162 Years Ago Today: The Portland Rum Riot
'The Maine Law' turned violent on this day in Maine history.
It's hard to believe Maine was at one point at the forefront of creating nationwide prohibition. After all, Portland, Maine is now one of the biggest beer cities in the country. Flash back over 160 years, brewing beer here in Maine would land you in jail.
If you have Netflix there's a great documentary PBS put together titled Prohibition. In part, it shows how Maine played a role in drying out the country. Maine was the first state to fully outlaw booze. The law was commonly known as 'The Maine law.' The law banned selling and manufacturing alcohol. However, you could possess alcohol if you had a prescription for it.
On June 2, 1855 anger over the law turned violent after a huge crowd gathered outside Portland City Hall. Word on the street at the time was Mayor Neal Dow (who was a huge supporter of prohibition and helped create The Maine Law) had a big stash of medicinal booze in the City Hall vault to be distributed to doctors and pharmacy's.
After the crowd had grown in size and became more unruly the state militia was called in. Mayor Dow ordered the militia to fire into the crowd. Their bullets would kill a man from Deer Isle and wound seven others. The crowd quickly dispersed after.
In the aftermath Mayor Dow would be widely criticized for his handling of what became known as The Portland Rum Riot.
There, we all learned something today.