Home The Story of Maine is a production of MPBN MPBN
Go back to the home page Read a synopsis of each program.

Explore key events in Maine history.

Explore Maine cultural history.

Explore Maine's Native American heritage.

Lesson plans and ideas for classroom teachers.

Check out other interesting history sites.

An idea is born

Native life

Tourism Today

Read about the people on this program.

Read a printable transcript of this program.

Site index


AN IDEA IS BORN

  • "Common Lands" on Amazon.com
  • Common Lands, Common People:
    The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England

    by Richard Judd
    Harvard University Press

    to footnotes

    Chapter 8: The Romantic Landscapes of Tourism

    In 1899 O.H. Leavitt vented his frustrations over a new political mood sweeping New England, as he sensed it from the vantage of his New Hampshire farm. Writing to the Maine Farmer, he complained of the many constrictions he faced as a result of a new body of conservation law passed at the insistence of urban hunters and anglers: "You are not permitted to kill game on your own land nor catch fish in your own streams ... Your forests are ruined by fires set by these roving hunters, and you are blamed for not caring for your woodland, and threatened with restrictive laws to define what you shall cut when you want a set of sled stakes." Under this growing complex of conservation laws, he asked, "how much better off are the farmers of New England than the peasant tenantry of Europe?"1

    This tirade confirms current impressions of the Progressive-era conservation movement, which cast urban, elite champions of preservation against resistant petty resource users like O.H. Leavitt. "Farmers and ranchers made poor nature lovers," historian John Reiger writes.2 As previous chapters have shown, rural people were closely involved in shaping fish, forest, and landscape conservation for practical, class-specific reasons. Yet Leavitt's complaints were indeed typical at the turn of the century, and historians have extrapolated from these views the understanding that rural people were innately resistant to protecting the resources that made up their livelihoods.

    In fact, Leavitt's tirade marks a turning point in rural attitudes toward conservation and should be seen in this historical context. The emphasis on wildlife in the 1890s was part of a powerful new thrust in the American conservation movement, coming not from the farm districts but from the city. It was predicated on recreational, rather than utilitarian concepts of land use, and on romantic visions of the wilderness. Unlike rural traditions, this ideal projected nature as immutable and separate from human activity. It represented, in short, the urban, romantic influences historians see as a foundation for the conservation movement in its classic, Progressive form.

    Farmers did turn their back on this formulation of wildlife and nature, but their changing attitudes deserve a more nuanced understanding if we are to appreciate how conservation ideas were forged in this critical period. Why farmers refused to endorse urban impulses for wildlife conservation, much less to take initiative in a matter that played such a central role in the landscape they inhabited, is an important question best viewed in terms of broader social changes and conflicts. This chapter relates Leavitt's reaction to a shift in control over the symbolic and legal constructs that ordered the rural landscape in the 1890s. This shift was part of a new era in which rural people no longer spearheaded the conservation movement. Yet the gap between urban and rural views in this contested landscape were not unbridgeable. Wildlife conservation represented a compromise between urban and rural ideologies that produced a richer and more diversified multiple-use pattern for these symbol-laden common lands. And, as a confrontation over industrial water use in Maine's Rangeley lakes suggests, the united interests of rural and urban people could be a powerful catalyst for conservation. Rural traditions continued to be an important component of the Progressive-era conservation movement.

    Tourism in New England

    Wildlife conservation gained a new constituency in the last quarter of the century when urban travelers redefined landscape values in the Northeast. At a time when spas like Saratoga, Long Branch, Bar Harbor, and Newport set new leisure standards for the American aristocracy, an emulating class of clergy, artists, journalists, professors, small-business owners, and others of modest wealth spread the impact of summer recreational travel to resorts throughout northern New England. Between 1870 and 1900 this "summer trade" evolved from an aggregation of makeshift hotels and summer boarding houses into a major industry with powerful political advocates.3 Those interested in this lucrative trade established a set of land-use needs not only different from agrarian traditions, but at odds with newer industrial developments as well. The compromises worked out between tourists, farmers, and industrialists helped legitimize a new concept of multiple use for the region.

    Tourism grew in response to forces unleashed by northeastern urban-industrial development and to the self-conscious creation, as John Sears has it, of a national culture and an American landscape as the basis of that culture.4 At a time when the problems associated with rapid urban growth put a premium on health and open space, improved rail and steamship service aided summer egress from the cities. Better travel opportunities spurred construction of elaborate hotel and cottage complexes in New England's coastal, lake, and mountain resort areas.5 Between 1879 and 1909 investments in Maine summer resorts increased from $500,000 to $138 million, and tourist-industry income rose from $250,000 yearly to $20 million.6

    New Hampshire's burgeoning tourist industry offered mountain settings that triggered the sublime emotions so well appreciated by late-Victorian travelers.7 The region's earliest tourist facilities were constructed by the legendary Abel Crawford, who, with his son, Ethan Allen Crawford, began in 1819 cutting trails and bridle paths up the mountains, providing boarding and livery service, and guiding visitors to the area's famed peaks. The Summit House, atop Mount Washington, was built in 1852, and a carriage road to the summit completed in 1861. Eight years later the first train arrived at the summit via the new cog railway. The 1880s brought a boom in hotel, highway, railroad, and bridle-path construction throughout the mountain region.8

    In Vermont, tourism developed at a more modest pace. The state seemed to lack the central defining feature that set off the industry elsewhere -- the rock-bound coast in Maine or New Hampshire's Mount Washington. Vermont's tilled fields, grazing livestock, and modest hills were "too familiar to vacationers who were often one generation or less 'off the farm' themselves." 9 Nevertheless, the state participated in the intense tourist promotions that swept northern New England, and it ultimately defined its own landscape ideal: partially wooded hills, verdant fields, and quiet brooks that epitomized time-honored values like simplicity, honesty, and a life lived close to nature.10

    In the last quarter of the century New England's tourist industry attracted an army of promoters bent on refashioning the image of the region. Summer hotels represented a powerful voice for publicizing New England travel, and scores of speculative land syndicates, each spawned in the expectation of realizing yet another "less expensive Bar Harbor," issued loud boasts about local scenery and culture hoping to attract rail or steamship service that would raise the value of surrounding property.11 Even more vocal were the region's common carriers. The Maine Central Railroad, serving a rural territory with relatively few important exports, shifted its focus from freight to passenger service in the 1880s. The company circulated a monthly travel magazine along with thousands of other pieces of descriptive literature, sponsored promotional trips to resorts, and compiled statistics on country real estate and boarding homes. Other railroads advanced similar campaigns.12

