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Portland Residents Riot Over Booze [This Month in 1855]

Early 1900s Postcard

Have you heard of the Portland Rum Riot? Back in June of 1855, residents of Portland took to the streets after learning that the city’s prohibition-pushing Mayor (Neal Dow) was hoarding liquor in city hall.

Neal Dow Headshot
(Neal Dow) Wikipedia

Background: Four years before the riot, the state of Maine had banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol (except for medicinal purposes). Fast-forward to 1855, where the mayor had given the go-ahead for the city to buy over $1,500 worth of alcohol to distribute to local pharmacies and doctors. Dow’s actions were in violation of state law, as a committee hadn’t been appointed. Ooops!

When word got out, a loud mob of over 3,000 joined together outside of the building where the alcohol was being stored. Dow ordered local militia to open fire and by the end of the altercation, one man had died and several others were injured. Dow was eventually acquitted for his breaking of state law- but to this day, the Portland Rum Riots are said to have been a major influence over the lifting of the law in 1856.

What did we learn? Never get between a Mainer and their booze!

Read the full history

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