Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Airline, The

is an east-west transportation route from Bangor to Calais, currently a portion of state highway Route 9. Crossing Penobscot, Hancock, and Washington counties, it was planned as a military road in 1838-1839 during the Aroostook War, but remained unfinished 20 years after the “War” was settled.

In recent years it has been proposed as the eastern portion of a major East-West Highway running from Calais to the New Hampshire border.

Little more than a dirt path, it was opened in 1857 to deliver mail more efficiently than the roundabout coastal highway then in use. Shortly thereafter, it was improved for the use of stage coaches, which traveled between Bangor and Calais for 30 years until 1887 when steamboats began to provide superior service along the coast and up the Penobscot River.

Doris Isaacson noted the beginning of the Airline Stage:

“George Sprott opened a stage route in competition with the already established Shore Stages. He apportioned 36 horses, the stages to travel between Bangor and Calais six times a week, leaving Bangor daily except Sunday, 9:30 p.m., arrive Calais next day at 3:30 p.m.: leave Calais daily except Sunday, at 12 noon, arrive Bangor next day at 6 a.m. The first trip was made with one passenger and 15 pounds of mail.”

Additional resources

Beard, Jack, collector. Student interview on Airline Road life. 1976. (Cataloger Note: Interview with Mrs. Rosco (Verna) Higgins, 73, about life along the Airline Road at the turn of the century.) [Orono, University of Maine, Maine Folk Life Center]

Dudley, John. “The Airline Road.” 2003. http://www.mainething.com/alexander/Transportation%20and%20Trade/THE%20AIRLINE%20ROAD.html (accessed May 13, 2013)

Isaacson, Dorris. Maine:A Guide Downeast, p. 393-394.

“The Romance of the Air-Line Road (Bangor to Calais).” 19?? [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

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