Maine: An Encyclopedia

Dow, Neal

Neal Dow (Maine State Museum)

Neal Dow,
Courtesy Maine State Museum

(1804-1897) was born in Portland on March 20, 1804.

He was educated by his Quaker parents in the principles of temperance, industry, and thrift and attended the Friends Academy in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Instead of college, he entered his father’s tanning business and became a partner. He was successful in business and was called “one of Portland’s leading men of affairs.” At age 23 Dow made his first appeal for temperance, persuading his employer to refrain from furnishing liquor at its anniversary celebration.

At age 25 Dow joined the Portland Young Men’s Temperance Society, then helped organize the Maine Temperance Union. By 1831 he had begun to urge the legal prohibition of liquor.

He is best know for drafting and advocating for the “Maine Law,” the first alcohol prohibition law, passed in 1851. He was Mayor of Portland in 1851 and 1855, and a member of Maine House of Representatives, 1858-1859.

Neal Dow in Civil War Uniform

Neal Dow in Civil War Uniform,
Courtesy Maine State Archives

Neal Dow served in the Civil War, initially as a Colonel in the 13th Maine Volunteer Infantry, his rank probably reflecting his prominence as a temperance crusader. He reportedly required his men to swear off alcohol, though some undoubtedly violated that oath. At Port Hudson, Dow was wounded, captured, and spent time as a prisoner of war, continuing his prohibition preachings while in Libby prison. He ended the war as a Brigadier General.

After the Civil War, Dow lectured widely and became the Prohibition Party’s presidential candidate in 1880. He died in Portland on October 2, 1897. His house has been designated a national historic landmark.

Additional resources

Byrne, Frank L. Prophet of Prohibition: Neal Dow and His Crusade. Gloucester, Mass. P. Smith. 1969. c1961.

Clubb, Henry Stephen. The Maine Liquor Law; Its Origin, History, and Results, Including a Life of Hon. Neal Dow. New York. Pub. for the Maine Law Statistical Society, by Fowler and Wells. 1856.

Dawson, William L. A Bibliographic Study of the Life of Neal Dow (1804-1897): Father of the Maine Law and Prophet of Prohibition. The Author. 1985.

Dow, Neal. General Neal Dow. Maine. Maine Historical and Genealogical Recorder. 1898.

Dow, Neal. The Reminiscences of Neal Dow: Recollections of Eighty Years. Portland, Me. The Evening Express Publishing Co.. 1898.

English, Thomas Dunn, 1819-1902. Dr. English’s Reply to Mr. Dow. Newark, N.J. The Author. 1882.

Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Some text condensed from National Register of Historic Places:

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