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Home to firsts, protected moose

Email|Print| Text size + By Ron Driscoll
Globe Staff / January 28, 2007

Maine through the years, by the numbers, and in the spotlight . . .

The first English colony in what would become known as New England was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year as the settlement at Jamestown in Virginia. Because the Popham colony didn't survive the harsh winters, Jamestown is regarded as the first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States.

The first naval battle of the American Revolution was fought off Machias in June 1775 when a group of Maine patriots captured the armed British cutter Margaretta.

Governor John Fairfield declared war on England in 1839 over a boundary dispute with New Brunswick, the first and only time a state has declared war on a foreign power. The dispute was settled before any blood was shed.

The world's first Total Abstinence Society was founded in Portland in 1815, and the state approved a ban on the manufacture and sale of liquor in 1851. The so-called "Maine Law" remained in effect in some form until the repeal of national Prohibition in 1933.

In 1912 , L.L. Bean 's original "Bean boot" was a flop: of the first 100 pairs sold, 90 pairs were returned to the Freeport store because of poor stitching. True to his word, Bean refunded the customers' money.

Joshua L. Chamberlain of Brewer received the only battlefield promotion to general during the Civil War. He was wounded six times -- once almost fatally -- and had six horses shot from under him. He went on to serve as governor and as president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

In 1919, President Wilson signed the act establishing Acadia (then Lafayette ) National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River.

Skowhegan native Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the US Senate in 1948, making her the first woman senator and the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

Muhammad Ali put Lewiston on the map when he knocked out Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965, to retain the heavyweight boxing championship. Neil Leifer's photo of Ali standing over Liston after what became known as the "phantom punch" is one of the memorable images in sports history.

James Longley was elected governor in 1974, becoming the first popularly elected independent governor in the United States.

In 1984, Freeport native Joan Benoit Samuelson was the gold medal winner in the first women's Olympic marathon, at the Summer Games in Los Angeles. Samuelson, now 49, has qualified for the 2008 US Women's Olympic Trials in Boston, her seventh.

Portland's city seal depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes, which along with its motto "Resurgam" (Latin for "I will rise again") marks the city's recoveries from four devastating fires.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Portland ranked as the largest oil port on the East Coast in 2005, thanks in part to the crude oil pipeline that stretches from Portland to Montreal.

John Ford, the only four-time winner of the Academy Award for best director, was born in Cape Elizabeth in 1894 and grew up in Portland. When asked where he learned the craft of film-making, Orson Welles once replied, "the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford."

At 6,453 square miles, Aroostook County covers an area greater than the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island. And with a total area of 33,215 square miles, the state covers nearly as many square miles as the other five New England states combined.

In the early 1900s, the moose population in Maine had declined to an estimated 2,000. Laws protecting moose from excessive hunting and improving habitat conditions have allowed the population to increase to an estimated 29,000.

Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd on the TV drama "Grey's Anatomy," was born in Lewiston in 1966. Other well-known entertainment personalities with Maine ties include writer /producer David E. Kelley, actors Richard Dysart, Linda Lavin, and Liv Tyler, and singers Howie Day and Ray LaMontagne.

Compiled by Ron Driscoll of the Globe staff. Contact him at

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