Geography and Landforms:

Maine is the largest of the New England states of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by New Hampshire to the West, the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick to the northwest and northeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, and the Bay of Fundy to the east. The last ice age had a profound effect on the geography of Maine. A glacier was responsible for carving out the many inlets and bays for which the state is famous.

The state is comprised of three main land regions. The Coastal Lowlands cover much of the southeastern Maine. This is an area of sandy beaches, salt marshes, tidal creeks, and small bays bordered by high cliffs. Most of the region is at sea level. The massive weight of ice and snow thousands of years ago, pushed the land down to its current elevation. The tops of hills, sunken during the Ice Age, appear as the more than 400 offshore islands.

The Eastern Upland is a 20-50 mile wide region of fertile farmland northwest of the coastal lowlands. It rises from near sea level to an elevation of thousands of feet to the west. Many lakes, swift streams, and springs are located in this region.

The White Mountain Region to the northwest includes many lakes and most of the state's highest peaks. A series of eskers - long, low gravel ridges - are found here. They are a remnant of the Ice Age, formed by streams that flowed underneath the glaciers.


Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, were probably the first Europeans to visit Maine around the year 1000 AD. In 1448, John Cabot, an Italian explorer in the service of England, reached the Maine coast. France sent many explorers during the 16th and early 17th century, but no official settlement was made until 1607 when King James I of England awarded a grant to the Plymouth Company for the establishment of Fort St. George on the site of present day Phippsburg. The settlement did not prosper and colonists returned to England one year later.

In 1622, the Council for New England - successor to the Plymouth Company - gave Ferdinando Gorges (a wealthy Englishman) and Captain John Mason a large tract of land in present day New Hampshire and Maine. The land was divided between the two men in 1629, and Gorges retained the Maine section. He chartered America's first English city, Gorgeana (now York), in 1632.

Gorges died in 1647, and Maine fell under control of the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1652. A period of turbulent times followed. Many struggles occurred between the English on one side, and the Native Americans and French on the other side. A series of French and Indian wars were fought in Maine and throughout New England between the years 1689 and 1763. The French and their Indian allies hoped to wrestle control of the area from the English settlers. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the conflict and severed all French claims to Maine and most of North America.

Dissatisfaction with the British Stamp Act of 1765 spread throughout the American colonies. A number of societies formed throughout Maine to support the boycotting of English goods. Maine colonists burned a supply of British tea at the "York Tea Party" in 1774 - one year after the famous "Boston Tea Party."

Large numbers of Maine men joined the Revolutionary Army when the war began in 1775. That same year, British forces devastated the city of Falmouth (Portland) in a move to punish colonists for opposition to King's policies. The Revolutionary War's first naval battle took place off the coast of Maine. A British ship - the Margaretta - was captured by a group of Maine patriots in 1775.

When the war ended in 1783, Maine experienced a period of rapid economic development. Although the Embargo Act of 1807 hurt Maine's shipping industry by limiting the amount of U.S. trade with other countries, the colony began to focus on its manufacturing industries. By 1785, a strong desire to separate from Massachusetts and declare statehood grew within the colony of Maine. Colonists were frustrated with the long distance to the capital city of Boston, inadequate roads, and heavy taxation. In 1819, colonists voted for separation and Maine was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise.

The capital of Maine was originally established in Portland but was moved to Augusta in 1832. During the first half of the 19th century, Maine enjoyed a very prosperous period. The state's population steadily increased, its timber industry thrived, and several of its towns became leaders in shipbuilding. Even the state's long-standing border dispute with New Brunswick was settled with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain in 1842.

One of the state's chief political issues during the 19th century was the regulation of liquor traffic. In 1851, Maine became the first state in the Union to adopt a prohibition law that forbade the manufacture and sale of alcohol. It remained in place until 1934.

Because of its strong anti-slavery sentiments, Maine made significant contributions of men and money to the Union cause during the Civil War (1861-1865). Seventy-two thousand Maine men fought for the Union army.


Maine has a wealth of natural resources that support a large part of the state's economy. Nearly 89% of Maine's land area is covered by forest. As a result, the state is one of the world's leading producers of paper products. Mineral deposits within the state include granite (used for construction throughout the United States), sand and gravel, and zinc.

Wooden shipbuilding was historically one of Maine's most important industries. Shipbuilding has greatly declined in recent decades, but the state now produces warships at the Bath Iron Works. It is one of the state's largest single employers.

Large amounts of lobster and sardines are harvested from the waters off the coast. Rich farmlands to the west produce dairy products, poultry, eggs, potatoes, blueberries, hay and apples.

Tourism remains a significant industry for the state. Resorts along Maine's coast and on its numerous islands attract many visitors to the state each year.

First Inhabitants:

The earliest inhabitants of what is now the state of Maine descended from Ice Age hunters. They were called the Red Paint People because of the red clay they used to line the graves of their dead. Little is known about this prehistoric group of people, but they left behind scattered bits of bone and stone that are among the oldest archeological treasures in North America.