    Equally interested in the development of a tourist landscape were urban merchant associations. During the 1890s Portland's hinterland industries -- shipbuilding, fishing, farming, and lumbering -- stagnated, while Boston, New York, and Saint John encroached on its seaport functions. Local leaders responded by publicizing the Forest City's position as a debarkation point for the stream of tourists heading down the coast or into the Maine interior. They encouraged rural markets for farm real estate, truck gardening, guide and livery service, hotels, and boat building hoping to reawaken outlying farm districts and revive the city's hinterland trade.13

    Resort owners commodified local natural and cultural features by casting them according to the expectations of the metropolitan clientele who patronized their resorts. The new landscape mosaic that emerged in the 1890s was a dialogue between the locality and the desires and inventions of the urban tourists who apprehended it.14 For a generation, northern New Englanders had complained that their countryside lacked aggressive development -- that it was "simply a sort of grindstone for the rest of the Union, on which Yankees were sharpened for cutting and carving out success and fortune where there was a chance for enterprise."15 In the 1890s this arrested frontier assumed new commercial meaning. Informed by the Colonial Revival movement, urban publicists embraced these "unchanging and static elements of the landscape" and transformed them into a positive preindustrial vision for the region.16 Responding to the ills of the industrial city, writers invested the Yankee village with new symbolic importance as the antidote to the traditionlessness, the nervousness, the heat, and the heterogeneity of the urban setting. The very lack of industrialism became northern New England's comparative advantage.17

    At a time when city dwellers confronted a multitude of sanitary problems associated with overcrowding and industrial growth, tourist promoters cultivated rural New England's reputation for hearty, healthy, vigorous people and bracing sea breezes or mountain air.18 Publicists reminded America that boyhood trips to the north Maine woods transformed Theodore Roosevelt from a "frail youth" into a "man of energy and power."19 Scores of spring-water bottling plants captured and exported this reputation for health.20

    The elaboration of an appealing "Yankee" stereotype also served urban needs. Middle-class Victorians, so uneasy with the heterogeneity of their urban environments, associated the New England village with ethnic purity and spontaneous communalism.21 Innocent of the harsh realities of competitive capitalism, Monhegan Islanders, for instance, lived "like one large family or clan, with no aristocracy, no middle class, no poor... . 'Share even' seems to be the ruling motto in all business deals."22 A traveling elite, eager to romanticize rural life, found fishing, farming, and lumbering ennobled by the "wholesome lessons [of] communing with nature."23

    In a series of articles on abandoned farms, Century Illustrated writer William Henry Bishop noted the impact of these new urban values on the New England village, then emerging as an icon of the Colonial Revival movement:

    "Time has been when all these white country meeting-houses alike seemed to freeze the imagination with their coldness; but times change, and we with them. The charming grace and lightness of design that many of them possess have been recognized ... In short, they are coming back into favor again, with the many other nice old-fashioned things of the period, and the invasion of Gothic [that is, Catholic] chapels that succeeded them had better look well to the security of its domination."24

    Here city folk, unsettled by the shifting ethnic and cultural complexion of their own world, found affirmation of the Anglo-Saxon foundations of American society and the virtues with which these founders wrought a civilization.25

    Although northern New England banked on this wealth of preindustrial images, developers were also sensitive to the needs of a well-heeled clientele familiar with the East's most opulent watering holes. Promoters tuned this rustic landscape to the sensitivities of America's traveling elite.26 Hundreds of miles deep in the interior Maine woods, visitors to the rambling Kineo House on Moosehead Lake feasted on roast lamb, wild strawberry preserves, and cream in the largest dining hall in the state. They delighted in the hotel's comfortable beds, steam heat, gas lights, open fireplaces, and in-room bathrooms before disembarking by canoe into the "freedom of the forests." Reporters dispelled the "popular delusion about the black fly," which had been driven, apparently, from the area by the onset of civilization. Promoters altered the essence of nature in the interest of the "touristic experience," as historian Martha Norkunas notes.27

    In 1901 William Bishop went "hunting an abandoned farm in upper New England" and published the results in Century Magazine. The homestead he selected was located on a ridge top, with pastures and fields falling away to a wooded valley carpeted with "cool, delicate ferns." The view beyond this "miniature glen" included the obligatory distant mountain showing above the horizon. Bishop's farm "happily contained within itself nearly all the most desirable forms of rural charm": an artful scattering of old pear, apple, quince, and nut trees; a fragrant pine-grove; fields bounded by natural hedges and old stone walls, scattered clumps of wild roses, raspberry, grape, strawberries; and a brook stocked generously with trout.28 In a similar article Minnie L. Randall subjected a worthy New Hampshire homestead to the full power of the late-Victorian descriptive imagination. It offered "acre upon acre of grass-land, orchards, groves, pastures, and woodland, lorded over by an old white farmhouse -- "large, cool, and roomy." Its capacious fireplace, central chimney, crane, hooks, and iron pots were "an inspiration, calling up visions of old Thanksgiving days, children and grandchildren gathering for ... dinner." Across the valley stood "the picturesque ruins of an old mill, ... the moss-covered boards of the now empty milldam, and ... a sedgy brook."29

    Like the original farmers, Bishop and Randall proposed an ideal blend of nature and culture. They demanded a landscape as varied as the primeval forest had been, but they desired a complexity that expressed the various overlays of land use imposed by several generations of Yankee farmers, each veiled slightly by time and decay and by the healing hand of spontaneous regrowth. It was an appealing synthesis of human history and natural resurgence -- each farm a physical encapsulation of New England's mythical origins and development. "It would be difficult," Bishop concluded, "to find a greater variety of scenery than we have in so small a number of acres."30 This immutable preindustrial vision -- a working landscape frozen in time -- offered a solid anchor for those adrift in the confusing world of urban-industrial development.

    The latent profitability of this landscape encouraged a campaign to recast rural New England, accenting its charm. "In all the older parts of the country the acres and acres of abandoned farms ... might be made small gold mines to their owners," the Portland Board of Trade urged. Wild berry bushes and apple trees growing along the country road could be trimmed and cultivated and "left for the city person to gather with delight."31 Rich urbanites, stirring to their "old-English nature," would refurbish these homesteads as country estates. Abandoned farms would be reoccupied, the value of adjoining property enhanced, and the "spirit of the active communities from whence they come" would be impressed upon the quiet rural neighborhoods.32

