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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Portland (Maine)

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Portland (Maine) - environs.jpg
Fig. 1.—Environs of Portland.

PORTLAND, a city and port of entry of the United States, capital of Cumberland county, Maine, lies on Casco Bay, in 43° 39' N. lat. and 70° 13' W. long. By rail it is 108 miles north-north-east of Boston and 297 south east of Montreal. The peninsula on which it is mainly built runs out for about 3 miles, has a breadth of about ¾ mile, and rises in the west to 175 feet in Bramhall's Hill and in the east to 161 in Munjoy's Hill, which is crowned by an observatory. As seen from the harbour, the whole city has a pleasant and picturesque appearance, and the streets are in many parts so umbrageous with trees that Portland has obtained the sobriquet of the “Forest City.” A large number of the houses are built of brick. Congress street, the principal thoroughfare, runs along the whole ridge of the peninsula, from the western promenade, which looks down over the suburbs from Bramhall's Hill to the eastern promenade, which commands the bay; it passes Lincoln Park (2½ acres) and the eastern cemetery, which contains the graves of Commodore Preble and Captains Burroughs and Blythe, of Revolutionary fame. On Bramhall's Hill is the reservoir (12,000,000 gallons) of the water company, which was established in 1867 to supply the city from Lake Sebago, whose beautiful expanse (14 miles long by 11 wide) was the favourite haunt of Nathaniel Hawthorne s boyhood. The more conspicuous buildings of Portland are the city hall (1859), with a front in olive-coloured freestone, 150 feet long; the post-office (1872), constructed of Vermont white marble in the mediæval Italian style; the custom-house (1872), in granite, with rich marble ornamentation in the interior; the marine hospital (1855), a large brick erection; the Maine general hospital, 1868; the Roman Catholic cathedral; the Roman Catholic episcopal palace; and several fine churches. The Portland Society of Natural History, established in 1843 and incorporated in 1850, though it has twice lost its property by fire (1854 and 1866), has again acquired very valuable collections. The Portland institute and public library, dating from 1867, had 30,000 volumes in 1884. A medical school was founded in 1858. Portland is in the main a commercial city, with an extensive transit trade, drawing largely from Canada and the Far West. Connected with Boston by rail in 1842, and with Montreal in 1853, it has now become a terminus of six different railroads; and, since the gauge of the Grand Trunk Rail road was altered, it can import direct from San Francisco. As the harbour (which lies along the south side of the city) is seldom closed by ice, it has been long used as the winter port for the great ocean steamers between Great Britain (Liverpool and Glasgow) and Canada, which in summer ascend the St Lawrence to Montreal and Quebec. At low water vessels drawing 22 feet and at high water vessels drawing 30 feet can come up to the wharves with safety in any season; and there is secure anchorage within a mile of the shore. The dry dock is one of the deepest in the United States. The following figures show the extent of the foreign trade:—

Imports. Exports.



 Average 1876-80   $9,368,044   $11,044,389 
1881 11,078,612  12,476,389 
1882 11,748,183  11,955,787 
1883 10,235,991  13,847,574 

Among the staple imports are wood, coal, potatoes (from Europe), salt, sugar and molasses, fish, earthenware, and textile manufactures; and among the staple exports to foreign countries fresh and preserved provisions of all kinds, grain, hay, cattle, wood, copper ore, tallow, shoes, potash, cotton, lumber (mainly to South America), and ice. In 1870 the total receipts of grain amounted to 1,516,875 bushels, in 1875 to 2,152,829, in 1878 to 4,492,952, and in 1883 to 4,964,158 bushels, or, adding flour, 7,543,873 bushels. The number of entrances from foreign ports in 1883 was 338 (164,711 tons), clearances for foreign ports 501 (226,420 tons); entrances in the coasting trade 479 (403,166 tons), and clearances 389 (394,500 tons). In the same year the Portland-owned vessels numbered 368 (105,642 tons); and 116 were employed in the mackerel and cod fisheries. Fish-curing (cod, mackerel, and sardines), preserving meat, Indian corn, and other kinds of provisions, boot and shoe making, furniture-making, carriage-building, machinery-making, engine-building, and sugar-refining are all prosecuted on a considerable scale for the size of the town; and a large number of minor industries are also represented. In 1884 there were six national banks, with an aggregate capital of $3,250,000, and two savings banks, with deposits of $8,966,879. In 1880 the capital invested in manufacturing was $4,659,375, the value of the annual production $9,569,523, and the amount of wages paid $1,547,375. Portland is divided into seven wards, and is governed by a mayor, a board of aldermen, and a common council. It is the seat of the sessions of the United States courts for the district of Maine. The assessed value of property was $30,723,936 in 1874, and $33,030,020 in 1883. The population was 3704 in 1800, 20,815 in 1850, 31,413 in 1870, and 33,810 in 1880. If the adjoining villages be included, the total is raised to between 45,000 and 50,000.

The name of Portland as applied to this city dates only from

1786; the Indians knew the place as Machigonne. The first European settlers (1632) called it Casco Neck, and after it passed to Massachusetts in 1658 it was denominated Falmouth. During the rest of the 17th century and the early years of the 18th hostilities on the part of the French and the Indians prevented the growth of the town, which by 1764, however, had increased to about 2000 inhabitants. In 1775 it was bombarded by four British vessels under Captain Mowatt, but it was rebuilt in 1783, and formally incorporated in 1786. A city charter was obtained in 1832. The great fire of 1866 swept over a third of the city and caused a loss of from $6,000,000 to $10,000,000. Portland is the birthplace of Henry W. Longfellow, N. P. Willis, Sara P. Parton (“Fanny Fern”), Erastus and James Brooks, Commodore Preble,

John Neal, and Neal Dow.


Portland (Maine).jpg

Fig. 2.—Plan of Portland, Me.