June 2, 1851: Gov. John Hubbard signs what becomes known as the Maine Law, which bans the sale of alcoholic beverages except for “medicinal, mechanical, or manufacturing purposes.”

The law, for which Portland Mayor Neal Dow lobbied furiously, also includes a search-and-seizure provision that enables any three voters to obtain a search warrant if they suspect someone of selling liquor.

The bill’s enactment prompts some to nickname Dow the “the Napoleon of Temperance,” but it also earns him many enemies.

Illustration shows two men, one labeled “Georgia” and the other “Maine.” Both are holding bottles, one labeled “Orange Phosphate” and the other labeled “Cold Tea,” that contain alcohol, and their pockets are filled with bottles. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Dow travels for three years after that as a temperance crusader in other states and Canada. Versions of the Maine Law are enacted in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Maine’s groundbreaking prohibition law engenders the Portland Rum Riot on June 2, 1855, in which one person dies and several are injured, leading to the law’s repeal in 1856. Later, similar bills become law, however, and prohibition is added to the state constitution in 1884.

The Rum Riots and their legislative aftermath foreshadow the national debate over Prohibition in the early 20th century.

June 2, 2017: Augusta City Center, the city’s principal government building, closes unexpectedly early when an unhappy visitor dumps a cup full of about 100 live bedbugs on a counter about 2 p.m. in one of the offices.

Bedbugs litter a counter at the General Assistance office in Augusta on June 2, 2017. Photo courtesy of William Bridgeo

The city evacuates the building and summons an insect-control specialist.

Officials said the bug carrier came to City Center to seek General Assistance money. When he was told he didn’t qualify, they said, he unleashed the bugs.

Weeks later, police charge a 74-year-old city resident with assault and obstruction of government administration in connection with the incident.

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com.  Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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