As part of the Camden Public Library’s “Maritime Month,” Lee Webb of Union will speak on “The Collapse of the Maine Coast, 1865-1890” Thursday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. Webb’s talk is an economic history of the Maine coast in the decades after the Civil War, focusing particularly on shipbuilding, fishing and the ocean and coastal shipping trades.

Webb explained, “Shipbuilding collapsed, merchant shipping collapsed, and fishing collapsed over this time period, all due to a complexity of reasons. The population of virtually all coastal towns plummeted. We are still feeling the effects today.”

While some historians have labeled this period a “golden age,” the reality was starkly different. In the decades prior to the Civil War, Maine’s coast had one of the most vibrant economies in the nation. However, as a result of changes in technology and national policy, the Maine coast after the Civil War entered into an economic depression that continued until World War II.

Shipbuilding towns such as Waldoboro, Wiscasset and Bath, fishing towns such as Castine and Machias and ocean-borne shipping towns such as Belfast and Searsport are at the heart of the fascinating story.

Webb is a senior policy fellow at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, where he is working on a doctorate in Maine history. His talk is adapted from part of his thesis, which is tentatively titled “Pine Tree Politics: Maine in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era.”

“Maritime Month” is an annual celebration of Maine’s marine history and heritage, sponsored by the Camden Public Library featuring historians, authors, exhibits, marine architects, movies, and children’s events.

Visit the library Web site at for the complete schedule.