For decades, Portland, Maine, was the closest ice-free port to Europe. As such, it was key to the transport of Canadian wheat across the Atlantic, losing its prominence only after WWII, as containerization came to dominate all shipping and Portland shifted its focus to tourism. Michael Connolly offers an in-depth study of the on-shore labor force that made the port function from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. He shows how Irish immigrants replaced and supplanted the existing West Indian workers and established benevolent societies and unions that were closed to blacks. Using this fascinating city and these hardworking longshoremen as a case study, he sheds light on a larger tale of ethnicity, class, regionalism, and globalization.
Michael C. Connolly, a native of Portland, is professor of history at Saint Joseph's College of Maine. He is the editor of They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine.