How did Maine people cope with Depression-era unemployment? Proud and fiercely independent, they generally considered "going on the town" disgraceful except in cases of extreme emergency.
An experiment in federal counter-cyclical spending, the New Deal deliberately used the deficit to pump money into the economy and boost consumer power. This Maine people considered a political sacrilege.
Between 1940 and 1941 defense spending in Maine leaped from $130 million to $500 million, reducing unemployment dramatically.
Like all Americans, Maine people fought in World War I, suffered the economic disaster of 1929-1939, and adapted to the federal government's new role in the national economy. But in Maine a unique constellation of forces determined a different path through these momentous events.
Sixty percent of Maine's 800,000 people still lived in the countryside in 1930, and as in earlier times, each community wove family, work, and religion into a unique set of relations and identities. More than three out of four Maine people in 1930 were native born of native parentage – the highest proportion in New England – and this homogeneity reinforced a strong sense of tradition.
Out-migration continued into the 20th century, but population declines merely reinforced the conservative bent among those who remained – generally town elites with a strong stake in traditional local society.
Rural Maine had not changed significantly in the 19th century. Towns and villages still provided the essentials of life: barbershop, blacksmith's forge, general store, Grange, and a scattering of professional offices, churches, mills, and artisan shops. These local services provided goods and equipment for the farm family and processed their corn, grain, livestock, dairy products, wool, timber, and hides.
Rural Maine was a gritty world of unheated bedrooms, kitchen pumps, and outdoor privies, but few had reason to believe this would change. As always, activities followed the patterns of nature: horizons expanded during summer and contracted in mud season; the pace of work quickened as the days grew warmer, culminating in the fall harvest. This continuity lent credence to the sense of permanence; in a hundred subtle ways everything in Maine moved with the seasons.
Isolation and Outside Forces
Isolation bred independence and a strong sense of individual responsibility. Families worked together, ate together and hunted, fished, and gathered berries together. Children settled near their parents, and generations came and went around the "home place," guided by a culture of hard work, adaptability, and competence.
Men worked in the woods and fields, and women tended the home, the garden, the barnyard, and the henhouse. They bathed kids and washed clothes in tubs in the kitchen and sent them off to school clean and well groomed.
There were subtle changes, however. Roads, radios, telephones, and theaters provided new vectors for urban culture. Two-thirds of Maine's farm families owned automobiles by 1930, and Rural Free Delivery broadened their consumer reach.
Farmers working the lime-rich soils of Aroostook County harvested about one-eighth of the total U.S. potato crop by 1930 and enjoyed substantially higher incomes than those in the rest of the state. But they were increasingly subject to distant influences like railroad agents, express companies, bank managers, food processors, farm-equipment dealers, commission merchants, and seed and fertilizer suppliers.
Central Maine farms were prosperous as well, each producing a mix of crops ranging from hay, potatoes, apples, sweet corn, and blueberries to poultry, eggs, milk, and butter.
Here, too, farmers were subject to outside forces difficult to understand or anticipate, and like farmers all across the country they had expanded during World War I and suffered declining markets in the 1920s.
In more remote districts, farmers mixed commercial cropping with subsistence, meaning growing larger vegetable gardens and keeping livestock for family consumption, selling pulpwood, maple syrup, Christmas trees, or firewood to keep the farm together, and moving endlessly from farm chores to off-farm work in what autobiographer Mark Walker called "treadmill lives." Better roads and rural electrification eased these burdens, but improvements were uneven.
Coastal counties, where nearly half the farms were engaged in mixed activity, experienced dramatic population losses after the turn of the century, evident in deteriorating buildings, neglected orchards, vacant schoolhouses and churches, and shuttered mills and shops. During the 1920s more than 40,000 Maine people left the countryside. While this was consistent with trends in rural America generally, fewer in-migrants replaced those who left Maine.
These changes generated a variety of political and social tensions. Maine people searched for villains among the poor, the newcomers, the corporations, and the federal government, and this unsettled mood conditioned their response to the New Deal. They would emerge from World War II a different people, but for the time, they clung to their immediate points of reference: the country store, Grange hall, church, and the annual town meeting.
Rural life, as historian Richard Condon notes, stood on the brink of modernity.
