Maine: An Encyclopedia

Timeline of Maine History 10: Seeds of Change


The third quarter of the twentieth century began to draw Maine closer to national and international events as earlier ways of life were challenged.

Salting of cod, a centuries old tradition, ended with refigeration. Indians were given the right to vote. The first television station went on the air and the Democratic Party, long a minority in this Republican state, began an era of steady political gains. Small schools were consolidated into larger administrative districts.

The Nearing's Good Life Center in Brooksville

The Nearing’s Good Life Center in Brooksville

The completion of the Interstate highway from Kittery to Houlton threatened the railroads while attracting more tourism and making commuting from Maine to Boston less of a challenge. The surge of environmental consciousness began to affect the state’s politics and government, while a generation of young “back-to-the-landers” moved into Maine seeking what Helen and Scott Nearing called “The Good Life.”

Two wars, Korea and Vietnam, along with the Cold War, reminded all of the world outside. In politics, women were beginning to make a greater impact; eighteen year-olds were given the right to vote. The first “Independent” governor was elected, shocking the political establishment and signalling future changes from “business as usual.”



Large-scale cod salting, a 500 year tradition that helped stimulate exploration of North America, ends as refrigeration becomes more available.
Senator Margaret Chase Smith makes her “Declaration of Conscience” speech against McCarthyism.
Korean War begins.
Population: 913,774.


Maine establishes first state sales tax at 2 percent.


Publication of “Charlotte’s Web” by Brooklin, Maine resident E. B. White.
Birth in Caribou of U.S. Senator (1997- ) Susan M. Collins.


Maine Indians given voting rights.
WABI in Bangor becomes Maine’s first television station.
Husson College begins offering four-year degrees.


Edmund S. Muskie becomes first Democratic Governor elected since 1937, spurring a resurgence of that party in Maine.
Pollution ends the tradition, which began in 1912, of sending the first salmon caught in the Penobscot River to the White House; it will be revived in the 1970’s.


In a final accounting, 233 of the 40,099 Mainers who served in the Korean War died.
Maine Turnpike completed to Augusta.


Maine Turnpike opened from Kittery to Portland.
First atomic submarine built at the Kittery-Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


Term of governors changed to four years from two years.
Wilhelm Reich, based in Rangeley and a Freudian analyst who believed he had discovered a healing energy source, dies in jail where he was serving time for contempt of court.
Sinclair Act encourages schools to consolidate’ leading to the closing of many small schools and the creation of the School Administrative District system.


Edmund S. Muskie becomes first popularly elected Democratic U.S. Senator in Maine’s history.


Democratic Governor (1959) Clinton Clauson of Waterville dies in office; Republican Senate President John Reed becomes Governor.
First open heart surgery offered at Maine Medical Center in Portland.


General election date changed from September to November beginning this year.
Population: 969,000.


Husson College organized as a nonprofit corporation.
Silent Spring, an environmental study by longtime summer resident Rachel Carson, is published.


Early communications satellite Telstar launched; a ground station is located in the town of Andover.
Maine’s congressional delegation is cut by one-third as a relative loss of population reduces it from three to two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.


John F. Kennedy, first President to visit the University of Maine, delivers a foreign policy address in Orono just thirty-four days before his assassination.
Maine’s first “educational” television station begins broadcasting. WMEB is the first node in the now enlarged Maine Public Broadcasting Network.


U.S. involvement in Vietnam War intensifies, 48,000 Maine armed forces personnel serve, 332 die by war’s end.
Interstate 95 complete between Augusta and Bangor.
Senator Margaret Chase Smith is the first woman to have her name placed in nomination by a major political party (Republican).
Democrats control both houses of the Maine legislature for the first time in the 20th century.
Rachel Carson, longtime Maine resident and environmental writer, dies.


Interstate 95 completed to Houlton.
Boston & Maine’s extensive passenger service from Boston to Portland is ended.
Mary Chisholm of Cape Elizabeth is the first woman Democrat to serve in the Maine Senate.
Beginning of the Dickey-Lincoln power project debate about damming the St. John River and flooding 140 square miles; more than ten years later the proposal was abandoned.
Construction of sugar beet refinery in Aroostook County begins.


Democrat Kenneth M. Curtis elected Governor and is later reelected serving eight years.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway established.
First publication of the newspaper the Coastal Journal by Coastal Publication Co., Inc.


St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, formerly St. Mary’s General Hospital is organized as a nonprofit corporation.
Debate about oil refineries on the Maine coast begins with plans for one in Machiasport and continues through 1982 with rejection of a proposal for Eastport.


Edmund S. Muskie becomes Democratic Hubert Humphrey’s Vice-Presidential candidate, though the ticket lost the election.
Super University of Maine created, all campuses under one administration.
The Maine Times, a statewide newspaper focusing on environmental and other public policy issues, is founded.
Lewiston’s Le Messager, one of the longest-running French language newspapers in the country, ceases publication.


First state income tax.


Population: 994,000.


Maine Human Rights Commission established.
Bowdoin College admits women, the last Maine college to do so.
Maine State Cultural Building opens in Augusta, housing the State’s Archives, Library, and Museum.
Department of Public Safety established to promote safety and coordinate the State’s law enforcement responsibilities.
Voters ratify the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving 18 year-olds the right to vote.


Democratic U.S. Congressman William D. Hathaway defeats Republican Margaret Chase Smith in U.S. Senate race.
Republican William S. Cohen wins Hathaway’s former congressional seat (he will later defeat Hathaway in 1978 U.S. Senate election).
Department of Environmental Protection is established.
College of the Atlantic opens in Bar Harbor.


Harriet P. Henry is Maine’s first woman judge in her appointment as judge-at-large for the District Court System.
Maine State Lottery established.
Maine School Management Association is organized as a nonprofit corporation.
Department of Conservation established in to “preserve, protect and enhance the land and water resources of the State of Maine.”


James B. Longley, Sr. elected first modern independent governor.
Attempt to equalize school funding with a “Uniform Property Tax” proposal is rejected by voters.
The Paper Plantation, a book describing the impact of the ownership of large tracts of land by major paper companies, is published.

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This entry was last modified: May 11, 2017 12:47 AM

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