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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Rock-Solid Facts About New Hampshire

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Home to our country's most badass state motto and some of the worst weather ever recorded, New Hampshire is a lot tougher than most people realize. Here are 25 facts you might not know about the Granite State.

1. In 2008, Funspot in Laconia, New Hampshire, was named the largest arcade in the world by Guinness World Records. It’s home to over 600 games, half of which are classic arcade games.

2. At the Anheuser-Busch factory in Merrimack, New Hampshire, guests can visit the home base of the East Coast hitch of the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales.

mgstanton via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3. The real life inspiration for our national mascot Uncle Sam grew up in Mason, New Hampshire, in the late 18th century. Samuel “Uncle Sam” Wilson later worked for a meat packing company that supplied rations to troops during the War of 1812. When the soldiers who were familiar with Sam saw the letters “U.S.” stamped onto their ration packages, they joked that this stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson, which is how the legend is said to have been born. Today his childhood home is used as a private residence, but patriotic tourists can read his story on the government landmark sign posted outside the building.

4. Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to enter space in 1961. He was born and raised in Derry, New Hampshire.

5. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905 officially ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth, whose negotiations took place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The peace agreement marked the first and only time a foreign war has concluded on U.S. soil.

6. For centuries, the Old Man of the Mountain presided over the White Mountains of New Hampshire as the state’s most recognizable landmark. The distinctive rock formation consisted of five granite cliff ledges jutting out from Cannon Mountain that resembled the striking profile of an old man when viewed from the north. It made appearances on the state’s route signs, license plates, and official quarters, and was even the inspiration for the Nathaniel Hawthorne short story “The Great Stone Face.”

Tragically, the formation collapsed from the face of the mountain on May 3, 2003 after years of thawing and refreezing. Heartbroken New Hampshirites left flowers at the base of the cliff as a tribute; there was even a push to revise the state flag to include the Old Man. Eight years following the collapse, the Profile Plaza opened as a memorial to the landmark, complete with seven “profilers” or steel rods that appear to return the old man to his original spot when viewed from the right angle.

James Walsh via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

7. In 1719, some of the first potatoes grown in America were planted by Scottish-Irish settlers in what is today Derry, New Hampshire. Today, the white potato is recognized as the official state vegetable.

8. Of all the coastal states, New Hampshire has the briefest shoreline, stretching no more than 18 miles.

9. The classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was penned by New Hampshire journalist Sarah Josepha Hale in 1830. Hale was also partly responsible for securing Thanksgiving's status as an national holiday. She petitioned federal and state officials to recognize the holiday for years, and after she sent a letter to Abraham Lincoln, he officially proclaimed national observation of the day a week later.

10. In 1833, the citizens of Peterborough, New Hampshire voted to make theirs the first true free public library in the nation.

11. On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill of Portsmouth were, they claimed, abducted by aliens while driving on Route 3. Though they've both since passed away (Barney in 1969; Betty in 2004), a gas station bathroom in Lincoln, plastered with articles about the couple, now serves as a memorial to them, while the Betty and Barney Hill archive is now a permanent collection at the University of New Hampshire.

12. Concord, New Hampshire clock maker Levi Hutchins invented the first American alarm clock in 1787. He knew he wouldn’t be able to change the time of the alarm after establishing it, so he set it for 4 a.m.—the time he had to get up for work each morning.

13. America’s first documented serial killer, H.H. Holmes, was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, in 1861. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in medicine, and was able to finance his education by stealing corpses and presenting them to insurance companies to substantiate false claims. After moving to Chicago, he transformed an old pharmacy into a "murder castle" that he passed off as a hotel to unsuspecting victims. His body count had reached well into the triple digits by the time he was executed in 1896. Today, visitors to Gilmanton, New Hampshire, can still visit the unassuming house where he was born.

14. A perennial presidential candidate named Vermin Supreme has had his name on the New Hampshire Primary ballot since 2008. His platform centers around something he calls the “pony economy" and prepping for the impending zombie apocalypse; he can be recognized by the giant boot he wears on his head.

Marc Nozell via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

15. Literary heavyweights who have called New Hampshire home include e.e. cummings, Willa Cather, Dan Brown, and Robert Frost.

16. In 1934, gusts reaching 231 miles per hour were recorded atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington (winds in a Category 5 hurricane must measure at least 156 miles per hour). The mountain held the world record for fastest winds ever recorded on earth until 253 mile per hour speeds were measured on Australia’s Barrow Island in the 1990s. Mt. Washington officials still insist the combination of wicked wind, cold, snow, and freezing fog make the spot home to some of the world’s worst weather.