Although Maine in 1930 was predominantly rural, the state's largest city, Portland, contained more than 70,000 inhabitants; Lewiston's population stood at 35,000, and Bangor's was 28,000. Maine's cities served a variety of economic functions.
Portland, Bangor, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, and Caribou provided commercial services for the surrounding country. Biddeford, Lewiston, and Augusta specialized in cotton textiles. Millinocket, Westbrook, Rumford, Jay, Woodland, and Bucksport made paper products. Auburn, Gardner, Wilton, Augusta, and Hallowell produced shoes. Smaller communities hosted canneries for fish, fruit, and vegetables or mills for various wood products.
Urban Maine welcomed the new economy of the 1920s, which brought low-priced mass-produced automobiles and new electrical appliances like radios, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners. But most of these cities, apart from the paper mill towns, lacked the prosperity of America's larger metropolises.
Shipbuilding in Bath continued to decline, and Portland competed with Boston to the south and St. John and Halifax to the north in port facilities. In the 1850s Portland became eastern Canada's major winter port by building a rail line to Montreal, but in the 20th century its facilities fell below standards set by other East-Coast cities. In 1919 the state approved a bond issue to built a modern pier and warehouse on the waterfront, but four years later Canadian tariffs diverted that country's shipping to Halifax and St. John.
Many conservative Portland leaders advocated tourism as an alternative source of economic growth, and the city's port facilities continued to languish.
Maine's Depression Economy
The stock market crash of October 1929 brought an end to the "Roaring Twenties" and ushered in the Great Depression. The causes of this economic disaster are complex, but suffice to say the decade brought the worst economic conditions in the country's history, with as many as one-third of the nation's workforce unemployed.
Industrial states were particularly hard-hit, meaning that Maine's experience was less devastating. Most farm families could at least grow their own food, and in fact many unemployed urban workers returned to the old homestead during the decade. Rural Maine experienced a 5.9 percent increase in population – its first gain since the 1870s.
The Depression was also cushioned by the fact that leading Maine industries like lumber, textiles, fishing, shoes, and leather were already stripped of the excesses that characterized so much of American industry in the 1920s. With tight budgets and low inventories, these firms weathered the Depression in relatively good shape. As late as 1931 the New York Times described Maine's situation as "not particularly abnormal": depression, it seemed, was the usual state of affairs in the beleaguered state.
By 1933 Maine began to feel effects of the Depression. Unemployment rose to an estimated 15 percent; farmers were short of cash for taxes and mortgages; storefronts were boarded up, and tourist travel declined in the coastal villages.
Aroostook County's heavily commercialized potato farmers, who in good years produced about half Maine's agricultural output, were particularly hard-hit. Potato prices ranged from a high of $2 per bushel in 1925 to a low of 21 cents in 1931, a price well below the cost of shipping. Large mortgages meant that farm costs remained constant even when farmers cut back on production; potato growers broke even in just five seasons between 1930 and 1940.
In agriculture and in other areas of Maine's economy, Depression-era declines were compounded by long-term structural problems. The paper industry faced growing competition from Canadian producers when tariffs fell after the turn of the century, and in the 1930s chemists discovered ways of pulping southern pine. With vast tracts of abandoned cotton fields growing back to pine forests, southern production expanded rapidly, as did production in the Great Lakes area.
Mill workers fared reasonably well under these conditions; wages dropped, but owners reduced hours to keep more workers employed. In the woods, pulp-cutters competed against wood imports from northern Europe and Canada and contract workers from Quebec. In the St. John valley some workers spent three weeks in the woods only to come out with $1.50 to $3 in cash – or still in debt for their camp board.
Textile mills faced a similar combination of structural weaknesses and Depression markets as the industry moved south to benefit from lower transport costs and cheaper labor. Mills remaining in Maine already were honed by this competition, and with budgets and inventory low, they ran at 70 percent capacity during the Depression.
Lobster and clam prices fell precipitously since these items were considered luxuries, but here, too, long-term changes – Canadian competition in this case – compounded the problem. In postwar years these market changes would continue to plague Maine's economy.
Survival and Self-Help
How did Maine people cope with Depression-era unemployment? Proud and fiercely independent, they generally considered "going on the town" disgraceful except in cases of extreme emergency.
