About the Society
In 1894, a band of "displaced" Mainers got together and organized the “Maine State Association.” The purpose of the group was to maintain a home away from home, provide a little touch of Maine for Mainers in the national capital area, keep alive a sense of roots, and boost the image of the State of Maine.
More than 100 years later, that purpose thrives via The Maine State Society of Washington, D. C., which exists "to foster and promote interest in Maine, develop and maintain a sense of loyalty and devotion to Maine, and provide for and strengthen the social contacts of its members." A nonpolitical, non-governmental and not-for-profit, the Society is a 100% volunteer organization. It doesn’t matter what your politics may be or what your role is in the Washington area, you’re eligible to join the Society if you have Maine connections.
Societies exist for other states and US territories, but Maine’s is one of the largest (over 1,100 members in 26 states and five foreign countries) and among the most active with eight events yearly. Check out our calendar of events.
A sample of what Society membership brings you:
A Harvest Suppah featuring a traditional Down East menu (baked yellow eye beans, brown bread, red hot dogs and dinner rolls) provided by supportive Maine businesses.
Rub elbows with Maine political figures at the annual Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill when each Congress convenes.
Meet Maine’s Cherry Blossom Princess at the events of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Society has sponsored Maine’s princess each year since the festival began in 1948 and four Maine Princesses have become the Festival Queen's.
Attend the Society’s annual lobster dinner—a Maine tradition in Washington since 1945—featuring the state’s world-renowned seafood, plus door prizes donated by Maine businesses.
Learn about quality Maine products and services at events or via special mailings to members.
Join with members as they care for two Maine Civil War monuments at Gettysburg, and help place thousands of Maine balsam fir wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
Make new friends or rediscover old ones at Society events, and learn about worthy Maine civic or charitable organizations and causes.
The earliest known organized Maine presence in in the nation’s capital was a group of Maine Republicans who met formally on February 3, 1873, in Washington. In 1876, a similar group was formed to boost James G. Blaine’s presidential aspirations. The organization, now known as The Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., held its first meeting on June 9, 1894 in rooms 51-54 of the old Washington Loan & Trust Building near 4th and G Streets, NW. Sixty-four persons representing all sixteen Maine counties attended, and the name "Sons and Daughters of Maine," was chosen for the group. Captain Fred F. Phillips elected as first president, he was succeeded by former Governor Sidney Perham on December 7, 1895. During the first decade, it appears that meetings were held every two weeks, even during the summer, and that the average attendance, at least major events, was about 60 members. In November 1902, it was proposed to change name to "The Pine Tree Association," but no action taken until November 21, 1903, when, by resolution, the name was changed to "The Maine Association." The designation "Maine State Society" was adopted, along with a revision of the bylaws on May 16, 1921, perhaps explaining why some records and memorabilia state that the Society established 1921. 1985, revised bylaws announced the name as "The Maine State Society of Washington," new bylaws adopted in 1999 revised the name to "The Maine State Society of Washington, D. C."
Most of the information about the first three decades of the Society comes from two "brief history" documents of unknown authorship but typed on the letterhead of the U. S. House of Representatives Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings of the 66th Congress (1919-1921). Representative Ira Hersey (Republican-Maine) was its chairman and Frank C. Merritt, the Society’s president in 1915, was its clerk. It is likely that Merritt was the author of the histories. For the most part, these documents list officers, discuss the search for and the availability of meeting places, and occasionally describe a program. Even so, there are a few interesting stories contained in these narratives.
In May 1906, member Charles Ricker announced that he would make a gavel from a relic in his possession from the Battleship Maine and present it to the association on the condition that it be used at the laying of the cornerstone for a new Maine Association Building. The building was never built and the gavel may or may not have been made. How the group could have contemplated construction of a building is a mystery since only eight months later (January 1, 1907), the treasurer’s report showed a balance of one cent. One of the more intriguing events during this era was on April 12, 1915, when the Maine and New Hampshire Societies held a joint meeting to hear Admiral Robert E. Peary speak.