    Animated by this compelling urban imagination, farm leaders and tourist promoters urged rural folk to rejuvenate their farms, erect cottages, trim their lawns, paint road signs and fences, plant vegetable and flower gardens, and learn to cook what city travelers expected country people to eat.33 George W. Perry of Chester, Vermont, provided exact instructions on attracting boarders to the farm: the house must be comfortable and tidy, but studiously "old"; hand-loom rugs, windows that opened wide to the night air, and beds furnished with "very old-fashioned bedsteads" set the proper ambience. The old apple orchard, put to grass and mown short, would offer a charming place for lounging. Hen yards and pigstys, Perry cautioned, were to be set well back from the home. "There are senses besides that of sight that you must provide for."34 Tourism promised a new, multiple use for the seemingly exhausted northern New England landscape. "You can get any class of summer boarders you please," George Perry admonished, "if you use the right bait and tackle for them."35 This forthright appeal expressed the essential dialectic of the tourist landscape: Promoters recognized the importance of dialogue between local culture and urban imagination. The Poland Spring Hotel's Hill-Top magazine admonished rural people to thank summer travelers for "awakening us to the significance of our home."36 The suggestion, although somewhat unrealistic, was not an idle one. The campaign to convince rural folk that tourism was in their best interest was crucial to the New England image; summer visitors, willing to pay large sums of money "for the very air we breathed so freely," came north expecting to see peopled, as well as natural landscapes.37

    How seriously rural people took all this advice is difficult to say, but in important ways the new tourist landscape reinforced their own perceptions of the world. Rural leaders, like tourist promoters, had for generations contrasted the simple virtues of country life with the jaded values of the city, and indeed they generally spoke well of the opportunity for another source of income in the countryside. Abandoned farms were a moral blight, and the chance to fill them with food-dependent urban families was too good to ignore. The farm press regularly listed "desirable farms" available for boarding or sale to summer people.38 Always adaptable, rural families embraced the opportunity to market their land, their lakes, and their untillable mountains. Those who grew weary of the long, one-sided combat with cold climate, unyielding soils, and western competition looked for a margin of profit from the tourist landscape, warming to its visions of the region as both scenic and bountiful.39

    Others seemed less enthusiastic about this flood of cash-bearing visitors. "As a whole, the disposition to provide especially for the needs or desires of visitors is not strong," wrote a correspondent for the Nation after visiting Maine. "The assumption seems to be, rather, that the visitors are sure to come anyway, and that the less there is expended for their gratification, the greater will be the profit from despoiling them." William Bishop noted that his "fellow-villagers" seemed to lack his sensitivity to the "quaint and old-fashioned" in their surroundings.40 Harold Fisher Wilson concluded in his classic study of the northern hill country that tourism received "mixed reviews" among the locals. Some touted the enlivening effect of this influx and the social leveling encouraged by summer boarding, while others complained that summer people distracted families from their work, drove up farm wages, and set dangerous examples of extravagance.41

    In the artfully chaotic landscape constructed by the summer visitor could be found the nexus of an growing tension between urbanites and natives. The former's infatuation with "rustic" scenery incorporated exactly what the farmer saw as scarcity and decay. Romanticized descriptions of ruined mills, sedimented streams, overgrown orchards, and played-out fields yielding blackberries and quail were radically at odds with the sense of order and progress rural generations had imposed upon the land.42 The veneration of rural ruins, the elevation of nature over culture, and the picturesque representation of local decay created a schism between tourists and farmers.

    Farmers, Fish, and Tourism

    This clash of images laid the basis for a sharp debate over game and fish management in the 1890s. American sportsmen, as John Reiger points out, rated hunting and fishing grounds in terms of their picturesque qualities, thus spreading conservation concern beyond the narrow issue of game and fish.43 Although both rural folk and summer tourists viewed the landscape as an ordained balance of culture and nature, they interpreted this balance in different ways. Landscape features farmers considered waste -- overgrown fields, tangled woods, brooks, bogs, alder thickets -- became valuable recreational resources as game cover, habitat, or scenery. Promoters tried to bridge this gap by reducing conservation to a practical question: "how to sell the most game for the most money."44 Farmers could well appreciate the economic logic of more intensive and comprehensive land use, but the ideological implications of this new tourist landscape were unsettling.

    Fishing represented one area of conflict that had to be reconciled before farmers and tourists could share this land. Well into the 1870s fish commissioners, like most rural people, thought of fishing either in subsistence or commercial terms or as a form of recreation unburdened by special "sporting" skills.45 Maine commissioners noted the essential injustice of local people bearing the expense of fish and game protection while "men from abroad come into our woods, and ... hunt our deer ... [and] feed on our fish."46 As early as 1874 they pondered the economic impact of this influx of genteel anglers, but their primary responsibility was guarding commercial fisheries.47 These biases in favor of rural fishing traditions were evident in early controversies over ice fishing. Responding to petitions from summer resort proprietors in the 1870s, the Maine legislature outlawed ice-fishing on several lakes, since it placed demands on the resources when no tourists were in the area. Commissioners denounced the laws as a "monopoly" granted to the hotel owners: Farmers were "cut off ... from their share of a sport [for which] they pay their full portion in fostering and protecting."48

    During these years, however, the constituency for fish conservation changed. Farmers experienced relatively good times following the recession of the mid-1880s, and as they focused on the business of farming, their interest in fish propagation waned. Fish commissioners, on the other hand, drew support from urban elites and resort interests.49 The pressure behind this shift to a recreational constituency came largely from state and county fish and game clubs. Between 1865 and 1900, scores of these organizations appeared throughout New England, typically lead by prominent locals and wealthy out-of-state sporting enthusiasts.50 The clubs linked arms with state fish and game commissions and helped turn the conservation movement toward urban formulations of common-resource use.

    This new urban conservation vision excluded certain entrenched rural practices, such as bait-fishing for trout or salmon. In a letter to Maine Fish Commissioner Leroy Carleton, Philadelphian Jay Cooke, Jr. punctuated his conservation message with a blunt reference to the economic power exerted by recreationists of his class:

    As you know I have a very expensive home in Maine, my place there having cost me up to this time at least $10,000 ... and in addition to this my yearly expenditures in Maine for wages, supplies, etc., amount to several thousand dollars ... If there is to be a constant falling off in fish and game it cannot be expected that ... a class of people will visit the State who, drawn by the sport to be found there, employ guides and spend large sums for supplies which go to the farmers and artisans of the State.51

    Game clubs and elites like Cooke, backed by an expanding resort industry able to muster powerful economic arguments for elite recreational fishing, narrowed the range of uses for these common waters.52

    The growth of this urban conservation constituency renewed the debate over inland fishing. Typical was a dispute over Maine's Rangeley lakes. For generations local inhabitants came down to the shores during the late summer to take fish, which provided an important food supplement during the busy harvest season. When branch railroads reached the lakes in the 1880s, city anglers began crowding these locals at the good fishing spots.53

    In 1891 the Bangor Industrial Journal noted a "warm discussion" taking place regarding the respective virtues of bait-fishing and fly casting around the lakes. "Some pretty rough titles are given to the [local] bait fishermen," the editor noted, by those who had recourse only to the fly. Anglers followed an elaborate sporting ritual that emphasized practiced skills; locals tolled the waters with chum and, using a "jib-boom" as an unsympathetic observer described it, "derricked" the trout to land. The journalist recorded the following exchange:

    'Play him! Play him!' screamed the excited sportsmen from the city.

