Military Wiki
Neal Dow
9th Mayor of Portland

In office
April 24, 1851 – April 1852
Preceded by John B. Calhoun
Succeeded by Albion K. Parris
Personal details
Born (1804-03-20)March 20, 1804
Portland, Maine, USA
Died October 2, 1897(1897-10-02) (aged 93)
Portland, Maine, USA
Political party Whig, Republican, Prohibitionist
Spouse(s) Maria Cornelia Durant Maynard Dow
Profession Politician

Neal S. Dow (March 20, 1804 – October 2, 1897), nicknamed the "Napoleon of Temperance" and the "Father of Prohibition", was mayor of Portland, Maine. He sponsored the "Maine law of 1851", which prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor. Dow was widely criticized for his heavy handed tactics during the Portland Rum Riot of 1855.

Early life and career[]

Dow was born in Portland, the son of Quaker parents. Following his father Josiah's line of work, he became a tanner, and eventually became a prominent and wealthy leather manufacturer. He volunteered as a firefighter to gain exemption from militia duty because of the reputation of militia musters to be drunken bashes. He gained local notice when he persuaded his company to forgo the customary liquor at their annual celebration. In 1827 he was a founding member of the Maine Temperance Society. Before 1837 he was a leader of the splitting off of the Maine Temperance Union over the issue of whether wine should still be allowed—the Union was for total abstinence.

Temperance movement[]


During the 19th century the average American consumed more than three times more alcohol than today.[1] In his memoirs, Dow noted that in Portland (as elsewhere in the country) a significant portion of a working man's pay was in the form of daily rum rations. "It was the rule" Dow wrote, "to quit work at 11 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon to drink. . . . Many grocer's shops kept rum punch prepared in a tub, sometimes on the sidewalk, just as lemonade is to be seen now on the Fourth of July.[2] The Neal S. Dow Museum estimates that there were approximately 300 establishments selling rum, gin, brandy or other alcoholic beverages along the roughly one mile stretch of Portland's major business district from lower Congress Street to Munjoy HIll during the first half of the 19th century.

Mayor of Portland and "The Maine Law"[]

The first legislative attempt to impose prohibition in Maine was in 1837. A bill made it out of committee but was tabled. In 1849, the bill passed the Maine Legislature but was not signed by Governor John Dana. In April 1851, Dow was elected mayor of Portland as a Temperance Whig and virtually single-handedly secured passage of prohibition in the state. He worked closely with the legislature to secure passage there. Then, despite the fact that many legislators expected the bill to be vetoed, Dow met with the new Governor, John Hubbard, who signed the bill into law on June 2. This quickly became known through the country as "the Maine Law," and propelled Dow to national fame. He was called the "Napoleon of Temperance", and was the featured speaker in August at a National Temperance Convention.

After losing reelection as Portland's mayor, Dow traveled the U.S. and Canada campaigning for prohibition laws. He ran again to be mayor in 1854 and lost, but in 1855 won reelection with a 47-vote margin, supported openly by the new Republican party and secretly by the Know Nothing party.

Portland Rum Riot[]

In 1855, rumors began to circulate that Dow was storing a large supply of alcohol at city hall. Although this was subsequently ruled to be intended for distribution to the city's medical community, a judge was compelled to investigate and to issue a search warrant. A suspicious crowd numbering perhaps 2000 assembled outside city hall on June 2, the anniversary of statewide prohibition, among them his enemies from the city's sizable Irish immigrant community, who generally opposed the ban on alcohol. A melee soon broke out and militia were called upon to restore order. When the mob refused to disperse, Dow ordered the militia to fire. One man was killed and seven were wounded. This incident has become known as the Portland Rum Riot. Dow was tried for violation of the prohibition law. The prosecutor was former U.S. Attorney General Nathan Clifford and the defense attorney was a fellow founder of the Maine Temperance Society, William P. Fessenden. Although Dow was acquitted, his image had suffered badly; he lost his subsequent bid to become Maine Governor. In 1856 the Maine Law was repealed.[3]

General Neal S. Dow

Civil War[]

Early role[]

Dow was an ardent abolitionist and his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Part of his support for prohibition was linked to the role of West Indian slavery in the rum trade. When the American Civil War broke out, Dow volunteered for service (at age 57). He was appointed Colonel of the 13th Maine Infantry on November 23, 1861, and his regiment participated in the capture of New Orleans under the command of Union Army Major General Benjamin Butler. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 28, 1862, and was assigned to command two Confederate forts captured south of New Orleans, Jackson and St. Philip, followed by command of the District of Florida.

Port Hudson[]

Dow's Civil War service is best remembered for his role in the Siege of Port Hudson (May 21 – July 9, 1863) in Louisiana. Dow commanded the 1st Brigade in the 2nd Division of the XIX Corps. During the Union assault on May 27 he was wounded in the right arm and left thigh and sent to a nearby plantation to convalesce where he was captured by Confederates in early July. He was imprisoned for eight months in Richmond and Mobile. He was released back to the Union Army in exchange for captive Confederate General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (son of General Robert E. Lee) on February 25, 1864. His health was degraded by his prison experience and he resigned from the Army in November 1864.

After the war[]


Neal S. Dow

Postwar politics[]

Back in Portland, Dow soon became a leader in the temperance movement. He co-founded the National Temperance Society and Publishing House with James Black in 1865. The Society owned a publishing house that promoted teetotalism.

Dow was the Prohibition Party's candidate for President of the United States in the 1880, running on a ticket with prohibitionist Henry Adams Thompson, and the ticket came in fourth place, receiving 10,305 votes. The election was won by James A. Garfield of the Republican Party and Dow was surpassed by two other unsuccessful candidates: Winfield Scott Hancock of the Democratic Party and James Baird Weaver of the Greenback Party. He wrote Reminiscences (Portland, 1898).

Illness and death[]

He was eventually seen as a comical figure on the national political scene. He did, however, leave a lasting impression on Maine politics by helping engineer the Republican party's rise to dominance that lasted for most of a century, from 1855 to 1955.

Dow died in Portland and is buried there in Evergreen Cemetery. Neal Dow Avenue in the Westerleigh section of New York City's borough of Staten Island and Neal Dow Elementary School in Chico, California are named after him.

Neal S. Dow House[]

Dow House on Congress St. in Portland, Maine

Built in 1829, Neal S. Dow House is a historic house in Portland, Maine built for noted politician and prohibitionist Neal S. Dow.

See also[]


  1. Okrent, Daniel. Last Call. 
  2. Dow, Neal. Reminiscences. pp. 159. 
  3. Rolde, Neal (1990). Maine: A Narrative History. Gardiner, ME: Harpswell Press. pp. 175–178. ISBN 0-88448-069-0. 


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

External links[]

Political offices
Preceded by
John B. Calhoun
Mayor of Portland, Maine
Succeeded by
Albion K. Parris
Preceded by
John B. Calhoun
Mayor of Portland, Maine
Succeeded by
J.T. McCobb
Party political offices
Preceded by
Green Clay Smith
Prohibition Party presidential nominee
1880 (lost)
Succeeded by
John St. John

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