What’s In a Picture

The Gospel According to Benjamin Bubar

The Gospel According to Benjamin Bubar

With the passion of an evangelist, Benjamin Calvin Bubar Sr. urged the Maine House of Representatives in 1951 to enact a 1 percent gross income tax instead of a sales tax. “It costs just as much — and it should cost just as much — for the poor man’s child to live as it does the rich man’s child,” he argued. “He should be able to wear as much, he should be able to eat as much. . . . Members, do you want a birth control law here in Maine? I will tell you a good easy way to get it: pass the sales tax.” A Baptist preacher from Aroostook County, Bubar was a crusader on many fronts. He’d studied with fitness zealot Bernarr Macfadden (motto: “weakness is a crime!”), and he’d launched his political career as a Townsendite, advocating for Dr. Francis E. Townsend’s Depression-inspired plan guaranteeing retirement pensions. He is best remembered as a prohibitionist and the author of The Devil Let Loose in Maine, the fictional tale of a liquor salesman who tries to match his daughter with a hard-drinking colleague before finding redemption at a rural revival service. Alas for Bubar, his measure failed. The income tax was rejected and the sales tax enacted. Some of his campaigns would endure, however, thanks to a likeminded son, Benjamin Calvin Bubar Jr., the Prohibition Party’s 1976 presidential nominee and a staunch opponent of several state tax laws.

Photograph courtesy of Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono

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Virginia Wright

Virginia M. Wright is the senior editor at Down East.