Aug. 5, 1789: Congress passes the Coasting Act, which requires that ships trading along the Atlantic coast enter and clear at a custom house both coming and going in every state except the ones contiguous to the ship’s state of departure.

This provides a disincentive for Maine to separate from Massachusetts, because Massachusetts is contiguous to all other New England states and New York, meaning that southbound Maine-registered ships would not have to stop at a customs house until they reach New Jersey. The Coasting Act remains in effect until 1819, the year before Maine statehood is achieved.

Aug. 5, 1948: World War II Army veteran Earl Schaffer, who later says he was trying to “walk the war out of my system,” climbs to the peak of Maine’s Mount Katahdin, which is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Photograph of Earl Schaffer at the top of Mount Katahdin in 1948, taken by an unknown hiker. Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History

He becomes the first person to lay claim to having hiked the entire 2,200 miles of the trail from Georgia, and he supplies a diary – now in the Smithsonian Institution archives – and photographs as proof.

The diary page that wraps up the hike says, “In morn climbed Katahdin in leisurely fashion, reached summit of Baxter peak about 1:30. Had pic taken by sign. Talked a while with several fellas come on down to campground. finis.”

Aug. 5, 1984: Taking the lead and keeping it for the rest of the race, Cape Elizabeth native Joan Benoit, 27, wins the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon with a time of 2:24:52 in Los Angeles.


After breaking a leg at age 15 in a skiing accident, Benoit began running as rehabilitation therapy, then became a star on her school track team.

Benoit won the women’s Boston Marathon in 1979 in record time, 2:35:15, even though she had become stuck in a traffic jam and had to sprint 2 miles to the start of the race in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Despite surgery on both Achilles tendons in 1981, she won the Boston Marathon again in 1983, this time with a world-record finish of 2:22:43.

Joan Benoit crosses the finish line on Apr. 18, 1983 in Boston to win the women’s division of the Boston Marathon in 2:22:42, shattering the world women’s marathon mark by nearly three minutes. Associated Press

Surgery in April 1984 to repair a knee injury appeared likely to imperil her bid to compete in the first Olympic women’s marathon, but she captured the lead at the trials on May 17, following that feat by winning the gold medal in Los Angeles with a time of 2:24:52.

Benoit, who by marriage in 1984 becomes Joan Benoit Samuelson, continues to race selectively after her Olympic achievement, right up to the present. In 1998 she establishes a new race in her home state – the Peoples Heritage Beach to Beacon 10K, now known as the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. She still lives in Maine.

Presented by:

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 To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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