15 Things You Might Not Know About New Hampshire
1. New Hampshire claims to be the first of the 13 original colonies to declare its independence from Great Britain. The state did so six full months before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
2. As a nod to their revolutionary leadership, New Hampshire’s delegates were given the honor of being the first to vote for the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Twelve years later, New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, thereby securing the two-thirds vote needed to make the document the law of the land.
3. Speaking of constitutions, New Hampshire still uses its original state constitution, ratified in 1784. It’s the second-oldest continuously used constitution in the country. Massachusetts’s state constitution, which holds said honor, is the oldest functioning constitution in continuous effect in the world.
4. The fourteenth President of the United States, Franklin Pierce, was the first and only president to hail from the Granite State. When Pierce was inaugurated in 1853 at the age of 48, he was the youngest man to take the office to date. Since then, he’s been out-youthed by six men: Ulysses S. Grant (46), Grover Cleveland (47), Theodore Roosevelt (42), John F. Kennedy (43), Bill Clinton (46), and Barack Obama (47).
5. New Hampshire’s motto, “Live free or die,” comes from a statement written in 1809 by the Revolutionary War General John Stark, who led the charge at the Battle of Bennington in 1777. It’s often confused with the proclamation, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” The latter was said by Patrick Henry during the Virginia Convention in 1775 as he tried to rally the Virginia militia to the revolutionary cause.
6. The first free (meaning tax-supported) public library in the world is in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The Peterborough Town Library was proposed by Reverend Abiel Abbot, Peterborough’s Unitarian minister and a library entrepreneur of sorts (he also established a juvenile library in his home and organized a dues-paying membership library in Peterborough), in 1833. The library was voted into existence at Town Meeting on April 9, 1833. The library was originally housed in Smith & Thompson’s general store, which also acted as the post office—and the postmaster acted as librarian until 1854.
7. Accomplished poet, novelist, journalist, and editor Sarah Josepha Hale was born in Newport, New Hampshire. While Hale was one of the first American women novelists (her first novel, Northwood: Life North and South, was published in 1827) and served as editor of Ladies’ Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book for over 40 years, her most famous accomplishment is a children’s poem. Hale wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1830.
8. For hundreds of years, the Old Man of the Mountain was New Hampshire’s pride and joy. Since its first recorded mention in 1805, the natural rock formation—five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire, that appear to form a man’s haggard profile—attracted New Hampshirites and tourists alike to the White Mountains. It appears on the state seal, license plates, quarter, and postage stamps. Unfortunately, in 2003, the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed. New Hampshire residents were so heartbroken they left flowers at the mountain’s base in tribute.
9. Cannon Mountain is also home to the first passenger tramway in North America. It was constructed in 1938 and covers 2.1 miles.
10. The second-highest surface wind speed ever observed by man was recorded at the summit of Mount Washington on April 12, 1934. “There was no doubt this morning that a super-hurricane, Mt. Washington style, was in full development,” Mount Washington Observatory staff member Salvatore Pagliuca wrote in his log book that morning. By the end of the day, winds would reach a record 231 miles per hour.
11. New Hampshire’s state fruit is the pumpkin. It was chosen by Wells Memorial Elementary School in Harrisville and adopted by the General Court in 2006.
12. The first American to go to space was Alan Shepard, from East Derry, New Hampshire. He made his journey on May 5, 1961, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 116 miles, and Shepard’s journey lasted a mere 15 minutes. Shepard ventured into space again 10 years later to become the fifth man to set foot on the moon.
13. New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe was supposed to be the first private civilian to travel to space. She was selected from over 11,000 candidates to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project on July 19, 1985. She, along with the rest of the space shuttle’s entire seven-person crew, tragically died when the Orbiter Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its launch on January 28, 1986. The planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire, is named for her.
14. The very first potato planted in America took seed in Derry, known at the time as Nutfield, New Hampshire. The white potato became New Hampshire’s official state vegetable in 2013, thanks to a class of fourth graders from Derry Village Elementary School.
15. Shopping for a big ticket item? Head to New Hampshire: It’s one of five states with no sales tax.