Feb. 10, 1886: At 4:45 a.m., the wooden passenger steamship Cambridge strikes Old Man’s Ledge off Port Clyde and sinks in 50 feet of water.

The 248-foot vessel, carrying heavy freight, completely breaks apart, becoming the only Boston-to-Bangor steamer to be lost in more than a century of service.

All crew members and the 40 passengers survive unharmed and are deposited on Allen Island, where the steamer Dallas picks them up and takes them to Rockland. Clusters of freight are found up and down the coast in the days after the wreck, in the possession of fishermen and others, and some is returned to the owners.

The Cambridge, built in 1867 in New York, also was damaged in the last of a series of 1869 hurricanes, which came to be known as the Saxby Gale. The storm, which killed at least 37 people and caused extensive damage along the Bay of Fundy in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, broke the steampipe and rudder on the Cambridge, which was off Monhegan Island at the time. The captain dropped anchor and secured the ship when it drifted to a point near the mouth of the St. George River.

Two unknown gentlemen stand at the rail of the Dirigo, which is tied up at an unknown port circa 1895-1900. Photo courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum, Searsport

Feb. 10, 1894: The Arthur Sewall & Co. shipyard in Bath launches the 312-foot-long, four-masted, square-rigged transport bark Dirigo, the first steel-hulled ship built in the United States.

Drawn by a British designer and using the contemporary British practice of building ships with steel plates, the Dirigo is owned by the Sewall company until 1915, when the company sells it to owners in San Francisco.

On May 31, 1917, a torpedo from a German submarine sinks the Dirigo off the Irish coast.

Wendy Chapkis and Hugh English wear “Vote No Feb 10, Maine Won’t Discriminate” signs before the referendum. Annette Dragon Photographs, Gay and Lesbian Archives, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Library

Feb. 10, 1998: In a statewide referendum, Maine becomes the first state to repeal a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The victory of the discrimination ban’s opponents was short-lived, however. In 2005, the Legislature amends the Maine Human Rights Act to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Petitioners put another referendum question on the ballot to challenge the amendment, but the question fails, 55 percent to 45 percent. The law remains on the books.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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