Lorena Hickok, who traveled the nation reporting on conditions in each region, noted that in the depths of the Depression thousands of eligible Maine people refused federal relief due to pride and community pressure: a "Maine-ite," she reported, would "almost starve rather than ask for help."
On the other hand, Maine tradition obliged neighbors to donate money or food, contribute labor, or cut wood for families in an emergency, and this system of responses was Maine's first line of defense during the Depression.
A long history of rural self-sufficiency provided another stopgap, and here the onus of family survival fell mostly on the women who raised garden crops and poultry, made cheese, canned fruits and preserves, and contributed other key sources of sustenance.
Extended families were another source of support; married children often returned to their ancestral home, and with two or three generations working odd jobs and gleaning subsistence from fields, woods, barnyard, and garden, families weathered the hard times. Maine people also benefited from a long history of seasonal job migration; skipping from job to job as a way of life prepared them for Depression layoffs.
Others, particularly unmarried young men, moved in and out of Maine looking for jobs. Here, too, a tradition of occupational opportunism prepared them for life on the road.
Job prospects were as bleak outside Maine as within, but a man on the move, possibly with the help of a Traveler's Aid Society bus ticket, could survive by changing places and making the rounds of soup-kitchens and mission houses between jobs.
Despite these adaptive strategies, families in desperation strained existing relief systems. Initially town governments shouldered the burden of relief with help from private charities and churches, but these services were quickly overwhelmed.
By 1932, state and local governments had reached the limits of their solvency. In Portland, 1933 relief expenditures were 500 percent above pre-Depression costs, despite the city council's resolve to observe the "most rigid economy."
The city passed bond issues for improvements in parks, streets, and cemeteries and put unemployed citizens to work building a municipal golf course and copying "ancient records" for the city clerk.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1932, the federal government assumed the burden of providing relief, partly through direct payments and partly through payments to state and local governments. Federal funds were welcome – indeed necessary – but Maine's response to the federal government was conditioned by a long history of localism and self-reliance. Adjusting to the new federal influence was painful.
The New Deal Responds in Maine
The president moved quickly to restore confidence in the economy by sending Congress a flood of work-relief and economic stimulus measures. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration made grants to the states, which in turn distributed these funds to cities and towns for local work-relief projects. The Works Progress Administration provided similar funding after 1935.
These agencies ushered in a variety of new services including school lunches and after-school classes in dancing, photography, music, drama, crafts, ice hockey, figure skating, and volleyball.
The WPA hired women to sew garments for relief organizations or for sale and employed others to teach sewing and nursing, transcribe historical records, or staff programs in naturalization and literacy. Men and women learned skills in clerical work, typing, shorthand, business-machine operation, boatbuilding, carpentry, and auto mechanics.
New Deal agencies sponsored hundreds of construction projects, most of them prosaic – sometimes simply repairs – but necessary improvements in public infrastructure. Maine gained 122 new schools along with improvements in sewers, bridges, airport runways, roads, sidewalks, municipal buildings, wading pools, playgrounds, and parks.
Late in the decade when the nation moved toward military preparedness, WPA workers enlarged the Bangor Airport to accommodate heavy bombers, and by 1939 commercial airlines were making regular stops at the new facility.
Women, constituting 25 percent of Maine's unemployed, took jobs like canning foods for school lunches, sewing, nursing, tutoring, teaching English, running nursery-schools, and conducting in-home health inspections.
The Federal Writer's Project produced literary and informational material like the popular Maine: A Guide "Downeast" (1937). Part of the American Guide Series, it was designed to highlight Maine's history, culture, scenery, folklore, social and economic trends, and points of interest.
Perhaps the most controversial WPA program was the Federal Art Project, guided by the idea that artists working with ordinary people would create a "democratic art" for America. In Maine, Dorothy Hay, an art major from Smith College, supervised the program. As elsewhere, it produced paintings and murals for public buildings, and posters, prints, charts, and illustrations for other federal activities.
The WPA also built theater stages and sets, designed costumes, sponsored community art classes, and collected American folk-art by searching through antique shops, sail-lofts, boat yards, barns, and junkyards. The program yielded a trove of wall stencils, crewel embroidery, china, woodcarvings, figureheads, weather vanes, cigar-store Indians, and ship signs. A similar Federal Music Project based in Portland, Lewiston and briefly in Bangor, sent traveling entertainment troupes, bands, and orchestras around the state.
