Conclusion
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Conclusion The Port of Portland in the Twenty-First Century and Its Maritime Future Portland, Maine’s maritime presence was set by nature. What is done with these natural resources, however, is very human and subject to human motivation , imagination, and choices. Olaf Janzen, in another book in this maritime series, has written, “The key to understanding changing patterns of trade and domination at sea rests with our ability to recognize the significance of what was happening ashore.”1 Whether one remembers, as did Portland’s hometown poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “the black wharves and the slips,” or the many ships that were built and outfitted along the Maine coast and crewed by seasoned seamen from Portland and its hinterland, the connection with the sea had defined Portland from the very start. The sea shapes the city in many and profound ways and gives Portland its unique qualities. One comical yet instructive example of this can be found in a local maritime story: “An exasperated mother was chasing her twelve-year-old son in a gale of wind. The mother with her wide spread of skirts was bearing down on him and fast overtaking him when his eight-year-old brother sang out, ‘Take her on the wind, Jimmy!’ And Miss Colcord [the Maine author] comments, ‘Only a longshore boy could have said that.’”2 At the midpoint of the nineteenth century, the outlook for Portland as a commercial center was indeed bright. By 1853 Portland was connected by rail to Montreal, a fact that was not overlooked by an Irish traveler to the city, Thomas Mooney, who wrote back to his cousin in Ireland that Portland was “a most important city [which will soon] double its population and wealth.”3 Portland certainly also had its share of aspirations and dreams. No one better epitomized the wider view of Portland’s potential in these years than 182 Conclusion did John Alfred Poor. By his reckoning, this city should have settled for nothing less than first-class status along with the other leading metropolitan centers of North America and Europe. Its geographical location demanded greatness, and only inertia or lack of vision could deny that status. Saint John, New Brunswick, however, was more faithful to its maritimerelated potential than was Portland, and it eventually succeeded in capturing the bulk of Montreal’s winter trade. Neither city, of course, ever matched their larger competitors—Montreal, Halifax, and Boston—in terms of commercial maritime development. At least for a time, “both New England and the Maritimes remained dependent upon the Hub [Boston] for a variety of important functions.” Portland may have fared better overall, due largely to its development as a regional service and distribution center for its traditional hinterland. By the start of World War I, Saint John still looked toward the sea for its wealth while Portland was turning inward. Each city was aware of its location “on the rim of the North American economy.” Both had been influenced to a degree, as yet largely unrecognized, by the vision and the energy of this Portlander, John Alfred Poor.4 It could be argued that the Irish longshoremen of Portland, Maine, gained as much if not more than any other group in this city from the “Montreal connection” that gave at least two or three generations of these maritime laborers guaranteed work in their new home. Between 1853 and 1880 the railway cars of the Grand Trunk brought an ever-increasing volume of Canadian grain to Portland for export during the winter months when Montreal and Quebec were virtually transformed into landlocked cities. This labor-intensive opportunity arrived in Portland simultaneously with these new and hungry workers, many of whom were refugees from recurring bouts of famine in the west of Ireland. The Irish continued to arrive in waves coincidental with its frequent agricultural disasters, primarily between 1845 and 1850, but again in 1879 and 1881 and beyond. In 1880 improving conditions dictated that these laborers should protect themselves economically, and, following existing maritime labor models, they established the Portland Longshoremen’s Benevolent Society (PLSBS) late that year. They survived in an inhospitable environment. Along with the rest of the country, they prospered after the economic depression of the 1890s, and by the turn of the twentieth century they could boast of nearly nine hundred members. 183 Portland in the Twenty-First Century and Its Maritime Future Following difficulties in the early twentieth century, during which they lost two maritime strikes in...


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