Historian Hodgkin’s book traces presidential visits to L-A

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AUBURN — How many U.S. presidents and future presidents visited Lewiston and Auburn before the current campaigns?

The answer, shared by local historian Douglas I. Hodgkin in his new book, “When Presidents and Hopefuls Came to Town,” is: 11.

Hodgkin will discuss his new book — which traces the history of visits by incumbent, future and past presidents, and candidates for the office — on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at a meeting of the Androscoggin Historical Society. The talk will be at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the County Courthouse.

Hodgkin writes that the earliest visit by a future president was by James A. Garfield, during 1878 and 1879, while campaigning for local candidates before his own election in 1880 as the 20th president.

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The most recent incumbent to visit was George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, in 1991.

Hodgkin is a retired Bates College professor of political science. His 82-page book describes visits by seven presidents before they won the office (James Garfield, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton); four incumbents (Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Lyndon B. Johnson and George H. W. Bush); and former presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Carter, Bush and Clinton.

The book includes more than 70 visits. The final chapter covers future party nominees and first ladies.

Hodgkin explains how the growth of Lewiston and Auburn, developments in transportation technology, election calendar and changes in campaigning and conceptions of the presidency all combined to bring presidents and aspirants to these relatively small cities.

The book contains several photos, mostly from newspaper accounts at the time. Bibliographic material enables the reader to follow up for more detail.

This is Hodgkin’s eighth book on local history. His topics have included a comprehensive history of Lewiston before the Civil War, the Lewiston Grange, the Lewiston and Auburn Railroad, and Auburn Baptist churches on Court Street. He also compiled a pictorial history of Lewiston and a two-volume transcription of Lewiston’s town records.

Hodgkin, a Lewiston native, graduated from Lewiston High School and has degrees from Yale and Duke universities. He is a member of the Lewiston Historic Preservation Review Board and editor of the Androscoggin Historical Society newsletter.

The new book is available for $10 at Percy’s Burrow in the Auburn Mall, the Bates College bookstore and the Androscoggin Historical Society.

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