The most popular of the New Deal relief agencies was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which recruited unemployed young men and later young women and put them to work on various conservation-related projects in return for food, lodging, and $30 a month (usually sent home to the parents).
In Maine, CCC units employed about 16,000 youths, most of whom built roads and cleared fire trails for the Maine Forest Service. They completed the Appalachian Trail to the top of Mount Katahdin, worked to control Gypsy moth and brown-tail moth infestations, built campgrounds and trails in Acadia National Park and Camden Hills State Park, and cleared forest debris after the hurricane of 1938.
Maine Responds to the New Deal
On the eve of the Depression the Republican grip on the Maine electorate was loosened by growing concern over rural electrification, rising power rates, and ties between Walter Wyman's expansive Maine Central Power Company and other Maine industries.
Since the mid 1920s the Republican Party had been identified with the Wyman empire and its attempt to overturn Maine's Fernald Law, which prohibited the export of power from Maine. When Ralph O. Brewster became governor in 1925 and supported the Fernald Law, high-ranking Republican leaders attempted to abolish the direct primary system to ensure more control over nominations.
The assault on the primary law weakened the party, which also suffered a series of financial scandals and a split between Old Guard and younger factions.
The conservative wing found a candidate in William Tudor Gardiner, who was swept into office in 1928. But in that year a popular referendum upheld the Fernald law despite heavy party lobbying, further dampening Republican spirits. Gardiner was re-elected in 1930, before the Depression became a viable issue for Maine, but party divisions were deepening.
Over the next two years Republicans focused on perennial issues like prohibition and fiscal economy, avoiding the Depression for the most part. The administration rejected federal aid for roads to preserve state and local control, but the increase in automobiles and trucks in the 1920s made state construction costs a thorny issue. In 1929 Gardiner demanded resignations from the entire highway commission amid charges of poor construction and corruption.
Newspaper reports on bootleggers and heavy drinking at the Republican State Convention tarnished the party's long-standing prohibition plank.
Sensing fractures in the Republican edifice, State Democratic Chair and gubernatorial candidate Edward C. Moran of Rockland began reorganizing his disillusioned and frustrated party. The task was formidable; Democrats had been out of power effectively since the Civil War, and without hope of electoral success or patronage positions, the party attracted few good leaders.
Maine held its state elections in September, two months before the nation at large, and the old saw "as goes Maine goes, so goes the nation" brought funds and campaigners from the national Republican party in the hopes of generating a self-fulfilling prophesy. Nevertheless, in the 1930 off-year election the Republican majority was slimmer than in 1928.
In 1932 Democrats backed Louis Jefferson Brann, a popular Lewiston lawyer and former mayor. Brann ran an ambitious statewide grass roots campaign, and local committees appeared in areas Democrats had failed to organize for nearly a century.
With funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, Democrats won the governor's seat, while Moran and former Bangor mayor John Utterback won seats in Congress in the Second and Third districts.
Despite the state victory for Democrats, Maine endorsed Herbert Hoover in November, joining only four other states to vote Republican in the presidential election.
Brann was reelected in 1934, but two years later Democrats were swept out of office at the height of the national party's political prospects. The brevity of this Democratic surge was in part a reflection of weaknesses in the state organization.
The party attracted French-Canadian votes in mill towns like Lewiston, Biddeford, and Waterville, but it also harbored an older faction made up of rural Jacksonian Democrats; while the former embraced the New Deal, the latter clung to pre-Civil War agrarian principles like states' rights and anti-federalism. The party's fortunes reflected this ambivalence.
Maine people were not satisfied with the New Deal. Roosevelt's 1933 General Reciprocity Treaty with Canada lowered tariffs on potatoes, apples, and wood products – three of Maine's most important commodities.
The federal Agricultural Adjustment Administration, established in 1938 to pay farmers for land left fallow, was restricted to commodities deemed "basic" to the American economy, and because no Maine crops fell under these guidelines the state was one of only two in the nation to retire no acres under the AAA production quotas. Maine Farmers benefited from the Farm Credit Administration and the Farm Security Administration, but the impact was uneven.
Maine's greatest disappointment with the New Deal was the Passamaquoddy Tidal Project, brainchild of engineer Dexter Cooper who, during the 1920s proposed dams across the deep channels of Passamaquoddy Bay to harness its 27-foot tides for hydroelectric power.
