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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Magnificent Facts About Maine

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Settled by Europeans in the 17th century and officially declared a state in 1820, Maine is known for its chilly winters, and for the chilling horror stories of Stephen King. Blanketed in forests, and bordered on one side by thousands of miles of coastline, the state is full of wonders both natural and human-made. Here are 25 facts you should know about Maine. 

1. No one knows exactly how Maine got its name; its etymology is something of a mystery. Some believe it was shorthand for the “mainland,” used by sailors differentiating it from islands off the state’s coast. Others believe it was named for the French province of Maine. 

2. As the crow flies, the Maine coastline stretches an already-impressive 250 miles. But recent satellite images measuring the contours of its convoluted and craggy coast have shown that the Maine coastline actually stretches around 3500 miles. And that number jumps up to 5500 miles when islands are included. 

istock

3. Maine has its own desert, which spans 40 acres outside the town of Freeport. Though its silt hills are now a popular tourist attraction, the desert originally developed as a result of over-farming in the area.

istock

4. Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the East Coast. Named for explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac—for whom the car company is also named—Cadillac Mountain is 1530 feet tall, and, from October through March, is the first place to experience the sunrise in the United States. 

5. Burt’s Bees was founded by former photojournalist Burt Schavitz in Maine in the 1980s. Schavitz moved to Maine from New York after deciding television had made photojournalism superfluous. He became a beekeeper, began selling honey, and ultimately co-founded Burt’s Bees with Roxanne Quimby in 1984.

6. Since 2005, Maine’s annual lobster yield has weighed in at more than 60 million pounds, with nearly 124 million pounds caught in 2014. (That’s almost 90 percent of the United States’ lobster supply.)

WorldIslandInfo.com, Flickr// CC BY 2.0

7. The people of Maine take lobsters so seriously, the University of Maine even has its own Lobster Institute, dedicated to learning more about the animals. Founded in 1987, its primary purpose is to support the state’s lobster industry, and to help lobstermen around the world develop sustainable practices.  

8. Until 2003, Strong, Maine, was known as the “Toothpick Capital of the World.” At one point, 95 percent of all wooden toothpicks produced in the U.S. were made in Strong. But as toothpicks declined in popularity towards the end of the 20th century, the toothpick industry began to falter. In 2003, The Forster Manufacturing Company, the last of Strong’s toothpick mills, shut down. 

9. Most of horror writer Stephen King’s books are set in Maine. A native Mainer, King has set novels like Pet Sematary, It, and Salem’s Lot in small Maine towns. He wrote his first novel, Carrie, while working as a teacher in Bangor, Maine.

10. Portland, Oregon is named after Portland, Maine. The Oregon city was founded by two New Englanders, one from Massachusetts, and the other from Maine. After a coin flip, Francis Pettygrove of Maine got to choose the city’s name. He picked Portland to honor his hometown. 

11. The official state insect of Maine is the honeybee. The state has a rich beekeeping culture, and even has a non-profit organization, the Maine Beekeepers Association, which was founded in 1976 to promote understanding of the insect’s importance. 

12. The official state animal of Maine is the moose. The state is home to approximately 76,000 moose, the highest moose population in the lower 48 states. Not surprisingly, moose-watching is a popular tourist activity.

13. Maine is nicknamed “The Pine Tree State.” The tree appears on the state flag, and, as of 2012, a full 83 percent of the state was covered in forest, making it the second most tree-covered state in the lower 48 states (New Hampshire was first with 89 percent). 

14. Maine used to be part of Massachusetts. The former Massachusetts province spent decades after the American Revolution campaigning for independence, and finally gained official statehood in 1820.

15. Bangor, Maine, claims to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, and is home to a giant 31-foot statue celebrating the legendary woodsman. The enormous Bunyan tribute, built in 1959, is “reputed to be the largest statue of Paul Bunyan in the world”—at least according to the statue’s accompanying sign.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

16. Maine has a ton of quirky museums, including the telephone museum in Ellsworth, the Maine Coast Sardine History Museum in Jonesport, the Umbrella Cover Museum in Portland, and perhaps most famously, the International Cryptozoology Museum (also in Portland), dedicated to the study of “hidden” or “unknown” animals like Yetis, Bigfoot, and Lake Monsters. 

17. L.L. Bean was founded in Freeport, Maine in 1912 by hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean. Its flagship store in Freeport not only has an aquarium, but is also adorned with a giant size 410 Bean boot. 

Heather Paul, Flickr// CC BY-ND 2.0

18. With a little more than 66,000 residents, Portland has the highest population of any city in Maine. That’s nearly twice the size of Lewiston, which is the state’s second largest city with just 36,000 or so residents. 

19. The Maine Coon Cat, which is the official state cat of Maine, is the largest domestic cat breed—and with their thick, layered fur coats, they’re perfectly adapted for Maine’s snowy winters. 

20. Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College is the oldest college in Maine. Its famous alumni include renowned poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

21. At just 15 years old, Farmington native Chester Greenwood came up with the idea for earmuffs in the 1870s as a way to stay warm when he went ice skating. To this day, Farmington, Maine, celebrates the revolutionary invention every year with the Chester Greenwood Day Parade, which features an array of earmuff-themed floats. 

22. Maine is known as “The Birthplace of Prohibition.” The state was the first to ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol in 1851 (although the law was repealed five years later), and in 1880, Portland Mayor Neal Dow, sometimes called the “Father of Prohibition,” ran for president on the Prohibition Party ticket. 

23. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Brunswick, Maine, during the 1850s. The house where she worked on the novel is now a museum.

24. One of the ten coldest states, Maine has long been famous for its harsh winters and chilly springs. In January of 2009, the state experienced its coldest day ever, hitting -50°F in Big Black River.

25. Maine’s motto is “Dirigo,” meaning “I direct.” The motto appears on the state’s coat of arms and its flag, and was adopted in 1820.

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History
Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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iStock

Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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History
7 of History’s Most Unusual Riots
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Some sociologists theorize that most rioters only join a crowd because the crowd is big enough to justify joining. But there’s always that one person who sparks the violence, and sometimes the reason for doing so can seem pretty baffling. Maybe a work of art scandalizes its audience, like the famous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Or maybe it’s simply a notable act of disrespect, like history’s first recorded mooning (in Jerusalem in the first century CE). From balloonists to brown dogs to daylight saving time, here are seven weird reasons things just got out of hand.

1. THE MELBOURNE DART RIOT

The Darts Invitational Challenge, an international tournament held in Melbourne, attracted international gawking in January 2015 during the finals match between Michael "Mighty Mike" van Gerwen and Simon "The Wizard" Whitlock. The dart players weren’t making a scene, though: Rather, hundreds of spectators, many of them drunk and in costume, began throwing plastic chairs as they watched (pictured above). The reasons for the fight remain unclear; footage and photos show police trying to control adults dressed as Oompa-Loompas, numerous superheroes, and, in one instance, in a ghillie suit (heavy camouflage meant to resemble foliage).

2. THE LEICESTER BALLOON RIOT

In 1864, balloonists were the great daredevils of their time, and a major draw for eager audiences. That summer, Henry Coxwell, a famous professional aeronaut, was set to make an appearance for 50,000 paying ticketholders in Leicester, England. Unfortunately, a rumor spread that he hadn’t brought his biggest and best balloon to the event. After heckling from the crowd, Coxwell deflated his balloon, and attendees rushed it, ripping it to shreds, setting it on fire, and threatening to visit the same fate on Coxwell. Rioters even paraded the remains of the balloon through the streets of town, which briefly brought residents a new nickname: Balloonatics.

3. THE TORONTO CLOWN AND FIREFIGHTER RIOT

Toronto was still a pretty rough place in the 1850s, but not so rough that the circus wouldn’t come to town. As it turns out, circus entertainers were also a tough lot back then, so when a group of off-duty clowns spent an evening at a brothel popular with the city’s firefighters on July 12, 1855, tensions came to a head. Accounts differ as to who started the fight, but after one firefighter knocked the hat off a clown things escalated into a full-on rabble intent on chasing the circus out of town. Only the mayor calling in the militia put an end to the uproar, an incident Torontonians credit with kicking off much-needed local police reforms.

4. THE BELGIAN NIGHT AT THE OPERA RIOT

A painting by Charles Soubre of the Belgian Revolution
Charles Soubre, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Not many nations can claim their independence started with an aria, but for 19th-century Belgians sick of living under Dutch rule, an opera was just the right fuse for a revolution. To honor the birthday of King William I of the Netherlands, a theater in Brussels put on La Muette de Portici, about an uprising in Naples against Spanish rule. One song, "Amour Sacre de la Patrie" ("Sacred Love of the Fatherland"), aroused nationalistic passions so much that after the opera ended, the crowd began destroying factories and occupying government buildings. That was August 25, 1830; Belgium declared independence on October 4.

5. THE NEW YORK DOCTORS' RIOT

Hamilton fans, take note: Everyone’s favorite Founding Father once tried to quiet a mob bent on burning corpses. For centuries, anatomists and medical students relied on gruesome means to learn about the human body. Cadavers for dissection class often came from grave robbers, since the corpses of executed criminals were the only legal source—and they were in limited supply. In New York in 1788, rumors abounded that medical students were digging up paupers’ graves and black cemeteries. When one mob came after the doctors responsible, Alexander Hamilton tried, and failed, to restore the peace. The crowd swelled to about 5000 before militiamen intervened, leading to up to about 20 deaths.

6. THE BROWN DOG RIOTS

Photo of an anti-vivisection demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, to protest the removal from Battersea Park of the Brown Dog statue
The Anti-Vivisection Review, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Riots against the dissection of dead human bodies were not rare in the United States at one time. But on December 10, 1907, a thousand Britons marched in support of vivisection, or surgery on live animals. At the center of the controversy was a small terrier allegedly vivisected without anesthetic in 1903 during a class at London’s University College. Animal rights activists erected a statue to the dog in 1906, which enraged area medical students, and protesters tried to destroy the statue using crowbars and hammers. For the 1907 march, 400 mounted police were deployed to contain marchers. The statue became such a flashpoint (and an expense to local authorities) that in 1910, it was removed and melted down.

7. THE EEL-PULLING RIOT

Palingtrekken (eel-pulling) was once a popular contest in Amsterdam, in which a writhing eel was suspended over a canal and hopefuls on boats would leap to snatch it as they passed beneath (usually landing in the water instead). However, “eel-pulling” was also illegal—the government deemed it a “cruel popular entertainment”—and in July 1886, police intervened at a particularly large gathering in the city’s Jordaan district. Civilians threw stones and bricks at police, and when some nearby socialist protestors joined them, a riot broke out that lasted for several days. The army finally intervened and opened fire on the protestors. All in all, 26 people died and 136 were wounded, but somehow, the eel itself at the center of the riots was allegedly saved and auctioned off in 1913.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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