In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Biddeford History & Heritage Project

Sharing the history of a proud city rising where the water falls

Shipbuilding in Biddeford: Lore, Leaders, and Legacy

3-masted schooner towed by tug boat in Saco River, ca. 1910
3-masted schooner towed by tug boat in Saco River, ca. 1910

Item Contributed by
McArthur Public Library
Shipyard stamp, Co. Biddeford, ca. 1917
Shipyard stamp, Co. Biddeford, ca. 1917

Item Contributed by
Biddeford Historical Society

Maine has a long distinguished history of shipbuilding; however, few know that Biddeford shared prominently in that history for many years. The fine bay and the wide, navigable river were all that was needed to encourage this development. During the first Congress in 1789 “An Act to regulate the Collection of Duties Imposed by law on the tonnage of Ships or vessels, and on goods, wares and merchandises imported into the United States” led to the creation of the “District of Biddeford and Pepperelborough, as one port” of entry. This also determined “To the district of Biddeford and Pepperelborough shall be annexed Scarborough, Wells, Kennebunk, and Cape Porpoise, as ports of delivery only; and a collector for the district shall be appointed, to reside at Biddeford.”

In 1807 the district was changed to the much simpler District of Saco, and the collector was now allowed to live either in Biddeford or Saco. Little documentary evidence remains of this thriving industry. Most of the surviving information comes from the District of Saco custom house.