Under pressure from Roosevelt, Congress appropriated $10 million to launch the project. While most Maine people rallied behind the effort, conservative Republicans and Maine's private utility officials considered it socialistic or the opening wedge for a government dictatorship over utility rates. Nor were fishermen around the bay enthusiastic. As costs and opposition rose, a narrow Senate vote killed the project in 1936.
Maine's experience with tariffs, the AAA, and the Quoddy Project only partly explain its reaction to the New Deal. An experiment in federal counter-cyclical spending, the New Deal deliberately used the deficit to pump money into the economy and boost consumer power. This Maine people considered a political sacrilege. Newspaper editorials throughout the period expressed optimism that conditions were improving and insisted that New Deal spending was unnecessary.
The idea that balancing the budget was government's highest responsibility was rooted in generations of New England thrift. In addition, many Maine people found the relief programs distasteful, even in Depression circumstances.
The view that government help was morally improper was difficult to surmount, particularly in rural Maine where local administrators passed out relief funds reluctantly. Maine's insular location and rural, small-town culture left the state ill prepared for Washington's active role in state affairs, and finally, those who employed pulp-cutters, clam-diggers, potato pickers, fish-canners, quarry workers and the like complained that workers refused to give up their WPA jobs when offered seasonal work, even though federal eligibility required enrollees to take private-sector jobs when they were offered.
Aware of these reservations, Brann used federal funds to build support but kept the New Deal at arms length. However, disagreements continued to split the Democrats, leading to defeat at the polls.
In the 1936 presidential elections Maine once again rejected the New Deal by a margin of 57 to 43 percent, joining only one other state – Vermont – in endorsing Alfred Landon. Roosevelt, enjoying one of the greatest landslide victories in American history, quipped, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont."
When Lewis O. Barrows defeated incumbent Brann in the 1938 gubernatorial election, the Democrats lost their last chance to ride the nationwide Democratic wave to victory in Maine. The New Deal programs presented an opportunity for rebuilding the party by appointing WPA supervisors and foremen throughout the state, but instead of exploiting this, Democrats plunged into a downward spiral that lasted until the election of Edmund S. Muskie in 1954.
During the last four years of the New Deal, the Roosevelt administration shifted strategies to address an imbalance of power between corporations and unions, on the assumption that stronger unions would force wages up, increase spending power, and speed recovery. The New Deal supported a wide array of measures to encourage union organization, contributing to the dramatic successes made by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1936-1940.
Despite this encouragement, Maine unions suffered brutal defeats in the textile and shoe industries and remained weak outside the paper industry. Textile workers struck in 1934, but under heavy pressure from city officials, newspaper editors, and the Catholic establishment, the strike failed.
A second strike in 1937 organized by the CIO was more successful, but in that year 19 shoe factories in Lewiston and Auburn lost a violent strike in which industrialists used police and national guard units, blacklists, tear-gas, strikebreakers, and court injunctions to defeat the workers.
The National Labor Relations Board conducted an election, and most workers voted to join the CIO, but shoe company officials simply ignored the federal mandate. Elsewhere the CIO won spectacular successes in the textile, auto, and steel industries, but in Maine inexperience, poverty, intimidation, public condemnation, newspaper criticism, opposition from the clergy, and a hostile court prevented similar victories.
The homefront in World War II
Maine benefited from a rise in tourism and generally better prospects for agriculture in the late 1930s, but it was the boost in defense spending after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 that brought the state and the nation out of the Depression.
A poll conducted by the Lewiston Evening Journal late in the 1930s found that more than 90 percent of its readers were opposed to U.S. involvement in Europe, other than sending supplies.
Events in 1940-1941 – the blitzkrieg into western Europe, the fall of France, the invasion of Russia, the Battle of Britain, and the Lend-Lease program for supplying ships and equipment to Britain – steadily eroded this sense of isolationism, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 found Mainers prepared for U.S. entry into the conflict.
Given its proximity to Europe and its excellent harbor, Portland quickly became a focus for naval operations in the North Atlantic. By late 1941 Portland was guarded by several six-inch gun batteries on the outlying islands, connected by a network of observation posts and telephones.
