The Pine Tree State in the Gilded Age

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At the close of the 19th century, American emphasis shifted away from moral and political debates and toward economic growth. Corporations are growing, and regional mobility is improved. Class distinctions were brought about by urbanization, industrialization, emigration, and development, and a new set of rights began to emerge as a result. Idealists who advocated for the abolition of slavery, the suffering of women, the outlawing of alcohol use, and the emphasis on the cruel laws governing the death penalty began to proliferate. The state of Maine was impacted by national events (O'Leary 15). The following paragraphs looks into the details of the fishing industry, farming and shipbuilding among other critical factors that popped up during the gilded age including cultural norms, employment conditions and economic instability of Maine in controversy with the state in the U.S.

Maine’s long practice of diversified subsistence agriculture shifted gradually in the 19th century as it modernized and specialized in response to the changing regional and national markets. Wild blue berries were commercialized and shipped to Boston which increased the market to the crop. The canning industry was developed which led to expansion of corn specialization and vegetable farmers grew in large capacities. The penetrations of the railroads necessitated the transportation of potatoes from Maine to other parts of the state (O’Leary 166). Fishing was commercialized and was recognized as the most profitable economic activities in Maine during the time. Europeans however dominated the inland waterways rendering the Maine natives to cling on the small-scale fishing. The coastal trade enhanced settlements which led to creation of restaurants and resorts that expanded the fishing trade. Maine is also known as the Pine Tree State because of the abundant pine forests growing in the state. This has been very beneficial in the agriculture sector and the industry at large as the forests provide timber. The timber has been used in various areas and significantly it has been used building ships which transported cargo and passengers to overseas (Foner 389). The industry has been highly beneficial and rapidly growing adapting to the change of moving away from traditional resource industries.

The Gilded Age was as well an error of manifestation of poverty and inequality as many immigrants moved to the U.S and an injustice against women, children and prisoners was the reality. Championing for better working conditions was the case by union leaders. Women championed for better education and gender equality as well as eradication of child labor. Economic growth came with social and political issues including amendment of laws and improvement of social amenities. Competition between the Democrats and the Republicans became intense signified by political corruption. Bribery, inefficacy and waste became the norm in the government. Religious diversity was highly depicted as staunch Catholics brought out their ideas among other religious leaders. Cultural differences arose majorly marked by the fight against alcohol consumption led by leaders such as Neal Dow (O’Leary 400).

The American Civil in the late 19th century brought a grievous impact in Maine (O’Leary 88). Industrial revolution prompted workers to divert from Maine and venture into various industries in search of employment and better income. Capital as well was diversified due to the wide industrial arena ranging from production to processing. Textile and paper products became the key source of employment however much it could be relied on fully. Fishery continued to be a source of income although it was so uncertain since the economic activity drastically changed during the period. Maine then struggled with these economic limitations since the agricultural sector was negatively affected in one way or another. Decline of manufacturing textiles, processed food, and wood products among other income generating activities has crippled the economy of Maine. Exhaustion of fish and little production of dairy products worsened the situation (Foner 389). Excessive cutting down of trees contributed to this turmoil. This was quite ironic as during these times the U.S was at its peak in its economic success.


Wayne M. O’Leary recounts the happenings in Maine and in the U.S elaborating the impact of the developments on the economy, politics and the society at large as discussed above. Correspondence by Maine in relation to the national happening is widely looked into. The state in effort to restore the state in Maine enforced laws against deforestation, led in cleaning up of rivers and closing of Maine Yankee Power Plant. Regulations were also put in place to ensure the sustenance of the environmental condition.

Work cited

Foner. Eric. Give Me Liberty: America’s Guilded Age. Norton & Company Inc. 2010. 370-410

O'Leary, Wayne M. Maine Sea Fisheries: The Rise and Fall of a Native Industry, 1830-1890. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996. Print.

June 26, 2023

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