    'Play your grandmother!' bellowed back the [local] cook. 'I ain't here to play, I'm here to fish.' And as he spoke he boosted over his head a fifteen pound laker. Any man in the Boston crowd would have given ten dollars to have played him an hour at the end of an eight-once rod. 'Twas too much for their nerves. They came away.54

    As commissioners warmed to these "Boston men," locals grew disaffected with fishing codes. A Bangor newspaper correspondent complained that entire lakes were being "monopolized by the wealthy," and farm leaders launched a campaign to limit funds for restocking programs.55

    In 1905 the exclusive Oquossoc Angling Association petitioned for a ban on plug fishing -- using a lure as opposed to a fly -- as a means of saving the Rangeley lakes from abuse by locals. Locals complained that the ban discriminated against "scores of men, women, and children who enjoy fishing, but had no idea of handling a fly."56 The legislative compromised by lowering the twenty-five-pound day limit on trout and salmon to four fish per day, acknowledging the multiple uses of these inland water resources.57 Sensitivity to local fishing traditions helped ease tensions over new conservation regulations, while public familiarity with stocking programs encouraged a stronger commitment to preserving fish resources. Commissioners preached the economic benefits of tourism at Grange meetings, and lauded the spiritual rewards of angling before city audiences. Maine's common waters, they urged, offered something for everyone.58

    Wildlife and the Tourist Landscape

    Game protection again added a new overlay of uses to the traditional agrarian landscape, but as with fishing, it tested the commissioners' ability to spread the conservation message across class lines. As James Tober suggests, the rising value of game triggered political and judicial debates over access to farmlands and to the game upon them.59 Small-game conservation, however, achieved relative consensus, since protection was largely in the interest of local hunters. The edges between field and forest, growing flora traditionally considered the bane of the "thrifty" farmscape -- bayberry, sumac, alder, cedar, sprout wood -- provided cover and forage for grouse, woodcock, quail, rabbits, squirrels, and other game.60 "Abandoned by the farmer," these lands could be "made populous and productive ... by a proper ... system of protective law."61 Ruffed grouse, woodcocks, geese, and ducks were protected in the 1870s, and after the turn of the century commissioners introduced pheasants and quail in lowland and southern sections of New England.62 Measures like this encouraged new uses for farm fields, enhancing their value as common lands.

    Big-game conservation was more imperative and more divisive. Disappearance of New England's woodland caribou around 1900 sensitized sport hunters to the need for better laws. Since caribou were migratory and New England provided only marginal habitat, they had wandered out of the region several times in the nineteenth century, but the last were seen in Maine in 1902.63 The region's moose herd weathered a devastating assault by hide-hunters and lumber-camp provisioners at midcentury but persisted in more remote areas of Maine and New Hampshire. In 1897 Maine restricted the hunting season, and a four-year moratorium on moose hunting, beginning in 1916, began the process of rebuilding the herd.64

    New England's deer herds had been nearly destroyed by relentless hunting and forest clearing early in the century. Vermont banned deer hunting in 1865, with few, if any left in the southern part of the state, and New Hampshire closed nine of its ten counties to hunting in 1878.65 Remnant herds survived in northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, despite poor brouse in the spruce-fir forests, and a "few wild-eyed and apprehensive deer" haunted the pine woods of lower Cape Cod.66

    Deer herds recovered in the 1870s. Their vigor can be attributed to new protective laws operating in combination with vegetational changes in the region. The most significant trend was field abandonment in the hill districts. That reforestation was uneven, depending on soil and topographical features and land-use history, was important, since deer sample a wide variety of foods daily.67 Small, scattered logging cutovers, adjacent to old-growth forests, offered an excellent combination of fodder and cover. Fires, which often followed logging operations, prepared the way for cherry, aspen, and birch. The emerging landscape of fields interspaced with abandoned lands, patch-cut forests, remnant old-growth stands, dense conifer swamps, and neglected orchards created prime habitat. Crops gone wild -- parsnips, grasses, berries, roses, grapes, apples -- combined with vigorous revegetation, offered a veritable feast for deer and other game species. A reflection of economic change in the Northeast, the deer herd was as dynamic as the landscape itself.68

    In the spring of 1878 a group of Vermont sportsmen acquired seventeen deer from New York and Pennsylvania and released them in Rutland and Bennington counties. Enjoying state protection and encountering no natural predators, the herd thrived.69 By the 1890s Vermont farmers were beginning to complain about damage to orchard crops, and in October 1897 the legislature opened a hunting season for antlered deer.70 The event attracted a flood of nonresident hunters, causing concern that the deer, innocent of the gun, would be wiped out. But if the deer lacked caution, the hunters lacked experience: Only about 150 deer were killed, and the herd continued to increase. New Hampshire's herd proved equally prolific under fire. Massachusetts opened a hunting season in the western counties in 1910.71

    Managing the new deer herds added a significant burden to the state fish and game commissions. Trolley extensions, better rail service, new logging roads, automobiles, and motorized boats spread hunting activities through the backcountry, and cheap breech-loading and repeating rifles and automatic pump-guns boosted the kill. In view of this, speculation about the state of the herds was rife. With little substantiation, newspapers reported unsettling declines, while tourist publications touted the expansion of the herds.72 Fish and game commissions entered an era of intensely politicized conservation policy.

    Deer conservation was most divisive in Maine, which possessed the largest game herds and the greatest annual influx of recreational hunters. Elsewhere, traditional subsistence hunting had been abandoned when deer were eradicated early in the century. Rural people proved more willing to protect the herds when they returned. In Maine, the attempt to curb practices dating back to the colonial period brought a difficult period of adjustment.73

    Heavy nonresident sport hunting, combined with Maine's ongoing tradition of market and subsistence hunting, gave the state a particular reputation for brutality. Each night in the fall, the lakes north and east of Bangor came alive with jack-lights, and during the day hunters used dogs to run deer into the water, where they could be shot at close quarters or even clubbed from a canoe. Commissioner Elias Stilwell characterized these northern waters as "slaughter-houses."74 A Boston correspondent noted in 1897 that even in England, where the killing instinct was strong, shooting female deer was condemned by public opinion. But in Maine, it was "shoot, shoot, shoot, at anything moving, male or female, big or little, good or bad."75 Reports of hunters taking up to ten deer a day were not uncommon.76 In 1882 the Maine legislature passed a series of laws -- "war measures," as the commissioners termed them -- to save the state's remaining herd. Exporting carcasses was banned, a close season imposed, and hunters were limited to three deer each. Despite modest appropriations, the commissioners resolved to enforce these laws "to the bitter end."77

    Among rural folk, it is possible to identify a core of practical sympathy with these measures. Some saw game laws as a constraint on frivolous recreational killing or valued wildlife as important to the balance of nature. Others appreciated restrictive laws simply as a means of keeping city hunters in check. Without them, a Granger from Oxford County wrote, "every loafer, every gentleman-of-leisure sport will be shooting at all seasons, regardless whether his target be cow or deer, man or moose."78 Initially, however, the thrust of published commentary in the rural press was negative.