In 1924, a man named Sanford Porter was president of the Society, but from that year until 1940, no further information about the organization has been located. A Portland Press Herald column by May Craig, dated February 7, 1940, states, "There used to be a flourishing State of Maine Society. Harold Marsh, Washington attorney, once of Cape Elizabeth, Maine ... and on the Governor’s Council when Representative Brewster was Maine’s Governor, was president of the Maine Society for a while. But for several years the Society has fallen to pieces." On the basis of Craig’s comments, combined with the dates of Brewster’s service as Governor (1925-1929), as a Congressman (1935-1941) and as U. S. Senator (1941-1953), it may be concluded that the Society was at least semi-active during this period despite a lack of corroborating records.
When the Maine State Society was reorganized in 1940 after several years of meager activity or perhaps even inactivity, several external conditions occurred which all but assured the success of the endeavor. Federal government expansion under the New Deal and the military buildup for World War II brought many newcomers from Maine to Washington. With suburban development still a decade or more away, most of these former Mainers lived in the city, making access to meetings, frequently by public transportation, quite easy. Many, if not most Society members, maintained their voting registration in Maine, encouraging members of Maine’s Congressional delegation to take a much more active role in the affairs of the organization than they now do, even though the Society has always been and continues to be officially nonpartisan.
The major force behind the rejuvenation was Mrs. M. V. deRoquelaine of Damariscotta who also served as the temporary president from the organizational meeting on February 3, 1940, until Theodore Seaman of Lewiston was elected to the office May 10th. Her key assistants appear to have been Frederick Eberly, Jr. of Biddeford and Carlton Corliss of Crystal in Aroostook County. In the early 1940s, it was important that persons accepted for membership be bona fide Mainers because Congressman Clyde Smith wrote a letter to the temporary president of the Society in March 1940 saying that he and his wife, Margaret, wouldn’t join until they were assured that this condition had been adhered to. The reply waffled a bit, but the Smiths did join. Ironically, the unexpected death of Mr. Smith a few weeks later caused the postponement of the first major event of the reorganized Society, a dance at the Wardman (now Sheraton) Park Hotel. Margaret Chase Smith would, of course, succeed her husband in the U. S. House of Representatives and later be elected to the U. S. Senate. As far as can be determined, she was the only remaining "charter" member of the 1940 reorganized and rejuvenated Society at her death in the spring of 1995. Other events in 1940 were a seafood dinner at O’Donnell’s, a reception and musicale, a baked bean supper at the DAR Chapter House, a dance at Hotel 2400 and five business meetings. On January 20, 1941, an Inaugural Ball with Governor Sumner Sewall as the honored guest and featuring Meyer Goldman’s Orchestra was held at Hotel 2400.
Several early 1941 membership lists exist. One contains 155 names and another, dated months later, has 95 names with 60 more names listed from the previous year as "dues-unpaid." Volume I, Number 1 of the newsletter, The Pine Tree State, dated April 7, 1941, lists Marie Jones as editor and Henry Peabody as assistant editor and announces a Spring Dance on April 26 in the "attractive, air-conditioned METRODOME ROOM of the WARDMAN PARK HOTEL" with music by Jack Morton’s orchestra. The event, free to members, cost $1.10 for non-members. The newsletter also lists 27 new members and has thumbnail biographies of four officers and the woman who designed the masthead. This is one of more than 300 newsletters in the Society’s collection.
The first baked bean supper appears to have been held on January 31, 1942, at Pierce Hall of All-Souls Church (16th & Harvard Sts. NW). This event lapsed in the mid-1950s and wasn’t reinstituted until 1982 as an annual event with an average attendance of 200 members. The first lobster dinner was on February 5, 1945, at the U.S. Department of the Interior cafeteria and cost $1.50 for members and $2.00 for non-members. According to a printed program, the 1993 lobster dinner was the 48th, but no records exist to confirm that lobster dinners were held from 1947 to 1950. During two of those years, the Society was extensively involved in sponsoring the 4th and 5th annual Lillian Nodica Festivals, a music program named for the Farmington-born opera star.
