Margaret Chase Smith, right, with longtime Chief of Staff William C. Lewis and the 1941 Plymouth Super Deluxe Business Coupe. The late U.S. senator’s car will go up for auction, starting at $7,500, on Sunday. Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

A rosary on the dashboard. A stuffed frog in the rear window. A little American flag.

These mementos were in the 1941 Plymouth Super Deluxe Business Coupe when Kaja Veilleux looked inside for the first time. The car – and, presumably, the frog – once belonged to the late U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith. Veilleux is the owner of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, and the car was part of a private collection in a town Veilleux would not disclose. This piece of Maine history will be auctioned Sunday as part of a major summer sale at Thomaston Place with a starting bid of $7,500, but the auction house estimates it will sell for at least twice that amount.

“Any type of historical provenance, whether it’s a car or an antique painting, really builds the mystery and the price,” Veilleux said.

Smith was born in Skowhegan in 1897. She became the first woman to win election to both houses of Congress and the first to be elected to the Senate without having been appointed to fill a vacancy. She also was the first Republican female senator and the first woman from Maine to be elected to Washington, D.C. She gained national prominence in 1950 when she delivered a rare speech that denounced McCarthyism, and in 1964, she was the first woman to be nominated for the presidency by one of the two major parties, although Sen. Barry Goldwater was ultimately the Republican on the general election ballot that year. She served until she lost a reelection campaign in a 1972 upset to Democrat William D. Hathaway.

David Richards, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum at her former home in Skowhegan, said she lived in an “auto world.” She often traveled around the state and to the nation’s capital in a car, not an airplane, as members of Congress often do today.

“In her day, to be a successful politician, it wasn’t about radio and TV ads,” Richards said. “It was about going out and meeting people, and it was one of the parts of her career that she enjoyed the most. Cars were the way she got around to meet the people of Maine.”


The history of this particular vehicle is somewhat vague.

In this 1986 photo, Margaret Chase Smith stands next to her 1941 Plymouth Super Deluxe Business Couple. The car is being auctioned by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Veilleux said the auction house has pictures of Smith with the car that make them believe she purchased it new in the 1940s and owned it for 40-plus years. Then, in her later years or perhaps after her death in 1995, the car was sold to a buyer who owned it for decades. Veilleux said that owner died, and then his spouse contacted the auction house. Two others from the same consigner will be auctioned Sunday as well.

Richards said the photos in the library’s collection make him believe the car was first purchased by William Lewis, who was Smith’s longtime chief of staff. He said Smith inherited it when Lewis died in 1982. From 1984 to 1987, she registered the car with a vanity license plate with his initials “WCL” as a tribute to her close friend.

Despite the uncertainty, one thing about the car was immediately clear to West Castellano, who works as a consignment associate and automotive specialist at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. He could see right away that the Plymouth was in original condition. Smith and its subsequent owner had not changed it significantly and had taken good care of it, he said. He changed the fluids and gave the car a tune-up. It’s slow – cars didn’t have as much horsepower back then – but it drove just fine to the nearest gas station.

Castellano said this car would have been considered “stately” and “well-designed” when it was made.

“It didn’t actually need a lot of work,” he said. “It is pretty rare to see a car like this in its original condition because a lot of pre-World War II cars were turned into hot rods and messed with.”


The odometer has a reading of 24,163.5 miles. Castellano said that number is probably not accurate because the display only allows five digits, so the tally would just start over once it hit 100,000. Based on its age, he said it might have as many as 224,000 miles on it. The previous owner likely drove the Plymouth only as “a summer cruiser,” he said.

The price estimate of $15,000 to $20,000 is on the higher end for this model, but Castellano said the connection to Smith increased its value. He hopes the next owner – perhaps a museum – will continue to treat it with care.

“It is such a significant historical piece, so I hope whoever buys the car keeps it in good condition,” he said.

The auction is timely, as Saturday is Margaret Chase Smith Appreciation Day at her namesake library. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The library has been working to attract visitors who are too young to have known Smith as a household name. One ongoing exhibition, for example, is an interactive experience that is meant to show the similarities between Smith and guests of today. And the library will host an unusual event on Saturday to draw families with kids: a slime workshop.

“It’s to the point now that I get schoolteachers who were born after she died,” Richards said.

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