    Why rural spokespeople, who had helped define the basic concepts of land, forest, and fish conservation a half-century before, responded in this manner is an important question. We know a great deal about how new, positive images of wildlife were articulated by prominent American writers and thinkers, but much less about how these views were received by those who confronted wildlife on a day-to-day basis.79 The agrarian response to urban-based pressures for game laws illustrates both the deeper ideological issues at stake in wildlife use and the intensely anthropocentric terms upon which rural people accepted these laws. Confident that some elements of the natural landscape, like forests and fish, abetted the spread of agriculture, farmers pioneered conservation thinking in these matters; convinced that other elements, such as wetlands, "noxious" birds, or deer, were at odds with this agrarian design, they could be remarkably resistant to protection.

    Game laws required a profound shift in thinking about access to wild nature. The Vermont commissioners noted a lingering conviction that the right to bear arms implied "the right to use [them], and the right to use, the right to shoot whatever animals there are."80 Undoubtedly rural people were resistant to abandoning these ancient forage rights, particularly at the insistence of outsiders, but their biases express a more complex relation to urban demands for conservation.81 The flood of recreational hunters into the upland game districts in the 1890s created a volatile mix of old and new attitudes toward wildlife that commissioners found almost impossible to reconcile. Opinion polarized around three points: hunting techniques, crop damage, and more basic questions about the nature of the New England landscape.

    The ethics of hunting, which involved techniques that dated from pre-European times, were in flux at the end of the century. Dogging, for instance, had been popular with urban hunters at midcentury as an "exciting and not laborious" method suited to a more casual knowledge of the woods and gun. Typically, local guides "started" the deer from their feeding places, and the dogs drove them to a body of water, where hunters waited on foot, on horseback, or in a canoe.82 Upland farmers, on the other hand, sometimes complained that using dogs made deer too reclusive. Jock Darling, who built some of northern Maine's first sporting camps, remembered locals who shot city hunters' dogs because they were "not willing for a rich man to come and drive the deer off."83

    A gathering of public opinion about hunting techniques compiled by New York game commissioners in 1895 reflects the fluid state of hunting ethics in the Northeast. In the Adirondacks, locals preferred jacking, or setting a light in the bow of a canoe or boat and moving quietly along a stream or lakeshore at night. City hunters here, too, preferred hounding, although the report suggests that it was falling out of favor.84 Stalking and still-hunting were "deemed the most ... credible method because the deer were given a sporting chance."85 Still, several writers cautioned against total bans on hounding and jacking, since these were the only practical means available to the unskilled hunter -- the "true and legitimate sporting man that [sic] takes his vacation annually from the cities." Dogging was finally outlawed in New York in 1901.86

    While both urban and rural hunters seemed ambivalent about hunting techniques, the 1890s brought a change in attitudes among elite sports hunters. Stirred by literary naturalists and nature writers who insisted on a moral standing for wild animals, by the example of prominent hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and his prestigious Boone and Crockett Club, and by editors of journals like American Sportsman and Field and Stream, elite urban hunters began to define a new sporting code and to communicate this ideal to state game commissioners.87 As commissioners responded to genteel prescriptions against dogging, backlot farmers took up the defense of traditional techniques -- including dogging. Bangor fur dealer Manly Hardy insisted that bans on dogging were based on "class distinctions," sanctioning the practices of the "rich who come to waste, and berating those of our State who kill to eat." Differences obviously ran deeper than the presumed effect on the herd itself.88

    Darling's viewpoint sheds light on the ideological issues behind the conservation debate. Viewed in class terms, game laws violated rural prescriptions for egalitarian access to common resources. Those who "toil much for a small return and have no pleasures, are alive to the fact that upon their own soil they should have something like equal rights with the wealthy, pleasure loving citizen of Boston or of New York."89 Rural commentators denounced the demand for a shorter hunting season coinciding with the busy fall harvest routine. After the city hunters left the state, they feared, the game would be locked away.90 Bangor fur dealer Manly Hardy claimed that "the rich have, for reasons best known to wardens, been allowed to kill, to waste, while poor men who have killed to feed their families have been arrested."91 Nor did Hardy agree on the significance of the hunt: Gentlemen emphasized the invigorating benefits of the chase; farmers, the forage or commercial value of the kill. Hardy objected to "calling the men who ... kill our game in summer and waste it, 'true sportsmen,' and calling other ... good men 'thieves and poachers,' if later they kill what they need to eat."92 Debates over hunting codes were part of the contentious process of accommodating rural attitudes to the new tourist landscape. Just as rural folk were ambivalent about transforming their villages into Colonial Revival parks, they resented the fact that upland New England was becoming "a rich man's game preserve."93

    Uneven law enforcement sharpened these class antagonisms. To be effective, laws had to be enforced impartially -- particularly across class lines -- but also with a certain amount of flexibility. To meet this subtle but important requirement, states relied on locally appointed wardens reimbursed by a portion of the fines collected upon their complaint.94 The combination of local indifference and the "half-fine" system of payment discouraged uniform high conduct. Local hunters often found the wardens "bitter and vindictive," and even the Maine Sportsman, organ of the Sportsman's Fish and Game Association, considered them "low-class political appointees."95 Those in eastern Maine were held in particularly ill repute, partly because of a campaign to poison dogs suspected of running deer. Persistent rumors about poisoned heifers, colts, or even children suggest the animosity between locals and wardens. In his masterful study of down-east "game wars," folklorist Edward D. Ives demonstrated clearly where local sympathies lay.96

    While these complaints left the backcountry hostile to game laws, challenges to traditional property rights spread this resistance among more established farmers. Wildlife conservation added to the multiple uses of New England farmlands, but protecting the game implied new rules for rural landownership. Farmers were constrained from killing game on their own land, yet "nonresident prowlers" were permitted to hunt and fish on these same lands. An editorial warned against the state stepping in "to make public what the law of the state has made private property."97 In 1903 Commissioner Leroy Carleton wrote an open letter to the Maine Farmer defending common-law provisions that gave the people as a whole jurisdiction over fish and game -- a concept that justified public trespass on unenclosed private lands. Earlier, rural people might have understood this argument for common use, but responsibility for game in earlier days had been vested in the town, not the state, and farmers had viewed these resources as complementary to their endeavors on the farm. The surge in deer populations and the new state hunting codes altered the meaning of wildlife for farmers, who viewed deer as a threat to their crops and the protective laws as a threat to their property rights. By the turn of the century, both the locus of conservation authority and the meaning of wildlife had changed: Seemingly aloof state agents managed deer in the interest of nonresident recreationists. The law of the commons no longer resonated with the morality of the farm. As the state asserted control over nature, farmers insisted on the sanctity of their own boundaries.98

