July 8, 1524: Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano arrives in France after a sea voyage that took him to North America, including, in early May, the coast of what is now Maine.

His trip is the first clearly documented European visit to the Maine coast.

Verrazano later will describe it as the “land of the bad people,” reporting that local inhabitants waved his ship away from shore and would trade goods with his crew only by means of transferring them on a rope to and from a cliff where the locals stood.

 

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and family ca. 1922; (L to R): Laurance, Abby (daughter), John III, Abby (wife), David, Winthrop, John Jr., Nelson. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

July 8, 1908: Nelson Rockefeller, a future U.S. vice president, is born in Bar Harbor.

Rockefeller, a corporate president, author, assistant secretary of state, 15-year governor of New York and three-time presidential candidate, becomes in 1974 the second person – after Gerald Ford in 1973 – appointed to the vice presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He serves from 1974 to 1977.

July 8, 1916: President Woodrow Wilson designates a large tract of land on Mount Desert Island as Sieur de Monts National Monument, whose name honors a French explorer and colonizer. Composed of donated tracts of land, it is the early form of what later will become Acadia National Park.

The site becomes Lafayette National Park in 1919, named after Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and military commander who led American troops in several battles of the American Revolution. When the U.S. Interior Department chooses the name, Americans are fighting to defend France from the Germans in World War I, and it seems a fitting tribute to that alliance.

George B. Dorr, first superintendent of Sieur de Monts National Monument. Image courtesy of the National Park Service

Interior Department legal assistant Horace Albright (1890-1987) and George Bucknam Dorr (1853-1944), who oversee Acadia’s formation, don’t like the name, but they go along with it until Albright becomes National Park Service director in 1929. “Then I pushed through the name we had chosen years before, Acadia National Park,” he says.

“Acadia” was a name that had been in use among local Indians long before English and French explorers arrived in the area, so that seemed a more appropriate moniker to Albright. On Jan. 19, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill authorizing the name change.

Ronald H. Epp, in a 2016 biography of Dorr, concludes that the park’s “admission into the rapidly evolving park system was based on a novel concept – that private land donated by a conservation organization was entitled to be federally protected public land. This decision irrevocably altered the concept of a national park.”

By the time of Dorr’s death, the park has expanded to five times the size it was when the national monument was designated, and it includes mainland property.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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