Temperance activist Neal Dow helped craft the Maine liquor law while he was mayor of Portland, Maine. The law's wording included that the sale of all alcoholic beverages except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes" was prohibited. Word of the law's passage quickly spread elsewhere in the nation, and by 1855 twelve states had joined Maine in total prohibition. Known as "dry" states, these states were the opposite of "wet" states, where no prohibition laws existed.
The act was unpopular with many working-class people and immigrants. Opposition to the law turned violent in Portland on June 2, 1855, during an incident known as the Portland Rum Riot. Opponents of the Maine Law stormed Portland City Hall because they thought Mayor Dow was keeping liquor in the basement. Newspapers reported that Dow ordered rioters to be fired upon, killing one and wounding seven. The riot was a contributing factor to the law being repealed in 1856. However, despite repeal, prohibition was re-enacted in various forms and eventually was written into the state constitution in 1885.
The Maine Law gained recognition internationally and was the inspiration for United Kingdom Alliance in Manchester, England. That organization grew and during the late 19th Century a street in Manchester, England, was renamed "Maine Road" in honour of the law. Originally known as "Dog Kennel Lane", the street was renamed due to the influence of the Temperance Movement.