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About Neal S. Dow
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. He entered his father's tanning business and became a very successful businessman. 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.
Mayor of Portland
The first legislative attempt to impose prohibition 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. A bill was submitted in May. The bill was quickly passed by the legislature, and many legislators expected it to be vetoed. Dow met with the new Governor, John Hubbard, who signed the law on June 2. This propelled Dow to national fame. He was called the "Napoleon of Temperance", and was the featured speaker in August at a National Temperance Convention.
Portland Rum Riot
After losing reelection as Portland's mayor and leading prohibitionist, 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. He then appeared to commit a technical violation of the Maine law, and a judge was compelled to issue a search warrant. A mob scene ensued, and Dow gave the militia the order to fire. One man was killed and seven wounded. This incident has become known as the Portland Rum Riot. Dow was tried for the original charge of illegal liquor sales. 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, his candidate for Maine Governor was defeated, and in 1856 the Maine law was repealed.
After the start of the American Civil War, Dow 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.
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
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 election of 1880 and 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, also known as Gen. Neal Dow House, is an historic house in Portland, Maine, built for Neal S. Dow. The Neal S. Dow House is located at 714 Congress St. in Portland. Built in 1829, the House is now home to the Maine Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.