    Farmers complained that deer rubbed bark off fruit trees, nibbled back new growth, broke down young trees, and ravaged grain fields and gardens. In Vermont and New Hampshire, where deer had been recently reintroduced, this was confined mainly to marginal farm districts, and commissioners, despite initial misgivings, responded to complaints with reimbursements for crop damage and hunting to cull the herd. Deer became more wary, and complaints about crop damage declined.99

    In Maine, commissioners were less accommodating and, if the vigor of complaints is an indication, the crop damage was more burdensome. In 1900 the Maine Farmer began systematically publishing opinion on deer damage from "representative men" around the state.100 Considering the wording of earlier bounty petitions, which suggest farmers' implacable opposition to anything they perceived as a threat to their crops, resentment over deer protection ran deep.101 Oxford County orchardist C.H. Abbott predicted that farmers would "some day ... rise in a body and demand the repeal of these injurious laws, which benefit the few at the expense of the many." Maine Farmers viewed the wildlife question in stark contrasts: Lands could sustain deer or crops -- not both.102

    Again, the vigor of these complaints suggests a sentiment that ran deeper than the deer themselves. Wildlife protection challenged a basic agrarian assumption that civilization was to supersede the wilderness. Farmers recognized nature as a critical element in their landscape composition, but always at the periphery. Protecting wildlife suggested an impression, as a Grange publication put it, that northern lands were "good for nothing else but to be a hunting ground for the rest of the nation." This clash of images -- the productive farm and the recreational wilderness -- was powerful. The Grange held wildlife laws responsible for the abandoned fields and resurgent forests in the hill country, an extremely sensitive issue that pierced the core of New England identity.103 The "home, the church, the schoolhouse, the factory and the grange hall represents [sic] all that is noblest and sweetest in our civilization, and they must be permitted to advance."104

    Like other forms of urban leisure culture intruding into the agrarian world, sport hunting also violated a rural producers' ideology that elevated work as the moral and material basis of civilization.105 One farmer associated hunting with "drink, ribald jests, vile songs, ... gambling, [and] ... seducing and ruining girls and women." Another suggested that deer should be annihilated precisely to rid the state of "young sporting rakes from the cities."106 In a variety of ways, the game-law controversy brought to the fore agrarian resentments of urban values. "Off Hoss," a frequent contributor to the Maine Farmer

    , proposed that the "money received from the city spendthrifts who term themselves sporting men, is a greater curse than blessing to the State of Maine. Down with the game laws!"107

    Tensions escalated into political war in Maine as the Grange took up the fight against deer protection. The legislature provided payment for deer damages, but left the delicate question of calculating the losses in the hands of Game Commissioner Leroy Carleton, a professed advocate of tourism who publicly dismissed the farmers' complaints as groundless.108 In any case, the Grange rejected the principle of reimbursement and argued instead for repeal of the game laws. Wildlife conservation, Grangers felt, should be restricted to the uninhabited lumbering districts in the northern interior. In the settled areas, farmers should have the right to protect their crops from deer, just as they protected poultry from foxes.109

    In 1905 farmers won the right to shoot deer found doing "substantial damage" to crops and to consume the offending animal, but the new law, passed on a trial basis, appeased no one. Resort proprietors and guides raised strenuous objections, and Commissioner Carleton insisted that farmers took advantage of the law to fill their larders. Grangers saw the 1905 law as a "sop" that required farmers to catch the deer red-handed in their fields. Hoping to starve the commission financially, the Grange organized meetings across the state to influence legislative budget decisions. The situation, according to one farmer, resembled Ireland, "where a rabbit is worth more than a man's life."110

    Farmers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont likewise urged a "decisive test" of laws that made their districts "a game preserve at the expense of the farmers," but where tourism was less vital as a political force, commissioners proved more flexible.111 Massachusetts officials admitted that "in certain counties the logic of the case is that the deer must either be exterminated or so reduced as to no longer be a menace to the fruit-growing industry." On this premise, the three states allowed farmers to cull herds, confident that there were still "thousands of acres of land" available to the sport hunter.112 Commissioners, legislators, game experts, and farmers continued to disagree about the role wildlife played in the larger scheme of things, but the debate, which had once challenged the most basic premises of wildlife conservation, was narrowed to determining the optimal herd size to protect farm property, keep deer healthy, and provide maximum opportunity for hunting. Excess deer were to be "eliminated in such a manner as to give no special privileges, but yield a public revenue." These considerations established the foundation upon which state and federal officials began constructing a science of game management.113

    In Maine, tensions abated after 1910 when Leroy Carleton was joined on the commission by J.W. Brackett, who better understood the political imperatives of the position. Brackett and other advocates of conservation put their message before the Grange and farm press, arguing that nonresident hunters and anglers left millions of dollars yearly in the ring of villages that bordered the great gamelands of New England -- the very regions farmers complained were most oppressed by game laws. Railroad officials reminded farmers that continued local passenger service depended on a heavy tourist traffic. These arguments helped turn the tide of rural opinion. In 1913 the commission implemented a general revision of fish and game laws that left the regulations more uniform, more understandable, and more equitable.114

    Nonresident license fees, levied in New Hampshire and Vermont in 1903 and in Maine in 1904, also helped smooth the way for wider acceptance by funding a more efficient, professional warden service and by shifting the financial burden of conservation to the "outside hunter." Crop-damage reimbursements also became more generous.115 Within a few years, commissioners began arguing for a small resident license as well. "From practically a bankrupt condition two years ago," the New Hampshire commission announced in 1918, "the department enjoys the distinction of being financially healthy, and for the first time in its history is in a position to do effective work."116

    Warden service improved as well, as commissioners molded a miscellaneous band of local part-time appointments into a more unified game-protection force. In Vermont, for instance, wardens gained sheriff's powers in 1882, and in 1888 the legislature gave the state commissioner discretion to choose temporary wardens directly. By the 1890s town officials were routinely passing applications through to the state agency, although commissioners continued to defer to local authority regarding an applicant's good standing and woods lore. Better salaries, abolition of the notorious half-fee system, and year-round employment provided the commissions with a staff of dedicated wardens who created a better image for the agency and its mission.117 In 1897 Maine began licensing hunting and fishing guides. This, along with development of professional guiding associations, encouraged a new force in the fight to conserve game and fish.118