Defense units laid steel mesh across the harbor mouth, strengthened Fort Williams with massive concrete walls and ammo bunkers, and mounted a pair of battleship-class 16-inch guns on Peaks Island, each with its own turret and reinforced concrete bunker.
The city became a key anchorage for the Atlantic destroyer fleet, which guarded convoys headed to Europe, and the harbor was crowded with aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, tankers, and supply ships.
The federal government constructed a huge refueling station on Long Island, and to avoid carrying oil by sea, Standard Oil of New Jersey constructed a pipeline from Portland to Montreal, making Portland one of the largest oil ports on the East Coast.
Between 1940 and 1941 defense spending in Maine leapt from $130 million to $500 million, reducing unemployment dramatically.
William S. Newell of Bath Iron Works in conjunction with Todd Shipbuilding Company won a British contract for 30 cargo vessels to be built at an entirely new facility in South Portland. Newell constructed a second shipyard in South Portland to build Liberty ships for the U.S. merchant marine and merged the two into the New England Shipbuilding Corporation.
The impact of this defense spending spread quickly through Portland, boosting real estate values and quickening the pace of business along Congress Street. Portland grew from 73,643 people in 1940 to 77,634 in 1949, while South Portland was transformed from a quiet residential neighborhood into a bustling industrial city.
The increases in employment brought new homes and apartments and activities for workers and sailors on liberty at two United Service Organizations (USO) centers as well as at city recreation centers in the Chamber of Commerce building, the Masonic Temple, the YWCA, the Armory gymnasium, the Boys Club, and in several churches.
Maine's "Blue Laws," requiring bars to close at midnight, created some tensions, as did segregation of African-American sailors in the recreational centers.
During the Depression Bath Iron Works had built several destroyers for the U.S. Navy, and with the wartime build-up the firm expanded its operations to East Brunswick as well as South Portland. In all, the company employed more than 30,000 workers at its peak, including nearly 4,000 women, and it launched 266 ships.
In addition to the BIW facilities, firms like Goudy and Stevens, Hodgdon Brothers, and Harvey F. Gamage of Boothbay Harbor and the Camden Shipbuilding and Marine Railway Company in Camden built wooden torpedo patrol boats, minesweepers, and auxiliary vessels for the Navy.
German U-boats harried convoys carrying supplies to Europe and frequently reached the East Coast, where they were a grave threat to merchant shipping.
At Brunswick, the Navy constructed an air station in 1943 primarily to train Royal Canadian Air Force pilots and radar operators, but also to launch around-the-clock patrols for submarines.
When these operations first began, the station offered only a half-mile runway with soft-tar sides and no hangers or operations tower. Pilots prepared for flight in a utility room furnished with packing boxes and a pot-bellied stove. Later the base supported auxiliary landing fields at Sanford, Lewiston, and Rockland.
When it was deactivated in 1946, the station was leased to the University of Maine and Bowdoin College to accommodate a flood of new students enrolled under the G.I. bill. The facility later hosted the Brunswick Flying Service, a skating rink, and a garage before it was re-commissioned in 1951 as an Air Force Control and Warning Facility.
In Bangor, Dow Air Force Base was built in 1941 for a squadron of twin-engine P-38s, P-40s, P-43s and P-66s, subsequently sent to Europe as bomber escorts. Dow also was closed after the war, then reactivated as a wing of the Strategic Air Command before final closure in 1968.
Later the facility became the Bangor International Airport. Because of its proximity to Europe and the long runway built for SAC bombers, the airport attracted international as well as domestic flights.
The war did not change Maine politics; the state voted against Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 and 1944. Maine and Vermont were the only two states in the country to have voted against Roosevelt in all four presidential elections.
Maine stood apart from the rest of the nation in rejecting the New Deal and in its relative economic stability during the Great Depression, and ironically, it remained apart from national trends when America emerged from the war into an era of unprecedented economic prosperity.
Maine's leading industries – shipbuilding, fishing, shoemaking, leather, lumber, and textiles – continued to decline in the postwar era.
With the election of Edmund S. Muskie in 1954, Maine re-entered the national political framework as several Democratic governors were elected in traditionally Republican northern states.
But it would not be until the 1970s that Maine's economic condition reflected the general prosperity of the nation at large. Until then, Maine struggled to modernize its tradition-bound economy, a place somewhat apart from the nation as a whole.