Maine History Timeline
Selected Events in Maine History: 1850–1899



  • As part of the national Temperance movement, the "Maine Law" passes, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the state; preceding the national law by 68 years. Portland's Neal Dow (1804–1897) is the driving force behind prohibition in the state


  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896), then residing in Brunswick, publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, an important work for the abolitionist cause


  • Grand Trunk Railway is built, connecting Maine to the St. Lawrence River, Montreal, and the Canadian Maritimes, and making Portland the winter port for Canadian trade


  • The Maine State Seminary in Lewiston, now Bates College, is incorporated


  • Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891) of Hampden is vice president during Abraham Lincoln's first term


  • A wave of French-Canadian immigration into Maine begins, spawned by industrial work opportunities in many Maine cities


  • Joshua L. Chamberlain (1828–1914) of Brunswick leads the 20th Maine Regiment in a bayonet charge at the Battle of Little Round Top in Gettysburg, helping turn the course of the Civil War toward Union victory


  • A great fire burns much of Portland, destroying 1,500 homes and businesses, leaving 10,000 homeless and prompting national fire insurance reform


  • The Maine State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts, now the University of Maine, established in 1862, opens in Orono


  • Oliver Otis Howard (1830–1909), a native of Leeds, a Civil War officer, and head of the Freedman's Bureau, founds Howard University in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's earliest black colleges


  • St. Peter's Church (St. Peter and Paul) is built in Lewiston; the first French national church in Maine


  • James A. Healy (1830–1900), son of an Irish immigrant father and mixed-race slave mother, becomes Roman Catholic Bishop when he is consecrated in Portland. During his tenure, he lobbied for sovereignty for Indian tribes and an end to child labor


  • Lillian Norton (1859–1914) of Farmington makes her opera debut in Milan as Madame Nordica


  • Le Messager, a French language newspaper begins in Lewiston, serving the growing French-Canadian population


  • Local artists and benefactors found the Portland Society of Art, which later became Portland Museum of Art and Maine College of Art
  • Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) dies in Cambridge, Massachusetts


  • F. E. Stanley (1849–1918) and F. O. Stanley (1849-1940) of Kingfield, invent dry plate photographic process. In 1905, they sell the company to Eastman-Kodak when steam engines become their dominant interest. In 1897, the twin brothers invent a steam driven car, the Stanley Steamer
  • Maine rescinds law against interracial marriage, a law instituted in 1820 when Maine became a state and which was carried over from a 1715 Massachusetts law


  • James G. Blaine (1830–1893) of Augusta, Republican presidential nominee suffers narrow defeat by Grover Cleveland


  • Melville W. Fuller (1833–1910), a native of Augusta, becomes chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court


  • Thomas Brackett Reed (1839–1902) of Portland is elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he holds from 1889-1891 and 1895-99. He is known for "Reed's Rules," intended to make the House operate more smoothly


  • The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad is incorporated to improve access to Aroostook County and to improve movement of lumber out of the woods


  • Writer Celia Thaxter (1835–1894) and painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935) produce An Island Garden, a benchmark in development of the Isle of Shoals art colony, reflecting a national movement of such activities


  • Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909) of South Berwick publishes Country of the Pointed Firs, a well-respected short-story collection that reflects regional life in Maine


  • Louis Sockalexis (1871–1913), a Penobscot Indian born on Indian Island, becomes the first American Indian to play for a Major League baseball team, the Cleveland Spiders (later the Cleveland Indians)
  • Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby (1854-1946) becomes the first registered Maine Guide; she is known for promoting tourism, especially hunting and fishing, in the Maine Woods