SKOWHEGAN — There’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. And Ike. And Nixon.

Thousands of cards, personal notes and letters from the nation’s leaders poured into the mailbox at U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s home in Skowhegan every year beginning in November and stretching through New Year’s Day.

Margaret Chase Smith Undated U.S. Senate Historical Office photo

There were Thanksgiving greetings, Christmas cards and birthday cards – Dec. 14 was her birthday – mailed to the Skowhegan-born senator who was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress and, in 1964, became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties.

Smith died at her home in Skowhegan on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995, at the age of 97.

A collection of seasonal greeting cards sent to Smith has been collected by John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library on Norridgewock Road, and is open for public viewing. The collection also has been uploaded online to Pinterest.

Angela Stockwell, library collection specialist and the one-time personal secretary to Smith, said she remembers Christmas cards and letters pouring in by the dozens. Stockwell said the senator responded to every piece of mail she received, whether it was from Skowhegan locals or the White House.

John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, assembled a collection of holiday greeting cards sent to the senator over the years and showed off notable ones on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“She dictated what she wanted to write to them, then I typed them,” Stockwell said. “Her mail was very important to her. That whole card period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there would be thousands of cards that she would get – 60 or 70 a day. It was absolutely amazing. It was crazy, crazy. It was a busy, busy time.”

Taylor, the library assistant, said he came across a couple of Christmas cards a few years ago from U.S. presidents and heads of state and began checking for more. There were cards from vice presidents and people who ran for president, along with fellow senators, including Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie.

“So we decided to put it up on the Pinterest page, which is what we did,” he said. “The cards that she received from presidents would have been after her career had ended in the Senate or while she was working there from 1940 in Congress. The earliest that we have would be from the Eisenhowers – the first one was 1956.”

There are several cards from President Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the White House from 1953 to 1961. There is a signed portrait from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, from Elizabeth and Bob Dole, from President George H.W. Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, Nelson Rockefeller and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

“This one is from the Johnsons. It goes across party lines,” Taylor said of Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president under President John Kennedy and sworn in as the 36th president following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.

A birthday card, bottom, signed by former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and an invitation to a luncheon for Mrs. Clinton are part of a holiday greeting card collection at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“We have a few from Nixon, Ford, Vice President Agnew. This one’s from Muskie, who of course ran for president as well,” Taylor said, flipping through collection scrapbooks in the library’s research room.

There also is a card from George and Maude Mueller. George Mueller, who sent a photo of the first moon landing in his greeting card, was associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight for NASA in the 1960s.

Conspicuously absent from the collection of greeting cards is anything from Kennedy. Taylor said the Republican Smith often disagreed with Kennedy, a Democrat.

“She sometimes questioned some of his actions and motives,” he said.

Among Smith’s admirers were comedienne Phyllis Diller and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We have lots of cards from Phyllis Diller, actually for different holidays – Valentine’s, Halloween,” Taylor said.

Smith and Diller were affiliated through Northwood University of Michigan, which was responsible for all daily operations and programs at the library until 2012, when the University of Maine assumed those responsibilities.

Diller had been named as a distinguished woman as part of a Northwood program, of which Smith was chairwoman.

There is a birthday card from President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton and a personal letter from Hillary Clinton.

“This would have been personally from the first lady at the time,” Taylor said, referring to the letter from Mrs. Clinton. “It’s dated October 1993 and it’s talking about how Margaret was an inspiration for her and it’s signed on the back. It says she’s grateful still for her leadership today. She passed away in ’95, so Bill would have still been in office at that point.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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