Why is Maine Called Vacationland?

If you visit Maine, you’ll notice that the state is often called Vacationland. But why? The following provides a few clues.

The Maine State line sign along the New Hampshire border

While crossing the Piscataqua River Bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, one of the first things you’ll see is the Maine state line sign with the term “vacationland” at the bottom.

And if you happen to cross the bridge without noticing the sign, you’ll still catch the phrase “vacationland” at the bottom of Maine license plates.

But why is Maine called vacationland? What are the origins of this term, and why has it endured?

The history of “Vacationland” in Maine

Maine has been a tourist destination before it became a state over 200 years ago. Visitors are drawn to the state’s beautiful rocky coastline, vast open spaces, and relaxed way of life.

But it wasn’t until after the end of the Civil War that Maine started to promote itself as a vacation destination.

A Maine license plate with the term Vacationland on it
Photo credit: Awmcphee / Creative Commons

In the late 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought wealth and leisure time to city workers. Cities’ poor sanitary conditions, disease, and sweltering heat set off a travel trend to Maine with its pure water (Poland Springs), clean air, and mild summertime weather.

During this time, wealthy and influential families also began building large cottages in the Bar Harbor and Camden/Rockport regions. They, too, traveled up north to escape the city for the summer. The trend only increased with the invention of automobiles in the 1890s.

A Maine postcard with the term Vacationland on it
Photo credit: Steve Shook / Flickr

During the Great Depression, Governor Louis J. Brann worked to increase Maine’s profile nationwide.

It was during his administration that the word “vacationland” first appeared on Maine license plates in 1936 and started to appear on postcards.

However, George H. Lewis, a professor and native Mainer, says that publicists with the Maine Central Railroad first coined the phrase in the 1890s.

While the exact origins of the phrase “vacationland” are unknown, it’s clearly a name that has endured, and for good reason.

What are some of Maine’s other nicknames, slogans, or mottos?

“Vacationland” isn’t Maine’s only nickname. Here are three other nicknames and slogans associated with the state.

Pine Tree State

Maine is also known as “The Pine Tree State” for its vast acres of abundant white pine tree forests, which have been a significant part of the state’s history and economy. Maine’s white pine forests were crucial in supplying timber for shipbuilding and other industries.

Over time, as the state developed and its economy diversified, the pine tree continued to symbolize Maine’s natural beauty and resources. The nickname “Pine Tree State” has persisted as a nod to the historical and economic significance of the white pine in Maine’s heritage.

“The Way Life Should Be”

A sign in Maine that says "Welcome to Maine" The way life should be

A slogan associated with Maine is “The Way Life Should Be”. In fact, you’ll see a large sign with this slogan shortly after you cross from New Hampshire into Maine.

In 1987, “The Way Life Should Be” was adopted as part of a marketing campaign to promote the state. The slogan was created to capture the essence of the quality of life and natural beauty Maine offers its residents and visitors.

The phrase reflects that Maine embodies an ideal lifestyle characterized by scenic landscapes, outdoor recreation opportunities, a sense of community, and a slower pace of life. The state provides a picturesque and tranquil setting that aligns with what many people consider ideal living.

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Dirigo

Finally, Maine’s official motto is “Dirigo”, a Latin word that translates to “I lead” or “I direct.” The state adopted this motto in 1820 when it gained statehood. The choice of “Dirigo” reflects the spirit of independence and leadership associated with Maine’s role in forming the United States.

Adopting a Latin motto was common among states during the 19th century, reflecting a classical influence and a desire to convey principles and values in a language that transcended specific nationalities. In the case of Maine, “Dirigo” continues to symbolize the state’s independent spirit and commitment to leading its own way.

See related:

What is Maine Known for?

What Food is Maine Known for?

Who are Famous People from Maine?

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A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

About Kerry Flatley

Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.

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