Jan. 10, 1791: After more than three years of construction, Maine’s iconic Portland Head Light, located in Cape Elizabeth, goes into service. The lighthouse includes a 72-foot tower and 16 whale oil lamps. A renovation in 1865 increases the tower height 20 feet. A duplex home for the head lighthouse keeper, the assistant lighthouse keeper and their families is built in 1891.

With the lighthouse fully automated, the U.S. government turned the property over to the town of Cape Elizabeth in 1993. The town owns and manages the property and the adjacent Fort Williams Park. The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. A lighthouse museum operates during the warmer months.

Jan. 10, 1831: King William IV of the Netherlands, having been chosen four years earlier to arbitrate a dispute between Britain and the United States about where the boundary between Maine and what are now the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec should be, submits a proposal to solve the problem. The British accept it, but the U.S. Senate – at Maine’s instigation – rejects it.

The boundary quarrel nearly breaks out into warfare in the late 1830s but is settled permanently by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Painting of the clipper ship Red Jacket by Percy A. Sanborn Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum, Searsport

Jan. 10, 1854: In the short-lived era of clipper ships, captain Asa Eldridge sets sail from New York on a black-hulled, 251.2-foot, 2,305-ton clipper named Red Jacket, built in Rockland, Maine. The ship, making its maiden voyage, crosses the North Atlantic in snow, hail and rain and arrives at a Liverpool dock 13 days, one hour and 25 minutes later, a record that still stands for sailing ships.

Eldridge’s feat is all the more remarkable because when he reaches the mouth of northern England’s Mersey River, bad weather had driven all the tugboats away, so he proceeds upriver with the ship at full sail. Thousands of people are awaiting the ship at the dock, and a grand ball is held within a week to celebrate the feat.

The ship is later used to carry passengers between England and Australia during the latter’s gold rush period.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society.

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