Travel the world without ever leaving Maine

There's a reason why all the world seems to be hiding within the borders of Maine.

One of Maine's nicknames is 'the Switzerland of America'. That's underselling the Pine Tree State: all the world seems to be hiding within its borders.

The poem on this postcard lists the many Maine localities named after foreign countries and cities.

  • You could go on a tour of European capitals, past Vienna, Paris, Lisbon, Rome, Athens, Madrid and Stockholm.
  • Or sample some of the British Isles' most famous places, i.e. York, Bristol, Cornish (after Cornwall) and Leeds (in England), Belfast and Limerick (in Ireland), and Argyle (in Scotland—spelled Argyll these days).
  • Perhaps travel to illustrious places on (and near) the European continent: Calais (in France), Dresden (in Germany), Naples and Palermo (in Italy), Corinth (in Greece), Milo (presumably after the Greek island of Milos), Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey), Gilead (in Jordan) and Carthage (in Tunisia).
  • Or yet visit entire countries: Norway, Denmark and Sweden; Poland and Wales; Mexico and Peru; Egypt, Corea (sic) and China.

All of which you could do, as the postcard affirms, without ever leaving the state of Maine.

The poem, A Maine Travelogue, by Walter L. Colburn, is undated, as is the postcard. However, the card has a definite vintage feel. Perhaps it dates from the 1930s when Maine's most famous signpost was erected.

The so-called 'World Traveller Signpost' in Lynchville points to a number of international-sounding destinations in the vicinity. Norway and Paris are both located within 15 miles; Denmark and Naples each just 23 miles to the right. China is a bit of a slog, though: almost 100 miles, double the distance to Peru.

In its entry on the Lynchville signpost, Atlas Obscura explains why Maine has so many international-sounding place-names:

“In the late 1700s and early 1800s, notoriously independent Maine residents sought to honor peoples across the world fighting for independence. Denmark, Maine was named in solidarity with a British naval attack on Copenhagen in 1807. Mexico and Peru, Maine both got their names in celebration of those countries' separations from Spain. An outlier is Norway, Maine, which was a clerical error: the town had been registered as either Norwich or Norage, but was mistakenly recorded by the provincial government of Massachusetts as Norway in 1797.”

Both the postcard and the signpost are incomplete. They miss out on at least two dozen Maine towns named after foreign cities and countries, including Belgrade, Bremen, Canton, Edinburg (sic), Lebanon, Moscow and Oxford.

And there's more—much more: you can even travel our entire solar system along Route 1 in Maine (see #528 for more).

Travelogue postcard reproduced with kind permission of the Osher Map Library in Portland, ME. Signpost image found here on Wikimedia Commons.

Strange Maps #919

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