The Flag of Maine: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 21, 2023
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As one of the constituent states of the United States of America, Maine is located in the New England and Northeastern regions of the country. The state shares borders with other regions; New Hampshire to the west, Quebec to the northwest, New Brunswick to the northeast, and the Gulf of Maine to the southeast. There is no clear explanation for the state’s name, but many think it was either inspired by the former French province of Maine or a nautical allusion to the mainland because the word “main” was frequently used as a shorthand for “mainland.” Whichever of these is true, the name was not used until the early 17th century.

Unlike many other states that make up the United States, Maine is small. Although it is the largest state in New England by land area, it is the 12th smallest state by land area, the 9th with the smallest population, and one of the most rural states in the United States. The state’s capital is Augusta, while its most populous city is Portland.

In this article, you will discover the history behind the flag of Maine, including its meaning and symbolism.

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When Was Maine as a State Founded?

Maine became incorporated as the 23rd state of the United States on March 15, 1820.

©iStock.com/Sean Pavone

The region that is now Maine has a history that can be traced as far back as 3000 BC to 1000 BC when a tribe called the Red Paint People inhabited the land. However, the area was eventually discovered by Europeans, and at the time, its inhabitants were a native population who had made it their home for thousands of years. These inhabitants were mostly Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki or Abenaki people. Other tribes that inhabited the area include the Kennebec, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and a few others. At the time, tribes such as the Abenaki were scattered around, particularly in the river valleys where they spent most of their time fishing and growing crops. The Mi’kmaq were the dominant warrior tribe during this time, and they lived primarily in the eastern section of the territory.

According to records, the first European contact with the area was around 1200 CE when Norwegians from Iceland interacted with the natives in the area through a trade proposal. However, these people were unable to create a permanent settlement. The first European settlement in the area did not occur until early in the 17th century. This escapade happened in 1604 and was led by French explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons. The first English settlement was also established a few years later in 1607 by the Plymouth Company. During the settlement of these Europeans, only the tribes that were not concentrated in one area survived.

By 1622, a land patent that established Maine as the Province of Maine was received by Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason. However, the agreement between the two did not last long, and the Province was split into two halves between 1629 and 1630. After this and for most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the area was fought over many times by the French, English, and allied natives (Indians). One such notable battle was King Philip’s War, which caused several of the indigenous tribes in the area to merge to form the Wabanaki Confederacy.

The English defeated the French in the mid-18th century but went on to battle with the Americans for Maine’s territory during the American Revolution. When the United States was eventually founded after the Treaty of Paris put an end to the revolution, Maine’s status as a part of Massachusetts was confirmed. Maine eventually became independent and incorporated as the 23rd state of the United States on March 15, 1820.

Geography of Maine

Maine is the easternmost state in the United States, to the point where it shares borders with Canadian provinces. The state’s renowned rocky coastline runs the length of the Atlantic Ocean at an angle from southwest to northeast. The state is divided into three general geographical areas. The first is the coastal lowlands that stretch from the Atlantic coastline for as long as 40 miles inland. Sand beaches, bays, inlets, and dozens of coastal islands, the largest of which is Mount Desert Island, may all be found in this area. The islands were once mountains, but due to the last Ice Age’s rising sea level, they are now submerged. 

The Longfellow Mountains, lakes, streams, and fertile soil are features of the state’s second geographical region, which is known as the New England uplands. The third area is in the northwest region of the state and is generally called the White Mountains. This area is popular because it is home to the highest point in the state, Mount Katahdin, which reaches a height of 5,268 feet (1,606 meters). Maine is home to several mountains, big and small, and it is also commonly called the “Pine Tree State.” The state’s land is also covered mostly by forest grounds or unclaimed land.

The Climate of Maine

Maine experiences warm, occasionally humid summers and long, chilly, and extremely snowy winters. Maine is divided into three distinct climate zones: the center, southern interior, and northern. There are slight variations among regions even though they are all considered humid continental. Maine’s northern and western regions experience very harsh winters, while the Atlantic Ocean marginally moderates conditions in other areas. Unlike other states that are east of the Rocky Mountains, Maine is the one with the smallest amount of yearly thunderstorms. Tornadoes and tsunamis are also not common in the state.

Culture and Cuisine of Maine

Currently, almost 1.4 million people make up the population of Maine, and they are spread over 91,634 square kilometers (35,380 square miles). As mentioned, the earliest occupants of the area were indigenous people belonging to several different tribes. Apart from these natives, other people regarded as primary descendants include the English and other European immigrants who established settlements in Maine centuries ago. Most of the population growth the state experienced was a result of immigration. The race which takes up most of the state’s population is non-Hispanic white people. The rest of the population can be divided into African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans.

Although English is the most widely spoken language in Maine, the state does not have an official language. According to statistics, almost everyone in the state speaks English. French is the second most spoken language in the state, and Spanish comes third. Like language, there is no official religion in the state of Maine. However, almost everyone in the state is a Christian. The inhabitants of the state that are Christians practice different denominations of the religion, with the Protestants being the most common. As mentioned, not all inhabitants of the state are Christians, but there is barely any other religion practiced there. As such, many of the state’s non-Christians identify as atheists or unaffiliated.

One of the primary sources of income for Maine is fishing, and it is no surprise that this industry also affects the state’s cuisine. Because of the booming fishing industry, one of the most common features of any meal prepared and eaten in Maine is seafood, particularly lobsters. Apart from fishing, another established industry in the state is agriculture.

History of the Flag of Maine

Maine’s current flag was adopted in 1909.

©iStock.com/vistoff

The original flag of Maine was adopted in 1901. This flag featured a cream/ off-white field as a background, a blue north star in the top left, and a pine tree at the center. It is believed that this flag was created by marine committees that wanted a flag that anyone could easily recognize from afar. Since there were no words in the initial design, it was readable from the opposite direction and featured huge, distinct elements. This flag was used for eight years before it was declared obsolete in 1909.

The current flag was adopted in 1909. The Maine flag was changed because Civil War veterans in the legislature wanted it to imitate battle flags from the war. They also wanted it to be mostly blue to symbolize the Union.

Flag of Maine: Meaning and Symbolism

While the sailor on Maine’s flag symbolizes Maine’s close ties to the sea, the farmer stands for pride in the state’s agricultural heritage.

©iStock.com/ronniechua

The current flag consists of the state coat of arms on a navy blue background. On a shield flanked by a farmer and a sailor, the state’s coat of arms features a moose and pine tree emblem. Under the coat of arms, there is a light blue ribbon that has the state’s name and above the coat of arms is a small-scale version of the north star and the Latin motto “Dirigo,” meaning “I direct.”

The state’s natural beauty is reflected in the emblems on the central shield, which include a moose – the state’s official animal, the sea, the sky, and a pine tree, which stands in for the state tree of Maine, the white pine, hence the moniker “The Pine Tree State.”

While the sailor symbolizes Maine’s close ties to the sea, the farmer stands for pride in the state’s agricultural heritage. The sea is represented twice in the flag to show that fishing is the state’s primary industry. The North Star with the Latin motto “Dirigo,” meaning “I direct” signifies a symbol of guidance for the sailors. Some people also believe that it represented Maine because the state was once the northernmost state in the United States. As mentioned, the blue on the flag represents the Union and the present United States of America.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Anastasiia_M


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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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