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From Henry Knox to William Cohen, a look back on Cabinet members with Maine connections

Henry Knox was just the first in a long line of leaders with Maine connections to serve in presidential cabinets—and traces of them can be found all over the state

MAINE, USA — February 25 has a special place in presidential history. On this day in 1793, President George Washington held his first Cabinet meeting at his home in Mount Vernon.

Washington’s secretary of war, Henry Knox, got the job by distinguishing himself in battle as a general in the Revolutionary War. After his political career ended, Knox, who was born in Boston, retired to Maine and lived out the rest of his life at Montpelier, his home in Thomaston. The original house came down long ago, but a replica was built in 1929 and remains open to visitors as a museum.

The town of Knox and Fort Knox Historic Site, Maine’s largest historic fort, are both named after the former general.

Knox was just the first in a long line of leaders with Maine connections to serve in presidential cabinets, and traces of them can be found all over the state.

Another prominent Mainer left his name on the present-day home of the governor. James Blaine bought what is now known as The Blaine House in 1862 while serving as Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Following a distinguished career in Congress, he was tapped by James Garfield to be secretary of state, a role he would continue to hold through the administration of Chester Arthur and again under Benjamin Harrison.

The first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet was Frances Perkins, whose family home in Newcastle is now a museum that celebrates her accomplishments.

Perkins ran the labor department under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and played a big role in crafting many of the social safety-net programs that got their start as part of the New Deal and that continue to this day.

One of the architects of America's emergence as a naval power was John Davis Long, who grew up in Buckfield.

As secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, he was a key strategic voice in the Spanish-American War. Long donated the Buckfield building that houses the local library, which is named after his father, Zadoc Long.

During the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, President Jimmy Carter turned to U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie of Rumford to become his new secretary of state.

Before serving as a U.S. senator, Muskie was a member of the Maine House of Representatives and was Maine’s 64th governor from 1955 to 1959.

As secretary of state, Muskie helped resolve the Iran hostage crisis and secure the release of the hostages as Carter's term expired.

William Cohen is the most recent cabinet member from Maine. The former Republican U.S. senator for Maine served the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton as secretary of defense.

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