    Over the years, it would be safe to say, farmers accommodated to urban values and acquiesced in "sportsmanlike" codes of recreational hunting and fishing. Encouraged to view the new tourist landscape in economic terms, they learned to accept its premises. The economic and ideological compromises wrought in the 1890-1910 period were important because they redefined the place of wildlife and wildness in the rural landscape. As John Reiger points out, conservation codes imposed during these years reflected a new recreational vision of nature that was largely urban and upper class in origin. Yet the resistance to this vision was not as one-dimensional as it appeared from the vantage of these well-known historical actors. The battles over deer in New England pale before the later clashes between wildlife preservationists and livestock interests out west, but the stormy transitional period in New England suggests the importance of addressing deeper ideological issues to achieve an effective wildlife conservation policy.119

    Beginning in 1870, James Tober wrote, the ideology of game protection moved from the Northeast to the West and gradually into the South. In each state "it confronted local custom, existing statute and common law, state legislatures, the courts, sportsmen, market hunters, farmers, and the U.S. Constitution."120 The diversity in the resulting laws reflects a play of local forces as varied as American regional culture itself. Conservation was molded to this mosaic of land and culture. Reconciling old and new land-use ideals was a complicated process, best understood, as Tober suggests, at the regional level. What we gain from the New England example is an appreciation for the ground that had to be covered before urban and agrarian ideals could be blended into a new form of multiple use for New England's common lands.

    Tourism and the Industrial Landscape

    Game commissioners and legislators protected wildlife not because they imbibed the morality of the gentleman hunter, but because these wealthy recreationists supported an important segment of the state's economy. The impact of tourism on this conflicted landscape is equally apparent in a struggle over dams and scenery on Maine's Rangeley lakes. In 1907 industrialists on the Androscoggin River asked the Maine legislature for permission to lower the water levels on Maine's Rangeley lakes by about six feet to facilitate water storage. The debate over this proposal was couched in familiar terms: "Conservationists" argued for dams as a more efficient use of the water; "preservationists" countered that the aesthetic integrity of the Rangeley lakes was paramount. This clash of principles, similar to the Hetch Hetchy controversy taking shape in California at that moment, was apparent throughout northern New England in promotional literature that described lakes and waterfalls as compelling industrial resources and at the same time highlighted these waters as part of an undeveloped paradise for hunters, anglers, and tourists.121 Vigorous assertion of the latter vision helped cut another facet of New England's common landscape.

    In the mid-nineteenth century, industrial development of New England's water powers was a given in political debate, and the Rangeley lakes, like all sizable water bodies in New England, were harnessed to the task of storing energy for mills situated on the fall line below them. The Androscoggin River offered some of the best water powers in New England.122 In 1885 the Union Water Power Company, a corporation controlled by owners of the valley's textile and paper mills, gained the right to back flow the lakes. The resulting dam system raised the water levels some fifteen feet, and for about twenty years a tangle of unsightly dead trees and stumps ringed the lakes. This alteration, completed before the onset of large-scale resort development, was acceptable to local inhabitants. The dams, in fact, helped regulate water levels for the lakes' new steamboat fleet.123

    In the twenty years after the Union Water Power Company gained control of the flowage, the Rangeley lakes became a mecca for northeastern fishing enthusiasts. By 1907 the local tourist industry, backed by the area's two prestigious private fish and game clubs, the Oquossoc Angling Association and the Megantic Fish and Game Corporation, carried considerable political clout. During these years industry in the valley was growing as well. By 1907 the Androscoggin served manufacturing establishments employing around 15,000 people.124

    The proposal for drawing down the water met unexpected resistance in Augusta. Although deference to the wishes of water power companies was a longstanding tradition in Maine, the Rangeley proposal was the first to affect the state's large lake reservoirs since the development of the tourist industry. Other proposals affecting Brassua Lake on the Kennebec, Chesuncook on the Penobscot, and Sebago Lake near Portland made the event seem portentous.125 In the legislative committee hearings, officials from the valley's large textile and pulp mills faced off against civic leaders from Portland and small-business owners from towns around the lakes. Industrial users argued that water languishing in the lakes was "wasted" on nonresident anglers -- the "forty-dollar man with a hundred dollar rod striving to kill a twenty-five cent fish."126 The draw-down would ensure more efficient use, with industrial benefits spread widely through the valley. Every cubic yard of water, the rains and snows that delivered it, and the lakes that held it, would be turned to dollars and cents to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number.127

    Behind the fight to save the lakes was Edward P. Ricker, a figure who had done more than anyone else in Maine to shape the emerging tourist landscape. Ricker's grandfather, Wentworth Ricker, had established a tavern at Poland Spring in 1797 on the stage route between Montreal and Portland. The hotel gained fame as the family promoted the curative properties of a nearby mineral spring. In 1876, during the early stages of the inland tourist boom, Hiram Ricker, Wentworth's son, transformed the tavern into a magnificent resort. By the turn of the century the Poland Spring Hotel, boasting golf links, tennis courts, a library, a music and art hall, a botanical conservatory, and a small geological museum, was among the East's most lavish resort complexes.128

    Having spent thousands of dollars promoting tourism through the hotel's advertisements, brochures, periodicals, and information bureau, the Rickers were willing to spend freely to defend the industry politically. Hiram and his sons helped form a progressive faction within the ruling Republican party to promote issues like pollution control, forest regulation, and game management. The family's hand-picked governor, Bert M. Fernald, championed these conservation issues during his brief 1909-1910 tenure.129 In 1907 Edward Ricker understood the threat the draw-down proposal presented to resorts in western Maine, and his promotional successes with Poland Spring water gave him a keen instinct for publicizing his attack on the Union Water Power Company. Ricker staked his considerable reputation on the issue. Passage of the bill would indicate legislative indifference to the needs of Maine's resort business; henceforth, he would "dare [not] to expend another dollar" on its development.130

    In a series of front-page newspaper editorials, Ricker contrasted the devastation caused by manufacturers with his own industry's vision of a landscape antithetical to industrialism: Industrial development despoiled the forests and lakes and left "nothing but the mere wreck and ruin of what was once a prosperous summer resort state." The infusion of Ricker money and organizational talent into the campaign, the spreading fame of the lakes, the pressures brought to bear by well positioned metropolitan anglers, and publicity in papers across New England sensitized Maine legislators to the importance of this classic conservation issue.131

    People in the farm communities around the lakes aligned with the preservationists in this case. A Maine Farmer editor worried that the draw-down would lower the water table around the lakes and disrupt agriculture.132 Rural people adapted the antimonopoly rhetoric in national conservation campaigns to their own heritage of democratic access to the land. If they at times resented the outside interference from resort interests, they were also sensitive to the fact that profits from industrial degradation went "into the pockets of men residing out of this State."133 Several traditional resource-based industries, notably deep-water fishing, ice harvesting, shipbuilding, lumbering, and granite quarrying, had succumbed to monopoly control shortly before the turn of the century. The connection between financial concentration and economic decline in these staples industries encouraged an anticorporate mood that colored the Rangeley debate.134 Opponents of the draw-down reminded Maine people that they had not benefited from the "illimitable wealth" of their rivers and forests, resources that had "slipped away" to benefit those "from which the state gathers no toil."135

