil War, Maine was a staunch Union supporter and sent a huge number of troops per capita to fight against the Confederacy.
Industrialization in the late nineteenth century spurred the logging industry in Maine, with new paper-making technology changing everything about the business. Being such a remote and rugged territory, however, made it difficult for Maine to prosper. An energetic campaign to promote tourism in the state has been in full force throughout the twentieth century, and still provides a much-needed boost to Maine’s economy. Even today, most Americans carry the romantic promotional image of Maine as a collection of pristine maritime villages.