17. A student named Theodor Geisel graduated from New Hampshire’s historic Ivy League university, Dartmouth, in 1925. After he was caught drinking booze on campus, the college banned him from writing for the school’s humor magazine The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. In order to continue writing for them, he adopted the now iconic pen name “Seuss.” He later added the “Dr.” because his father had allegedly always wanted him to become a professor.

18. In 1947, Tupperware's air-tight "tupper seal" was patented by New Hampshire-born Earl Silas Tupper.

19. The state motto, “Live Free or Die,” originated with lifelong New Hampshire resident General John Stark. He was famous for fighting in both the French-Indian War and Revolutionary War, and in 1777, he led his men to victory in the crucial Battle of Bennington as the brigadier general of the New Hampshire militia. He penned a letter to his fellow battle veterans in 1809 that closed with the statement: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” In 1845, New Hampshire adopted the first half of the sentiment as its official state motto. It’s considered one of the most memorable of the 50 states, and can be seen at the top of New Hampshire license plates today.

Stripey the crab via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

20. One of comedian George Carlin’s final wishes was to have his ashes scattered in Spofford Lake, New Hampshire, where he attended summer camp as a child. It was there that he performed some of his earliest comedy bits, which won him the camp’s drama award every year he attended. One year the award was a small necklace bearing the iconic comedy and tragedy masks. Carlin held onto this his whole life and was even found wearing it the day he died.

21. In 1991, the entire town of Hill, New Hampshire, was relocated to accommodate the construction of a dam.

23. A 222.5-pound meatball made by Matthew Mitnitsky of Nonni’s Italian Eatery in Concord holds the record for world’s largest meatball (it beat out Jimmy Kimmel’s previous record-holding behemoth by 23 pounds).

24. The 1995 film Jumanji was filmed on location in Keene, New Hampshire. After filming wrapped, Keene residents repainted the Parrish Shoes sign that appears in the movie; after star Robin Williams's 2014 death, it became a makeshift memorial to the beloved comedian.

25. Mystery Hill, a.k.a. “America’s Stonehenge,” consists of rock walls, peculiar stone arrangements, and underground chambers located in the woods of Salem, New Hampshire. The origins of the site remain an archeological mystery, but there are plenty of theories floating around. Explanations from over the years have included astronomy-savvy ancient Native Americans, a migrant group of Irish monks, or just 18th and 19th century farmers whose work has been misinterpreted (most academic archaeologists side with the latter).

NikiSumblime via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library
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10 Treasures From the New York Academy of Medicine Library
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Tucked away on a side street near Central Park, the New York Academy of Medicine Library is one of the most significant historical medical libraries in the world. Open to the public by appointment since the 19th century, its collection includes 550,000 volumes on subjects ranging from ancient brain surgery to women's medical colleges to George Washington's dentures. A few weeks ago, Mental Floss visited to check out some of their most fascinating items connected to the study of anatomy. Whether it was urine wheels or early anatomy pop-up books, we weren't disappointed.

1. FASCICULUS MEDICINAE (1509)

The Fasciculus Medicinae is a compilation of Greek and Arabic texts first printed in Venice in 1491. While it covers a variety of topics including anatomy and gynecology, the book begins with the discipline considered most important for diagnosing all medical issues at the time: uroscopy (the study of urine). The NYAM Library's curator, Anne Garner, showed us the book's urine wheel, which once had the various flasks of urine colored in to help aid physicians in their diagnosis. Each position of the wheel corresponded to one of the four humors, whether it was phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, or melancholic. The image on the left, Garner explains, "shows the exciting moment where a servant boy brings his flasks to be analyzed by a professor." Other notable images in the book include one historians like to call "Zodiac Man," showing how the parts of the body were governed by the planets, and "Wound Man," who has been struck by every conceivable weapon, and is accompanied by a text showing how to treat each type of injury. Last but not least, the book includes what's believed to be the first printed image of a dissection.

2. ANDREAS VESALIUS, DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA (1543)

Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Frontispiece of Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Andreas Vesalius, born 1514, was one of the most important anatomists who ever lived. Thanks to him, we moved past an understanding of the human body based primarily on the dissection of animals and toward training that involved the direct dissection of human corpses. The Fabrica was written by Vesalius and published when he was a 28-year-old professor at the University of Padua. Its detailed woodcuts, the most accurate anatomical illustrations up to that point, influenced the depiction of anatomy for centuries to come. "After this book, anatomy divided up into pre-Vesalian and post-Vesalian," Garner says. You can see Vesalius himself in the book's frontispiece (he's the one pointing to the corpse and looking at the viewer). "Vesalius is trying to make a point that he himself is doing the dissection, he believes that to understand the body you have to open it up and look at it," Garner explains.