A Congressionally-chartered umbrella organization for all state and territorial societies, the National Conference of State Societies, has sponsored the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival since 1948, and each year, the Maine State Society has sponsored a princess who either comes from Maine or is a member of a family of "displaced" Mainers living in the Washington area. The first Maine princess was Joan M. Lovering of Calais, and in four festivals, the Maine princess has, by spin of the "Wheel of States," become the Festival Queen (1955, 1956, 1958 and 1990). Two Society presidents have been elected president of the National Conference: Charles Leroy "Roy" Haines of Ellsworth, also a founder and charter member of the organization, and Edward D. Hews of Presque Isle.
It was through the leadership and efforts of James V. Day, Sr., Kennebunk, when he was president (1961-1963), that the Society established the Big "M" Award given annually to a Mainer, or to a person with strong Maine ties, to recognize their outstanding contribution and service to Maine and its citizens or to the State’s continuing role in the affairs of the nation; or for attaining the highest levels of achievement in the recipient’s profession; or for exemplifying the finest attributes of concerned citizens involved in State or National affairs, events, projects or programs. The first award went to entertainer Rudy Vallee in 1963, and an award has been made every year since except 1984.
After irregular publication in the 1950s, 60s & 70s, the Society began regular publication of its newsletter in the late 1970s, expanded it first to six then eight pages per issue, renamed it "The Maine Event" in 1986, and publishes it now at least eight times a year. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, newsletter editors were Bob Ward, Limestone, Dave Moulton, Scarborough, and Lewis Pearson, Portland. Jeff Hollingsworth, Belfast, served as editor from 1984 until mid-1995, when Lew again became editor.
The Society assisted a Maine-based fundraising project in 1983 to enable a copy casting of Maine sculptor Victor Kahill’s classic "Maine Lobsterman" sculpture to be placed in a plaza on Maine Avenue overlooking the Potomac River in Washington, D. C. The Society organized a dedication ceremony in June 1983, at which the statue, mounted on a block of Maine granite, was unveiled and formally presented to the U. S. National Park Service.
In 1989, a small group of Society members established The Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. Foundation, Inc. as a separate organization which was incorporated in the District of Columbia and was qualified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) entity, allowing it to receive tax-deductible donations which are used to award annual scholarships to Maine residents attending Maine colleges and universities. More than 125 $1,000 to $2,500 scholarships totaling more than $125,000 have been awarded.
Since 1993, Society members volunteer each December to place thousands of Maine balsam fir wreaths on selected graves at Arlington National Cemetery; at the Battleship USS Maine memorial, the Tomb of the Unknowns and the grave of the late Governor, Senator and Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie. The wreaths are donated by Morrill Worcester, president of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, ME, who also arranges for transportation from Maine to Arlington. Extensive media coverage has been given this annual event by Maine and District of Columbia newspapers and the major television networks as well as Maine television stations including Maine Public Television. And beginning in 1996, Society members have traveled twice a year to the Gettysburg National Military Park and Cemetery to care for the Civil War monuments and adjacent grounds of the 5th Maine Battery on Stevens Knoll at the north end of Cemetery Ridge and the 17th Maine Infantry’s position in the Wheatfield. When it arranged for and placed Maine sod around the 5th Maine Battery monument in 1997, this Society project was featured in an article in Down East magazine . The sod was donated by the Maine Turf Farm, Fryeburg, and trucked to Gettysburg by a Society member’s brother living in Gorham, ME who delivered the sod to the site wearing his great-grandfather’s actual Civil War uniform.
The Society celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in June 1994 at the annual lobster dinner held at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. The Honorary Co-Chairs were former Senators Margaret Chase Smith and Edmund S. Muskie. The event consisted of a "Maine Mix ‘n Mingle" social hour followed by dinner, entertainment by Maine humorist and network television performer, Tim Sample, and door prizes donated by Maine businesses. Over 500 people attended, among them Governor John McKernan, Senators William Cohen and George Mitchell, former Governor, Senator and Secretary of State, Edmund Muskie, former Governor John Reed and a number of other prominent Mainers. CBS television taped the evening’s event for viewing on its CBS News Sunday Morning program in September 1995.
Note: The research and writing of this history of the Society from its first known presence in Washington, D.C. until its 100th anniversary was done by Carolyn R. Manchester, Portland, who was the Society Historian for a number of years prior to serving as president (1993-1995). Since 1995, the Society’s activities, events, programs and projects are well-documented in issues of the newsletter which are the primary source of information.