This Day in History: 1820

As part of the Missouri Compromise between the North and the South, Maine was admitted into the Union on March 15, 2016. Administered as a province of Massachusetts since 1647, the entrance of Maine as a free state was agreed to by Southern senators in exchange for the entrance of Missouri as a slave state.

In 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited the coast of Maine and claimed it as part of the French province of Acadia. However, French attempts to settle Maine were foiled when British forces under Sir Samuel Argall wiped out a colony on Mount Desert Island in 1613.

Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a prominent figure in the Plymouth Company, got the ball rolling on British settlement in Maine after procuring a grant and royal charter, and upon Gorges’ death in 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony claimed jurisdiction. Gorges’ heirs disputed this claim until 1677, when Massachusetts agreed to buy Gorges’ original proprietary rights.

As part of Massachusetts, Maine developed early lumbering, fishing, and shipbuilding industries and in 1820 was granted statehood, making it the 23rd state admitted into the union. In the 19th century, the lure of jobs in the timber industry attracted hordes of French Canadians to Maine from the Canadian province of Quebec.

With a substantial swath of Maine still covered by forests, Maine is called the “Pine Tree State” and is the most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi River.

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