Did You Know Maine Amazingly Used to Be the Toothpick Capital of the World?
You think you know everything about where you live, and then the internet happened.
I have lived in Maine for 38 of my 42 years (not counting five years of college out of state). I assume I have a great grasp on what makes this state what it is. However, sometimes you run into a fact that just absolutely floors you. Well, that happened to me recently.
I was 42 years old when I found out that Maine used to be the the nation's capital of toothpick manufacturing. That's right. Maine was the land of the toothpick. What a fascinating little tidbit.
The area mostly associated with this incredible fact is the town of Strong. This little spot in Franklin County was cranking out toothpicks like it was the townspeople's job...well, because it was.
According to travel website, atlasobscura.com
At one point, 95 percent of all wooden toothpicks manufactured in America were made in Strong and its environs. In the aftermath of WWII— Strong’s golden age—over 75 billion toothpicks were being made there a year. Not bad for a town of little over 1,000 people.
These are numbers that are difficult to fathom. Here was this small Western Maine town that was cranking out enough toothpicks to cover an entire country by the day. Talk about American industrialism at its finest.
Sadly, it was a relatively short run for Maine's toothpick empire. According to atlasobscura.com, many factors played into the industry's demise. Those include cheaper foreign imports, favoring of nylon over wood, and a shift in societal norms. All of these would play a role in the industry completely drying up by 2003.
According to Yahoo! Life, the town of Strong now has absolutely zero toothpicks being manufactured. That is quite a change from the days of more than 20 million being pumped out daily.
This story is just a small blip on the Maine history radar, but it's quite fascinating. So much is discussed about the mill industry in Maine. However, it's typically associated with paper as opposed to toothpicks.
It's difficult to imagine how disgusting our teeth would have been if it wasn't for Strong, Maine. America should be thanking this town for all of eternity.
I highly suggest reading atlasobscura.com's story on the history of the toothpick. It goes well beyond Maine's border, but certainly the impact was felt very strongly. And, don't forget to brush your teeth twice daily.