By Michelle Werts
The Pine Tree State joined the Union on this day 192 years ago, bringing with it 17 million acres of forestland, 32,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 3,500 miles of coastline. Once part of Massachusetts, in 1820, Maine became America’s 23rd state, but its northeast border would be in dispute for another 22 years — war almost broke out between Britain and Canada over the boundary until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty resolved the issue in 1842.
Known for its rugged cold and equally rugged landscape, Maine’s landscape was shaped by the ice age, with the last glacial retreat leaving behind a picturesque terrain and 2,000 islands along its coast. It’s home to the only national park in New England, Acadia National Park, and one national forest, White Mountain National Forest. Acadia actually means “heaven on Earth” in French, and those standing atop its Cadillac Mountain at sunrise are the first people in the U.S. to usher in each new day.
Speaking of names, when 83 percent of a state’s land is forestland — the highest percentage of any state in the U.S. — can it really be nicknamed anything but the Pine Tree State? During colonial times, its forestland and coast location made Maine a prime shipbuilding locale; its white pines were particularly popular as masts. Today, timber is still an important part of the state’s economy, but it also still relies on the sea, but now, for the food: A record 100 million-plus pounds of lobster were harvested in 2011.
Maine isn’t all business, though as it’s home to recreation activities galore — from beaches and sailing to camping, hunting and fishing to action sports like rock climbing and surfing. The Pine Tree State has a little something to offer everyone, so “Happy Birthday, Maine.” So glad you officially joined us on March 15, 1820.