Maine and the Orient: Introduction

Port of Canton

Chinese Mask

Maine’s involvement with the Orient began before the Civil War, when Maine shipyards built vessels for the Massachusetts and New York merchants who originated U.S. trade with the Orient. After the Civil War Mainers built, captained and owned many of the ships carrying bulk cargoes from England and the United States to both American and Asian Pacific ports. These vessels were hired by merchant firms outside Maine to carry goods all over the world, following complicated patterns of exports and imports among many countries. The artifacts owned by Penobscot Marine Museum were by-products of this travel; captains brought back popular Oriental items for their friends, relatives, and their own homes. More important than porcelain and silk, however, were the experiences Maine families had in other cultures around the world.

Trade between eastern and western countries was, and still is, an important force in history. Maine’s role is discussed here within the broader story.