Maine Fun Facts, State Pride January 25, 2023
by Jennifer These 4 Small Towns Were Once Home To Mainers That Changed The World
Ah, the Pine Tree State… our little slice of New England is positively overflowing with history, beauty, and wonder! But as the first state in the country to see the sunrise every morning, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a little extra talent shines on Maine as well. Generations of artists, politicians, and small town superheroes have done amazing things for our state, the country, and even the world, and we’re so proud that they were home-grown here. While not a complete list of all the incredible celebrities and
famous people from Maine, here are just a few history-makers that you might not have heard about and the beautiful places in Maine that they once called home.
The Milton Bradley Corporation bought and produced some of the world's most memorable, family-friendly games up until its acquisition by Hasbro in 1984 - games like Operation, Battleship, Aggravation, and even Twister (formerly known as Pretzel). But did you know Milton Bradley himself (1836-1911) was from Maine?
Bradley was born in the cozy inland town of Vienna, Maine. A tiny village built on corn, shingles, milling, blueberries, and sap, like many early towns, Vienna has experienced its fair share of change. But it has consistently offered a stunning setting: mountains in the distance, the gorgeous Flying Pond at the heart, and a lovely stream that played a key role in the gristmills and lumbermills of the early 1800s.
While Milton Bradley didn't stay in this charming town his whole life, it was the ups and downs of his personal life that inspired the formation of the iconic Milton Bradley Company and his very first board game: the Checkered Game of Life (later rebranded to The Game of Life). Prior to board games, Bradley's background was in colored lithography and patent drafting, which he pursued in Massachusetts - up until a printing issue regarding Abraham Lincoln's lithograph caused Bradley to rethink his current direction. As the story goes, the lithograph was printed before Lincoln grew his trademark facial hair, causing many buyers to demand a refund and forcing Bradley to make the leap into new ventures.
With WWII looming and eventually underway, Bradley's first foray into the board game industry wasn't terribly successful. For a time, he even had to (literally) switch gears and transition into helping build weapons and aircraft parts for the battlefront. However, the money he earned in this secondary enterprise enabled him to fund and pursue his true passion for learning and gaming. This time, it was a success. While the concept of board games wasn't a new one, even in the mid-1800s, Milton Bradley certainly changed the landscape of children's toys and educational play forever. He also inspired generations of family memories along with 149 years of nostalgia.
Of Maine's most notable historical figures, Bernard Lown (1921-2021) is a name that doesn't get as much attention as it should. But this Lithuanian-born cardiologist, activist, and inventor pioneered incredible medical advances - starting from his hometown of Lewiston. After graduating from the University of Maine, Lown went on to complete his degrees and earn a standout reputation of innovation up and down the eastern seaboard - all while standing firm against a variety of racially discriminating practices, like the separation of "white" and "colored" blood.
Later, he played a primary role in the development of the modern direct current defibrillator, while also pushing boundaries in areas of holistic health - specifically, how mental health plays a significant role in physical health and longevity. He also debunked the concept of bedrest as the primary form of care for cardio patients. His ideas changed the world of medical treatment as we know it and eventually went on to inspire multiple medical schools, scholarly groups, and scientific advances at Harvard T.H. Chan and beyond.
Beyond the cardio ward, Lown was also a devoted activist and philanthropist, tireless in his advocacy efforts against the threat of nuclear war. He started the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Committee of Responsibility for War Injured Vietnamese Children, and a number of other groups that sought joint peace solutions amidst mounting global unrest. Today, Lown's contributions to the medical field are far-reaching and lifesaving in more ways than one.
Those who know and call Maine home know one thing for sure: the weather can be brutal. Thank goodness for Chester Greenwood! Greenwood (1858-1937) spent the majority of his life in his hometown of Farmington, and as such learned the cold, hard truth about Maine winters firsthand. Fortunately, this lifelong inventor had the brilliant idea to tackle a key discomfort Mainers (and countless others across the country) face every year: cold ears. In 1873, at only 15 years old, he invented earmuffs. His first prototype was made of farm wire and beaver fur before later adding velvet for comfort. At 18, he had his first patent, his first shop (Greenwood's Champion Ear Protector Factory) and the distinction of protecting billions of people from frostbit ears, including WWI soldiers.
Those in and around Farmington have likely heard of Greenwood - he's celebrated every December on Chester Greenwood Day. He went on to invent somewhere around 100 other items, including shock-absorbing components that are still used in airplane landing gears today. Visit in December for the official parade, or throughout the year to enjoy the town's charming rolling hills, clear rivers, and lush setting. While you're at it, Farmington has the unique distinction of being one of the most well-documented towns in the state, with multiple museums of history and artifacts to explore.
It's no secret that Maine was and is home to countless talented artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. Ever heard of Stephen King? But the horror novelist isn't the only writer to grow up in the Pine Tree State.
Edwin Arlington Robinson (18669-1935) is a name most literary students would recognize, but precious few know that he had his start in the scenic town of Alna, although he later moved to Gardiner. This hidden gem, named for its abundant alder trees, is a stunning place to visit both for its setting alongside the Sheepscot River, and its history, including the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad.
While Robinson's work wasn't published until after he left Maine for Harvard, his poetry had such a prolific impact that it has been canonized alongside Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. Robinson was also the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize. You might recognize some of his most well-studied poems: "Richard Cory" and "Luke Havergal."
We could go on and on about Maine’s most notable historical figures, but these four have left their mark in nearly every area of history. There’s so much more to learn about them
and the places they lived!
For a history trip like no other, check out this
unique trolley and rail museum in Maine.
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