AUBURN — When Joe Biden shows up at Auburn Manufacturing on Friday afternoon, he will be just the fifth sitting president to pay a call on the Twin Cities — and the first to set foot in Auburn since 1912.

The last time any president came to Lewiston or Auburn was 32 years ago, when President George H.W. Bush, a former Auburn resident, gave a national speech about education at Lewiston High School.


President Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on June 30, in Washington. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Three presidents showed up before Bush — Lyndon Johnson in 1966, William Howard Taft in 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.

In addition, at least seven other presidents visited Auburn or Lewiston in the years before or after they lived in the White House.

The visits are detailed in a short but thorough 2012 book by Douglas Hodgkin, a professor emeritus of political science at Bates College. It is titled “When Presidents and Hopefuls Came to Town.”

Hodgkin said Wednesday that since presidents “have limited time,” they tend “to go to major centers with population, large airports, media outlets” and the like where “the security routine is well-established.”


“To go to a place like Lewiston and Auburn is not a routine event for the local people, the local police and other officials, and the local media,” he said. “The fact that we have had only four sitting presidents here proves that.”

The White House said Wednesday that when Biden comes to Auburn, he “will discuss how Bidenomics is driving a manufacturing boom and helping workers and innovators invent and make more in America.”

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said Wednesday that Biden coming to town to speak at Auburn Manufacturing “means a lot,” especially to the manufacturing sector that he said works “really hard in the face of stiff competition to be competitive and thrive.”

The front page of the Lewiston Evening Journal on Aug. 26, 1902, welcomes President Theodore Roosevelt to Maine. Sun Journal archives


President Theodore Roosevelt made the first stop by a sitting national leader when his train, consisting of “five elegant parlor cars,” pulled into the Auburn station at 5:47 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 1902.

“President, Welcome to Maine,” said the headline in the Lewiston Evening Journal.


The city had been getting ready for three days beforehand, decorating the route of the presidential party between the rail station and City Park in Lewiston, now known as Kennedy Park, where Roosevelt spoke to 10,000 or more.

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning in Waterville, Maine in 1902. Library of Congress

The mayors of both Auburn and Lewiston, wearing frock coats and silk hats, met Roosevelt at the station and accompanied him in a grand carriage along the route as crowds cheered. Shops displayed bunting, pictures of Roosevelt, the Goddess of Liberty and Columbus as patriotism ran wild, the paper reported.

Along the mile-long journey, the Journal said, there was “never an inch not occupied, never a moment that the one continuous cheer did not lift itself in welcome. It was an unparalleled scene for this city or any other of its size and population.”

By 7:30 p.m., Roosevelt was standing on the rear platform of the train, bowing and waving to the crowd, as the train chugged off toward Brunswick.


In stark contrast, President William Howard Taft’s 1912 visit to Auburn attracted little notice.


Taft had come to the Poland Spring Hotel to play golf that autumn, where he got a round in despite plenty of fog and rain. But it wasn’t exactly golfing weather so the president decided to head to Portland, where he was slated to speak to the Maine Teachers Association.

Instead of driving on iffy roads, a decision was made to have him take a special train from Danville Junction in Auburn back and forth. Almost nobody noticed the president coming and going from Auburn.

Since that Oct. 23 evening when he motored back to Poland Spring, where he sampled the water, no president has come to Auburn.


As part of a five-state tour in 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson flew into the Brunswick Naval Air Station and took a motorcade to Lewiston, famously stopping for ice cream at a Dairy Queen in Topsham.

Johnson spoke to thousands on Aug. 20 about his Great Society program and the need to support the nation’s troops in the increasingly controversial war in Vietnam.



On the first day of school in September 1991, President George H.W. Bush boarded a helicopter at his family compound in Kennebunkport and flew to the athletic field at Lewiston High School.

Then he drove with wife Barbara to Farwell School to visit kindergarten children. The couple read them a story by Don and Audrey Wood titled “The Little Mouse, the Red Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.”

Bush followed up the visit with a nationally broadcast speech at the high school before flying back to Kennebunkport.


Hodgkin said the presidency, no matter who holds the office, “embodies the nation.”


A president, he said, “not only is the head of government like a prime minister or premier, but also the symbol of the nation. We do not have a king or queen. The president wraps the positions together.”

That position naturally attracts plenty of attention.

“The founding fathers pondered the dangers of this and hoped by the check and balances system to contain the dangers of dictatorship,” Hodgkin said.

Even so, “the presidency has become far more powerful than the founders intended,” he said.

“The bully pulpit, advantages of being a singular office in terms of media coverage, having levers including staff to control the bureaucracy have made the president even more of an attraction,” Hodgkin said.

For Levesque, that attention, tied to Biden’s visit, may help promote Auburn.

“I believe that the focus at the national state and local level to support our manufacturers gives them the opportunity to grow and thrive,” Levesque said.

“Bottom up economics work, and it’s evident in Auburn’s overall success,” the mayor said. “I hope this visit will help other municipalities around the country recognize that it’s possible to have vibrant industry.”

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