Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date


Interview Number

MOH 039


Eben Elwell was born on January 20, 1921 in Brooks, Maine. His father was a farmer, and his mother a homemaker. Both parents came from active Democratic families, and participated in Democratic politics. At the age of eight months, Eben contracted Polio in the same epidemic that struck President Roosevelt. He attended Morse High School of Brooks, and enrolled at the University of Maine. World War II interrupted his college career, and he went to Portland, Maine, to build ships. He returned to Brooks in 1946 and became active in town politics. He was on the board of selectmen, serving as the overseer, and also served one year as town manager. He made a living by collecting liens on area properties. He eventually was nominated for the school committee, where he served for six years. He became active on the Maine Democratic Committee, and eventually won a seat in the Maine Legislature. He brought forth education legislation that reimbursed school departments for interest on school building loans. He was also active in roads and agriculture, and served as minority leader. Eben sold insurance for a time, and was appointed State Treasurer. In 1966, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic First District Congressional nomination. At the time of interview, he lived in Augusta.

Scope and Content Note

Interview includes discussions of: meeting Ed Muskie (DSC 1946); clipping bureau debate; 1954 election day; Big Box; dealings with Ed Greeley; debt subsidization on school buildings; debates with Dave Stevens; debates with Emory Dickey; school funding formula problems; sales tax legislation; Republicans for Muskie; gaining Neil Bishop’s support; getting a free hour of television from George Hale; supporters of Muskie; working on the Maine State Housing Authority; Muskie’s relationship to farmers; Burt Cross’ re-election problems; Cross’ unwillingness to debate Ed Muskie; Elwell’s leadership on school funding; school consolidation; influence of a Democratic minority in 1954; a statement about the impact of Elwell’s legislation; bussing students; school reforms; illegitimacy in Maine; Muskie’s main issues; “Tax and Spend” debates in Augusta; and rebutting Republican speeches against Muskie in the Bangor Daily News.

Use Restrictions

Copyright Bates College. This transcript is provided for individual Research Purposes Only; for all other uses, including publication, reproduction and quotation beyond fair use, permission must be obtained in writing from: The Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, 70 Campus Avenue, Lewiston, Maine 04240-6018.