3. THOMAS GEMINUS, COMPENDIOSA (1559)

Flap anatomy from Thomas Geminus's Compendiosa
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

There was no copyright in the 16th century, and Vesalius's works were re-used by a variety of people for centuries. The first was in Flemish printer and engraver Thomas Geminus’s Compendiosa, which borrowed from several of Vesalius's works. The first edition was published in London just two years after the Fabrica. Alongside a beautiful dedication page made for Elizabeth I and inlaid with real gemstones, the book also includes an example of a "flap anatomy" or a fugitive leaf, which was printed separately with parts that could be cut out and attached to show the various layers of the human body, all the way down to the intestines. As usual for the time, the female is depicted as pregnant, and she holds a mirror that says "know thyself" in Latin.

4. WILLIAM COWPER, THE ANATOMY OF HUMANE BODIES (1698)

Illustration from William Cowper's The Anatomy of Humane Bodies
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

After Vesalius, there was little new in anatomy texts until the Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo published his Anatomia humani corporis in 1685. The work was expensive and not much of a financial success, so Bidloo sold excess plates to the English anatomist William Cowper, who published the plates with an English text without crediting Bidloo (a number of angry exchanges between the two men followed). The copperplate engravings were drawn by Gérard de Lairesse, who Garner notes was "incredibly talented." But while the engravings are beautiful, they're not always anatomically correct, perhaps because the relationship between de Lairesse and Bidloo was fraught (Bidloo was generally a bit difficult). The skeleton shown above is depicted holding an hourglass, by then a classic of death iconography.

5. 17TH-CENTURY IVORY MANIKINS

17th Century Ivory Manikin
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

These exquisite figures are a bit of a mystery: It was originally thought that they were used in doctors’ offices to educate pregnant women about what was happening to their bodies, but because of their lack of detail, scholars now think they were more likely expensive collector's items displayed in cabinets of curiosity by wealthy male physicians. The arms of the manikins (the term for anatomical figures like this) lift up, allowing the viewer to take apart their removable hearts, intestines, and stomachs; the female figure also has a little baby inside her uterus. There are only about 100 of these left in the world, mostly made in Germany, and NYAM has seven.

6. BERNHARD SIEGFRIED ALBINUS, TABULAE SCELETI (1747)

Illustration from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus's Tabulae Sceleti
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

One of the best-known anatomists of the 18th century, the Dutch anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus went to medical school at age 12 and had a tenured position at the University of Leiden by the time he was 24. The Tabulae Sceleti was his signature work. The artist who worked on the text, Jan Wandelaar, had studied with Gérard de Lairesse, the artist who worked with Bidloo. Wandelaar and Albinus developed what Garner says was a bizarre method of suspending cadavers from the ceiling in the winter and comparing them to a (very cold and naked) living person lying on the floor in the same pose. Albinus also continued the dreamy, baroque funerary landscape of his predecessors, and his anatomy is "very, very accurate," according to Garner.

The atlas also features an appearance by Clara, a celebrity rhinoceros, who was posed with one of the skeletons. "When Albinus is asked why [he included a rhinoceros], he says, 'Oh, Clara is just another natural wonder of the world, she's this amazing creation,' but really we think Clara is there to sell more atlases because she was so popular," Garner says.

7. FERDINAND HEBRA, ATLAS DER HAUTKRANKHEITEN (1856–1876)

Circus performer Georg Constantin as depicted in Ferdinand Hebra's dermatological atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

By the mid-19th century, dermatology had started to emerge as its own discipline, and the Vienna-based Ferdinand Hebra was a leading light in the field. He began publishing this dermatological atlas in 1856 (it appeared in 10 installments), featuring chromolithographs that showed different stages of skin diseases and other dermatological irregularities.

"While some of the images are very disturbing, they also tend to adhere to Victorian portrait conventions, with very ornate hair, and [subjects] looking off in the distance," Garner says. But one of the most famous images from the book has nothing to do with disease—it's a depiction of Georg Constantin, a well-known Albanian circus performer in his day, who was covered in 388 tattoos of animals, flowers, and other symbols. He travelled throughout Europe and North America, and was known as "Prince Constantine" during a spell with Barnum's Circus. (The image is also available from NYAM as a coloring sheet.)

8. KOICHI SHIBATA, OBSTETRICAL POCKET PHANTOM (1895)

19th century Obstetrical Pocket Phantom
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Obstetrical phantoms, often made of cloth, wood, or leather, were used to teach medical students about childbirth. This "pocket phantom" was originally published in Germany, and Garner explains that because it was made out of paper, it was much cheaper for medical students. The accompanying text, translated in Philadelphia, tells how to arrange the phantom and describes the potential difficulties of various positions.

