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Traveling The World in Maine Through World Traveler Signposts

 


In a world where every road tells a story, there are plenty of signs that can talk about interesting stories as well. During one's travels through the State of Maine, one may have come across a group of iconic signs showing distances to different countries or cities throughout the world. Or they may have come across pictures of a sign in Maine showing directions to places such as Norway, Paris, or China. However, the places listed are all towns that are located in Maine and not on another continent. I can assure you that there are a few of these world traveler signposts that can be found scattered around Maine and they are yours to discover as you travel around the world without ever leaving the Pine Tree State.


Possibly the most famous of the World Traveler Signposts is found at the corner of ME Routes 5 and 35 in Lynchville, south of Bethel on ME 5. The signpost was originally installed during the 1930s as a way to promote Maine tourism in a fun, quirky way. The sign features prominently in many vintage postcards from the 1940s and 1950s, where it is depicted as a painted white wooden sign. Today, the sign is metal and landscaped with flowers as arranged by the owners of the property the sign sits on. The World Traveler Signpost notes the distance from Lynchville to such places as Norway, Poland, Peru, and China, with Norway being just 14 miles to the east along ME 35 and ME 118. There is a small guestbook that you can sign at the World Traveler signpost in Lynchville that has entries from all over the world.


There are other world traveler signposts that you can visit, including one that is located a block away from ME 3 in South China, Maine, not far to the northeast of the state capital in Augusta. At the Maine Welcome Center on I-95 in Kittery, there is a replica world traveler signpost, along with some other photo-worthy things to take pictures of while seeking out information about all kinds of places throughout Maine. There is reportedly a world traveler signpost in Norway, Maine as well. For those who are seeking something different than towns named after countries, there is a signpost that offers inspiration in the form of distances to the towns of Hope, Friendship, Freedom, Liberty, Union, and Jefferson along ME 220 in Montville, Maine. But the towns that are listed on these various signposts have their own unique origin stories to tell.


Of the 491 cities, towns, and plantations that make up Maine, there are plenty of towns in the state that take their names from other places in the world that do not find their way onto the world traveler signposts, such as Lisbon, Belfast, Detroit, and Calais. However, the various places in Maine that take their name from other cities or countries are a reflection of the time that they were settled. Maine was developed and settled at a slower rate than many other states along the East Coast and didn't become a state until 1820 when it was separated from Massachusetts. This played a role in the naming of different settlements throughout Maine.


While you have some town names like Bath, Camden, Gorham, and Yarmouth that pay homage to the early settlement by the English in New England, you also find a lot of town names that pay tribute to the Greek and Roman classics, such as Carthage or Corinth, as it was a popular category of which to draw town names from during the early 19th Century. The towns of the Military Tract of Central New York is another example of this. You also have towns that were named due to world events that were happening during the early 19th Century as well. The towns of Peru and Mexico were named in honor of the independence movements that took place in 1821, at a time when several Latin American countries were winning independence from Spain.


Some of the town names listed on the world traveler signposts were not named specifically to honor other countries or cities but rather came into being in other ways. Both Poland and China in Maine were not named after countries, but rather named for hymns authored by an early American composer and hatmaker by the name of Timothy Swan. Norway, Maine reportedly received its name by way of a clerical error, although the true story seems to have been lost in time after a fire at the town clerk's office in the 1840s destroyed the records. The town had been registered as either Norwich or Norage but was mistakenly recorded by the government of Massachusetts as Norway in 1797. Legend has it that the residents wanted to name the town Norage, which was a word that meant a steep waterfall in a local Native American language, in fact, there is a waterfall called Steep Falls located in the town. But the town name was registered as Norway instead, and as they say, the rest is history.


World Traveler Signpost at the corner of ME 5 and ME 35 in Lynchville, Maine.

World Traveler Signpost found at the Maine Welcome Center on I-95 in Kittery, Maine.

World Traveler Signpost found in South China, Maine.

"Signpost of Inspiration", which doesn't have a name that it goes by that I am aware of, found along ME 220 in Montville, Maine.


How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Big Think - Travel the world without ever leaving Maine
Boston.com - The stories behind this iconic Maine road sign
NewEngland.com - Maine’s World Traveler Signpost
Maine Tourism Association - Maine State Visitor Information Center - Kittery
Maine: An Encyclopedia - Signs of Maine
Atlas Obscura - World Traveler Signpost

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