A predominantly white state, most of whose immigrants have come from nearby parts of Canada, Maine has also become the home of small but increasingly significant numbers of African and Asian immigrants, who have become economic and cultural assets.
Most inhabitants of Maine lived on farms at the time Maine became a state during the early nineteenth century. Early immigrants helped produce dairy products and crops such as hay, potatoes, apples, and blueberries. Aroostook County became one of the major potato-producing areas of the United States. Most of the state’s early immigrants were
The first large textile mill was built in 1826 in Saco. Lewiston later became the main
Franco-Americans became steady and reliable workers who expected their children to follow in their footsteps, but they limited the educational opportunities of the next generation. This limitation and linguistic difficulties with English impeded social development of younger immigrants. As late as 1970, 43 percent of Maine’s Franco-American residents had only grade-school levels of education or less. During the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, however, cultural centers were established in public colleges at Fort Kent, near the Canadian border, and in Lewiston. Special television programs were also established for Franco-American children.
Fabric mills and the towns that depended on them declined sharply during the late twentieth century. An unusual form of integration has provided new life for Lewiston, a town generally perceived to be dying. Hundreds of
Immigrants from China and
Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage in New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986. Fairfield, Roy P. Sands, Spindles, and Steeples. Portland: York Institute, 1956. Judd, Richard William, et al. Maine: The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present. Orono: University of Maine Press, 1995. Rivard, Paul E. A New Order of Things: How the Textile Industry Transformed New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2002.