One cannot travel any further east in the United States than Maine, where in colonial times shipbuilders crafted fine sailing vessels known as “Downeasters.”
Its farthest northern woods remain a remote realm, and the state has no city larger than 70,000 people. Maine is home to 1.33 million in total, 95 percent white, with no single ethnic minority accounting for more than 2 percent of the population.
In land mass, its 30,843 square miles make it the largest of the six New England states. Situated in the northeastern-most corner of the United States, bordered by New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick to the north, its capital is Augusta. Its largest cities are Portland, Lewiston and Bangor. Eastport is the easternmost city in the continental U.S.
Maine’s Longfellow Mountains are an extension of New Hampshire's White Mountains and part of the Appalachian chain along the East Coast. Receding glaciers carved long drift ridges throughout the countryside, forming more than 2,200 lakes and ponds. Moosehead Lake is the largest.
About 90 percent of The Pine Tree State is forested, the source for one of its leading industries – traditionally among the world's largest pulp-paper producers. In 2016, the forestry industry accounted for more than 33,000 jobs in the state.
But the U.S. paper industry in general has suffered setbacks in the face of digitalization of information and foreign competition. Since 2005, more than 100 mills nationally have closed. Maine has fewer than half as many mills as in 1980. With a paper industry that employed almost 13,000 people in the early 2000s, the Maine Pulp and Paper Association says its workforce has fallen to 6,150.
Still, unemployment in Maine has run just above 3 percent at the end of 2017 , below the national average. The state’s median household income in 2016 – $53,079 – was below the national average of $57,617.
Maine’s economic profile has changed since the mid-20th century. With the decline of textiles, shoes, processed food, paper and wood products as well as a shrinking agricultural industry, fish stocks also have been depleted.
As other industries have slid, tourism has become a mainstay of Maine’s economy. Its forests feature two major parks: Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, and Baxter State Park, where the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail spanning 14 states reaches its northern end at Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest, at 5,267 feet.
Bar Harbor, a scenic town on the ocean and point of departure for ferries to Nova Scotia, is the northern terminus for a well-heeled class that winters in Palm Beach and summers in Maine. It was originally incorporated as “Eden” in 1796.
Maine’s long rocky Atlantic Ocean coast is known for its frigid waters and an ample fishery – most famed for the Maine lobster. In 2011, Maine recorded its largest lobster catch, nearly 104 million pounds, with a market value of more than $330 million. Then a glut of lobsters in 2012 caused by warmer temperatures and conservation drove the price commanded to a 40-year low, less than $2 per pound.
The state also is known for 44,000 acres of wild blueberries.
Although explorer John Cabot is believed to have seen the Maine coast in 1498, the first English settlements came more than a century later. English colonists led by George Popham established Fort St. George in Maine in 1607, the same year that Jamestown, Virginia, was founded. Popham’s death and a harsh climate forced the colonists to return to England – leaving Jamestown to be regarded as the first permanent European colony in North America.
Agamenticus was the first city to be chartered in Maine in 1641. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony annexed southwestern Maine in 1652, governing the district until its statehood, it was reincorporated as York.
The first naval encounter of the American Revolutionary War played out in Maine’s waters, when colonial rebels captured a British sloop in 1775. The British burned Falmouth, now known as Portland.
The anti-slavery abolitionist movement found passionate allies in Maine, and in 1850, when Harriet Beecher Stowe’s husband accepted a teaching post at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, she settled in to start writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin." First published as a serial in an abolitionist newspaper, National Era, in 1851 and then as a book the following year, it’s considered the icon of anti-slavery literature. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, owned by Bowdoin, still stands in Brunswick.
Algonquin-speaking Native Americans inhabited the state when the Europeans arrived. Many were moved to reservations or integrated into white communities. While five federally recognized tribes exist today, only the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot remain in significant numbers.
Almost one-third of all adults surveyed in Maine are unaffiliated with any religion, about one in five Catholic and almost four in 10 Protestant.
Although it was rooted in the abolitionist movement of the Republican Party in the 1800s, the state has voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1992 and has one Republican U.S. senator and one Independent. It’s one of only two states that divides its Electoral College votes by victories in two congressional districts. As the rest of the nation has grown, Maine has fewer than half the electoral votes it once had -- and today, the Downeaster is, not a sailing vessle, but an Amtrak train connecting Brunswick and Boston.