Neal Dow's home at 714 Congress Street in Portland, Maine is now the headquarters of the Maine Woman's Christian Temperance Union. It is open to the public on weekdays 1100-1600; meeting rooms are available by appointment. There is no admission fee.
The late Federal-style mansion was built in 1829 for the occupancy of Neal Dow and his bride, Maria Cornelia Durant Maynard. The initial cost of the house and land was under $6000. The residence was a center of political and humanitarian activity. From here, the zealous reformer set out on countless journeys throughout Maine, over much of the nation, and finally abroad in the cause of temperance.
In Neal Dow's youth, Portland was a center of the rum trade with the West Indies. Local liquor outlets abounded. The resulting poverty, suffering, and disorder stirred to action the young man whose prosperity derived from the sobriety, industry, and frugality of his Quaker heritage. With others of like mind, he tried first by moral suasion, then by law to improve life conditions by destruction of the liquor traffic. These labors culminated in passage of the so-called Maine Law, drafted by Neal Dow in the little study at the rear of his home. This law made Maine in 1851 the first state to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages and was the model for similar legislation in other states and foreign countries. The consummation of Neal Dow's crusade came many years after his death in the adoption of National Prohibition.
Neal Dow was active in the cause of abolition of Negro slavery. At the age of 57, he raised and commanded the Thirteenth Maine Regiment of Volunteers for service in the Civil War. Elevated to the rank of brigadier General, he was captured while recovering from a wound and spent nine months in Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia.
Twice elected mayor of Portland, member of the state legislature, phenomenally successful lobbyist, and candidate for President of The United States on the Prohibition ticket, Neal Dow was a force in the politics of his day. Among additional social causes, he interested himself in crime prevention, prison reform, and women's rights. He was a valued associate of many of the great men of his time. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, celebrations were held in this country and abroad, notably in London.
The reformer's son, Col Fred N. Dow, prominent political figure, publisher, and adherent to his father's principles, willed the family mansion and its contents to the Maine Woman's Christian Temperance Union, with provision for restoration and maintenance of the property. His hope was that acquaintance with the career of his father through visits to his Memorial would inspire many to devote themselves to the cause of temperance.
The completely restored manion was dedicated on October 22, 1971 as the Neal Dow Memorial. The Memorial is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For additional information, write: Maine WCTU, 714 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, tel 207-773-7773.
General Neal Dow
THE "Father of the Maine Law" is a native of the Pine-Tree State. He was born at Portland, Me., March 20, 1804. His parent5 and all his ancestors for many generations were Friends, and he was brought up as a member of that persuasion.
— Data from An Album of Representative Prohibitionists (1895)
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