In less than five years, we, the 1.3 million citizens of Maine, will be celebrating our state’s 200th birthday. I know the date sounds a long way off but take my word: it’ll be here before we know it.
Knowing my fellow Mainers, I assume most, when they finally get down to business, will want to find some way to cash-in on such a big event and make a lot of money. And who could blame them? I can see special 200th Anniversary Yard Sales featuring items that look like they’ve been kicking around for at least two centuries. It’ll also be a great time for carpenters who can turn out all kinds souvenirs for tourists who will scoop them up as fast as they’re made.
One problem with our state’s birthday is that it will occur – as it has for 200 years - right in the middle of March – the most useless and least favorite string of thirty days on the calendar. March is so useless and unpopular that it was chosen, without discussion, as the month to hold our town meetings, which are also useless and unpopular.
Maine is the most northeasterly state of the 50 United States, which isn’t a major Tourist draw but it’s something. And people who get a certain thrill out of being in a state that is – at once the most north, while at the same time being the most east- are sure to flock here for our party.
We’re also the only state that was once – from the 1600s to 1820 - a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. On March 15, 1820 Maine broke away from the Bay State and became the 23rd state in the union. And that great event is what we will be celebrating in less than five years.
They always say the first two-hundred years are the toughest, so the next two-hundred should be a piece of cake. I have no idea who “they” are but they’re always saying things like that and they’re probably right some of the time.
Many not familiar with Maine history will want to know how Maine became a District of Massachusetts in the first place.
From what I understand during the English civil war King Charles II and his ministers were a little busy with things like staying alive and pretty much ignored their colonies. Massachusetts took advantage of that distraction and eventually purchased all claims to Maine. If King James II had remained king of England things would have been different. But James was thrown out and his successors, William and Mary , in 1691, granted a new charter to Massachusetts that confirmed its title to Maine.
Maybe during our 200th birthday some scholar, after years of tedious research, will finally discover why our state is called Maine in the first place. There are plenty of guesses but even at this late date no one knows for sure. Some say our state is named for a former province in France, others argue Maine is named for an island in the Orkney Island off Scotland. No one knows for sure.
So, we should all start planning now because like, I said, our state’s 200th will be here before we know it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org or 899-1868.