    The explosive issue of resource monopoly helped bridge the ideological gap between rural people and tourist promoters like Ricker. An Oxford County Senator testified to the widespread feeling that the "sparse livelihood" his constituents eked out of the land would be "destroyed" by extending the power of the mill owners. Industrial domination over the lakes threatened not only the fishing, but also the economic prospects for guiding, livery service, handicraft production, domestic work, rod and fly making, and myriad other small tourist related trades that buttressed the livelihoods of rural Franklin and Oxford county families. Opponents of the bill contrasted the vision of Maine as a vacationland peopled by democratic and independent farmers against a landscape devoted to single industrial use.136 The campaign fused the modern tourist vision of the lakes with traditional concerns over local sovereignty, economic independence, and agricultural stability.137

    In a dramatic climax to the legislative hearings in Augusta, Edward Ricker strode to the speakers' desk and, "punctuating his remarks with vigorous thumps of his clenched fist upon that piece of furniture," declared that if the bill became law he would "deed to any member of this committee or any other man our cottage up there on the lakes for fifty per cent of its value." Despite this pyrogenic conclusion, the committee gave the company bill an "ought to pass" recommendation. The Senate, however, voted to substitute the minority report, and the bill was defeated.138

    During the debate, compromisers raised the possibility of an alternate dam site at Magalloway Lake, upriver from the Rangeleys in a region still untouched by tourist development. There, a dam would back flow land thought to be of little value to farmers or resorters, allowing the mills to run at full capacity all year. In 1909 the Union Water Power Company asked for a charter to dam the Magalloway and met no resistance in the state legislature.139

    As a preservationist victory, the Save-the-Lakes campaign was somewhat unique. Expressions of popular preservationist sentiment this strong would not be heard again in Maine until the 1960s. But the debate did help establish new guidelines for land and water use in Maine. It was Wallace White, attorney for the water-power company, who best enunciated the dramatic change in public mood that swept through Maine in 1907:

    Until Mr. Ricker arrived on the scene no one ever doubted the power of the legislature to regulate and control the use of the waters of these and similar lakes as it saw fit ... But now all is changed... No future legislation shall grant to the manufacturing industries in this State any of those rights and privileges. The waters of our streams and great rivers must hereafter flow idly to the sea, unvexed by the whirring wheels of industry, unpolluted by the hand of honest labor.140

    Although the point was overmade, Ricker and other preservationists did establish the collateral rights of the recreation industry, and they reinvogorated the agrarian concept of democratic responsibility for an ordered landscape.

    The debate indeed signalled a new mood in Maine. In a long article in the Lewiston Journal in 1914, Mrs. Edward M. Lawrence noted that for generations Maine had been perceived as "crude and undeveloped" by its neighbors. Like most Mainers, she harbored a passion for industrial growth to overcome this image: "Let us compel three [industrial] plants to grow where one now grows. Let us harness every babbling brook and compel it to serve us. Let us get the most from our fisheries and the best from our forests." Lawrence interjected a new theme into this age-old rallying cry, however. Recently, she noted, the state had developed its own "atmosphere" -- a character "so vivid as to distinguish it from every other state in the Union." The people of Maine were coming to terms with their arrested frontier -- forging their own distinctive reconciliation of nature and culture. Industry was essential to human welfare, but developers should guard Maine's "present proud distinction as a State": its naturalness, cleanliness, moral integrity, and wholesomeness.141 Lawrence's heartfelt plea for tempering industrial development with landscape conservation no doubt drew inspiration from the acrimonious debate over lake development seven years earlier -- a debate shaped by the interface of conservation and preservation ideas.

    Yet the story is not so simple. Beginning with the pioneering works of Samuel Hays and Roderick Nash, historians have interpreted the conservation movement as divided between aesthetic "preservationists" and utilitarian "conservationists." This distinction may seem clear in the Olympian battles waged at the national level between giants like John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, but for those whose lives revolved around everyday tasks of getting a living from nature, the distinction between utilitarian and aesthete blurs.142 Regionally, the conservation movement embraced a broader and perhaps more complex set of assumptions, rich in ideas derived from local attachments to the land. These land-centered traditions encouraged ordinary people to take up the conservation banner -- to appropriate and reshape its ideals. They gave the movement popular standing.

    The Save-the-Lakes campaign was an important conservation benchmark for Maine. In 1907 people using or living near the Rangeley lakes determined that no single industrial agent should be given power that precluded others from using the same resource. Speaking before the legislative committee, Rangeley steamboat captain Fred C. Barker placed the issue in a broader framework of conflicting land uses. The lakes, he contended, would not recharge sufficiently from the proposed draw-down because the forests around them had been abused. When the forest cover was destroyed, "the early spring sun and wind thaws and wastes the snow so by day and the cold night freezes it so that it makes but little water." Without proper watershed management, the lakes served neither resort owners nor industrialists properly.143 The interactions between conflicting forms of land use could no longer be ignored; legislators groped for a multiple-use principle to serve these various needs.

    About a decade after Ricker's victory, Arthur Staples of the Lewiston Journal retold the story of the Save-the-Lakes campaign, concluding with a summary that suggests the fragile and somewhat momentary victory over industrial might: "No one will ever again try to drain a lake for commercial purposes to the damage of its scenic beauty," Staples announced, "unless it is absolutely essential [my emphases]."144 Tentative though it was, this victory over rampant industrialism was an important assertion of the rights of nature -- or at least the rights of common people to use it. The result of the Magalloway compromise, the Lewiston editor noted, was that the waters of the Androscoggin Valley had been transformed into a "perfect supply," shaped to the conflicting needs of industrial, agricultural, and recreational users. No river in America, he reasoned, had been better "conserved."145

    to footnotes


  • To top of page

    AN IDEA IS BORN | NATIVE LIFE | TOURISM TODAY | FEATURED INTERVIEWS | TRANSCRIPT

    HISTORY TIMELINE | ARTS & CULTURE TIMELINE | NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE | CLASSROOM | HISTORY LINKS | SITE INDEX

    HOME: The Story of Maine on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network was made in partnership with the Maine State Museum. Major funding was provided by the  Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency committed to fostering innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning. Additional funding provided by Elsie Viles.
    Major funding for previous seasons of  HOME: The Story of Maine was made possible by a grant from Rural Development, a part of the USDA. Special support is provided by The Maine State Museum and Northeast Historic Films.