9. ROBERT L. DICKINSON AND ABRAM BELSKIE, BIRTH ATLAS (1940)

Image from Robert Dickinson's Birth Atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Robert Dickinson was a Brooklyn gynecologist, early birth control advocate, and active member of NYAM. His Birth Atlas is illustrated with incredibly lifelike terracotta models created by New Jersey sculptor Abram Belskie. The models were exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair, where they became incredibly popular, drawing around 700,000 people according to Garner. His depictions "are very beautiful and serene, and a totally different way of showing fetal development than anything that had come before," Garner notes.

10. RALPH H. SEGAL, THE BODYSCOPE (1948)

The Bodyscope
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

This midcentury cardboard anatomy guide contains male and female figures as well as rotating wheels, called volvelles, that can be turned to display details on different parts of the body as well as accompanying explanatory text. The Bodyscope is also decorated with images of notable medical men—and "wise" sayings about God's influence on the body.

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23 Funny Historical Letters to Santa
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At the end of the 19th century, illustrator Thomas Nast popularized our current version of Santa Claus: a fat, jolly man with a white beard and a red suit who lives at the North Pole. Nast’s cartoons in publications like Harper’s Weekly also helped spread the idea of sending St. Nick mail. By the late 1870s, American children had begun mailing their Christmas wish lists to Santa, but the Post Office considered these letters undeliverable. Around this time, newspapers began prompting children to send wish lists to them, which would then be published so that Santa (and parents) could read the letters all in one place. We’ve collected 23 funny historical letters from children to Santa Claus, as printed in newspapers across the U.S.

1. CONRAD FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

Conrad tries to mask his violent tendencies by interspersing the weapons between non-threatening gifts, but he shows his hand with that threat at the end.

2. CLIFFORD FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

Clifford sounds ... intense.

3. MARIE FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

“As I can not have it I will not ask for it" ... but I will mention it, just in case.

4. LYNWOOD FROM VIRGINIA (1903)

“I smashed everything you sent me last year." I won’t tell you what I want this year, but you better not mess up.

5. PAUL FROM VIRGINIA (1903)

This 4-year-old is very concerned about his infant brother’s lack of teeth. Since the local doctor has proved useless to rectify the situation, Paul hopes Santa might be able to lend a hand. He is magical, after all.

6. HARRY FROM MONTANA (1903)

Fergus County Argus, Dec. 16, 1903

Who knew keeping your feet dry was such an important part of staying off the Naughty list?

7. RAYMOND FROM WEST VIRGINIA (1907)

Clarence doesn’t sound very nice.

8. PERCY FROM WEST VIRGINIA (1907)

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Poor Opal and Mildred. They’re just girls. Do girls even have preferences?

9. VIRGINIA FROM MISSOURI (1907)

Virginia understands that sometimes Santa needs to delegate.

10. ROBERT FROM TENNESSEE (1913)

The Commercial, Dec. 19, 1913

Old people get lonely.

11. WILLIE FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Sure, an axe sounds like an age-appropriate gift for a five-year-old.

12. ELEANOR FROM FLORIDA (1915)

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“Bring both if possible.”

13. UNSIGNED LETTER FROM FLORIDA (1913)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.48.04 AM.png

This transplant from Maine would really like a basketball, but he doesn’t quite believe that a Santa Claus can exist in Florida, where there isn’t even any snow.

14. WALTER FROM FLORIDA (1915)

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The Daytona Daily News, Dec. 17, 1915

Good choice not to act a pig, Walter.

15. MERLA FROM FLORIDA (1915)

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The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

Merla will not be ignored!

16. ROY FROM FLORIDA (1915)

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The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

A doll dressed in a cowboy suit could not be called Raymond. A lack of sailor suit is a dealbreaker.

17. MAXWELL FROM FLORIDA

The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

Ways to improve your chances of getting a pony from Santa, according to Maxwell Hudson: 1. Admit right off it’s expensive. 2. Say you will use it to take your sisters to school. 3. Promise to be grateful for anything Santa brings, so as not to seem greedy. 4. Make yourself seem extra kindhearted (and thus deserving of a pony) by showing concern for your fatherless neighbors. Did it work? We will never know.

18. MOXIE FROM TENNESSEE (1916)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 12.47.23 PM.png

Perhaps a kid known for being mean shouldn’t be given a firearm.

19. DICK FROM SOUTH CAROLINA (1916)

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The County Record, Dec. 21, 1916

No, Santa certainly wouldn’t want to get “fastened in” the chimney.

20. JOHN FROM NEW MEXICO (1918)

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World War I devastated Western Europe, decimating a generation of young men—and apparently killing the French Santa Claus.

21. MARY FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.13.18 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

Come on, Mary, Santa’s not a mind reader.

22. JEWEL FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.14.37 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

No apology for the door-slamming incident. That might have helped your cause, Jewel.

23. R.B. FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.15.15 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

R.B. is very thoughtful to provide such specific instructions; otherwise, Santa might get confused.

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