July 16, 2020

20th century recalled in gifts of Maine land

The 20th century will be remembered in Maine for gifts of land that became Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park and for the 1947 forest fires that blackened much of Acadia and a large swath of York County.

The rise and decline of traditional manufacturing industries such as textiles, shoes and, to a lesser extent, paper, reflected broader economic changes as the state joined in the shift toward a service economy.

Environmental issues gained political potency in the late 1960s, setting the stage for battles that ended in the abandonment of oil refinery projects and the proposed Dickey-Lincoln dam.

On the political front, the election of Edmund Muskie as governor in 1954 ushered in the resurgence of the Democratic Party after decades of Republican dominance. The state’s reputation for independent thinking was reflected late in the century in the election of two independent governors, James Longley and Angus King.

The Ku Klux Klan became a force to be reckoned within in the 1920s when its membership in Maine peaked at more than 50,000 people. A half century later, the federal government provided $81 million to settle American Indian claims to 60 percent of the land in Maine.

These were among the top stories of the century, as chosen from a time line provided by Professor Joel Eastman of the University of Southern Maine and interviews with other historians around the state.

Among other major stories were:

Samantha Smith wins the world’s affection in 1982 with her written appeal for peace to the Soviet Union’s leader, Yuri Andropov, and later dies in a tragic plane crash.

The creation of the Maine Forestry District in 1909 to prevent and fight forest fires.

The FBI guns down Al Brady and another member of his gang of bank robbers on a Bangor street in 1937.

The adoption of a state income tax in 1969.

The 1957 law that set the stage for the creation of consolidated school districts.

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