Later Native American inhabitants of the region left more than five hundred shell-heaps along the Maine coast. Archeologists estimate that these heaps - remnants of ancient shellfish "dinners" - are between one and five thousand years old. The arrowheads and tools found within these heaps are distinctly different from those of the Red Paint People.

When European settlers came to the region in the early 17th century, they encountered the Abnakis and the Etchimins, two major divisions of the Algonkian nation. These Native Americans moved several times each year, following the available food supply. In the spring they fished in the rivers and planted crops of corn, squash and beans along the riverbanks. Early summer brought them to the coastal areas, and by September they returned to harvest their crops. The coming of winter found them venturing deep into the forests of Maine to hunt for game.

The Indians of Maine were a friendly people who lived peacefully with the early settlers. But their numbers began to diminish rapidly due to increasing conflict with the white man, wars with other invading tribes, and disease. Of the dozens of Algonkian Indian tribes that once inhabited Maine, only two remain - the Penobscot and the Passamaquoddies.

Books Related To Maine

Birdie's Lighthouse - Deborah Hopkinson
(978-0689835292) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3 - 4
A young girl's family moves to Turtle Island Maine where her father becomes a lighthouse keeper.

The Canning Season - Polly Horvath
(374-410429) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-12, Lexile: 870, ESL level:
When Ratchet goes to visit her strange aunts one summer, she hears about a lot of family history and strange characters.

Converting Kate - Beckie Weinheimer
(978-0670061525) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 4
Kate takes advantage of her move with her mother to Maine to break away from the family fundamentalist church and its restrictive beliefs.

Fudge-A-Mania - Judy Blume
(978-0142408773) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 490, ESL level: 3
Pete's summer vacation in Maine with his family proves entertaining considering the presence of his younger humorous brother and his nemesis from school Sheila.

L is for Lobster: A Maine Alphabet - Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
(978-1585360246) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Maine.

May - Kathryn Lasky
(978-0439783118) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-8, Lexile: 770, ESL level:
May is a mermaid but she must not let her acquaintances or other islanders find out about her secret identity.

One Morning in Maine - Robert McCloskey
(978-0140501742) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
A little girl discovers the world off island when she gets to ride to the grocery store on the mainland after finding her first loose tooth.

Sand Dollar Summer - Kimberly Jones
(978-0545081986) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3 - 4
Lise's island summer turns out to be less than idyllic because of complications with the community, the weather, and her mother's friends.

The Sign of the Beaver - Elizabeth George Speare
(978-0547577111) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-9, Lexile: 770, ESL level: 3
A young boy survives in his family's makeshift house in the wilderness only because the local Indians instruct him in how to live like they do.

The White Wolf - Ron Roy
(978-0375824807) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 630, ESL level: 3
Why three wolf babies were kidnapped is the heart of this Maine mystery.

Famous Citizens:

Dorothea Dix
The noted Civil Rights Reformer was born in Hampden, Maine. Dix became the Union's Superintendent of Female Nurses during the Civil War after spending more than 20 years working for improved treatment of mentally ill patients and for better prison conditions.

Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine. He was a key figure in the artistic and cultural movement known as American Modernism and is best known for his paintings of the people and scenery of Maine and for his still-life paintings.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Born in Portland, Maine, Longfellow became one of the best-loved American poets of the 19th century. Longfellow used distinctly American themes in his many works that include "Hiawatha," "The Courtship of Miles Standish," and "Evangeline."

John Knowles Paine
Born in Portland, Maine, John Knowles Paine founded the music department at Harvard University, became the first professor of music in the United States, and was the first American composer to write a symphony. He was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller
The 41st Vice President of the United States, Nelson Rockefeller was born in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was a businessman, politician, statesman, art collector, philanthropist and grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller also served four consecutive terms as governor of New York.

Capital: Augusta
Entered Union: March 15, 1820
Population: 1,333,089
Area 35,385
Bird Chickadee
Flower White pine cone and tassel
Nickname: Pine Tree State
Governor Paul LePage

Places to Visit in Maine: (Click the links to learn more.)

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House - Portland
The childhood home of 19th century America's most famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, contains many original furnishings and provides an intimate glimpse into the life of this lively and fascinating family.

Acadia National Park - Bar Harbor
Acadia, the first National Park established east of the Mississippi, contains nearly 50,000 acres of mountains, woodlands, lakes, ponds, and coastal areas, making it a haven for many diverse kinds of wildlife and plants.

Old York Historical Society - York
The Old York Historical Society operates a community museum where history comes alive for all ages. York is one of New England's earliest colonial settlements. The museum offers seven historic museum buildings and many examples of early New England art and architecture.

Portland Museum of Art - Portland
Maine's oldest art museum houses a collection of decorative arts reflecting the traditions of southern Maine as well as 19th century classical designs. The museum's fine arts collection includes works by European and American masters such as Edgar Degas, Henri Toulousse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent.

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport
The Museum, the largest electric railway museum in the world, preserves and educates about public transportation in North America, and is home to 250 transit vehicles, most of them trolleys.