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
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Would You Be Able to Pass a World War I Military Literacy Test?
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain

Though reading and writing might not come to mind as the first requirement for trench warfare, during the early 20th century, the U.S. Army became increasingly concerned with whether or not its soldiers were literate. Thousands of World War I soldiers couldn't read printed directions on basic military tasks. The Army didn't implement its first major literacy program until the 1940s, but literacy tests were included in a battery of psychological evaluations World War I recruits went through to determine their mental fitness and intelligence, as the blog Futility Closet recently highlighted.

These unconventional literacy tests largely took the form of a yes or no questions with obvious answers, according to the 1921 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, Psychological Examining in the United States Army. Edited by pioneering intelligence-testing psychologist Robert Yerkes, who developed the military's first psychology exams for new recruits (and was also famous for his support for eugenics), the volume is a lengthy compilation of all of the methods the U.S. Army used to test the intelligence of its future soldiers. Many of these tests are now considered racist and culturally biased—some of the "intelligence" testing questions required recruits to know things like what products Velvet Joe (a figure used in tobacco campaigns) advertised—but some of the literacy questions, in particular, simply come off as weird in the modern era. Some are downright existential, in fact, while others—"Is a guitar a disease?"—come off as almost poetic.

A long questionnaire to test literacy, including questions like 'Is coal white?'
Psychological Examining in the United States Army, Google Books // Public Domain

One test, the Devens Literarcy Test, asked recruits questions like "Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?" and "Does success tend to bring pleasure?" Another section of the test asked "Do boys like to play?" and "Do clerks enjoy a vacation?"

Other questions seem like they're up for debate, like "Are painters ever artless individuals?" and "Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?" Surely the answers to questions like "Should criminals forfeit liberty?" and "Is misuse of money an evil?" depend on the opinions of the reader. The answer to "Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?" might be different depending on how the person feels about their Congressional representative, and could surely be the spark for an hour-long argument at most dinner parties.

Still others are tests of cultural knowledge, not reading skill—a major modern criticism of Yerkes's work. Despite being arguably a pretty literate person, I certainly don't know the answer to the question "Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?" A question like "Are 'diminutive' and 'Lilliputian' nearly identical?" isn't exactly a test of literacy, but a test of whether or not you've read Gulliver's Travels, which doesn't exactly seem like a necessity for military success.

Luckily, some of the questions are pretty obvious, like "Is coal white?" That one I can answer. The full list of questions used in the various versions of the Devens test is below for you to test your own Army-level literacy.

  • Do dogs bark?
  • Is coal white?
  • Can you see?
  • Do men eat stones?
  • Do boys like to play?
  • Can a bed run?
  • Do books have hands?
  • Is ice hot?
  • Do winds blow?
  • Have all girls the same name?
  • Is warm clothing good for winter?
  • Is this page of paper white?
  • Are railroad tickets free?
  • Is every young woman a teacher?
  • Is it always perfect weather?
  • Is the heart within the body?
  • Do clerks enjoy a vacation?
  • Is the President a public official?
  • Would you enjoy losing a fortune?
  • Does an auto sometimes need repair?
  • Is it important to remember commands?
  • Are avenues usually paved with oxygen?
  • Do we desire serious trouble?
  • Is practical judgment valuable?
  • Ought a man's career to be ruined by accidents?
  • Do you cordially recommend forgery?
  • Does an emergency require immediate decision?
  • Should honesty bring misfortune to its possessor?
  • Are gradual improvements worth while?
  • Is a punctual person continually tardy?
  • Are instantaneous effects invariably rapid?
  • Should preliminary disappointment discourage you?
  • Is hearsay testimony trustworthy evidence?
  • Is wisdom characteristic of the best authorities?
  • Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?
  • Is incessant discussion usually boresome?
  • Are algebraic symbols ever found in manuals?
  • Are tentative regulations ever advantageous?
  • Are "diminutive" and "Lilliputian" nearly identical?
  • Is an infinitesimal titanic bulk possible?
  • Do all connubial unions eventuate felicitously?
  • Is a "gelatinous exaltation" ridiculous?
  • Are "sedate" and "hilarious" similar in meaning?
  • Is avarice sometimes exhibited by cameos?
  • Can a dog run?
  • Is water dry?
  • Can you read?
  • Do stones talk?
  • Do books eat?
  • Do cats go to school?
  • Are six more than two?
  • Is John a girl's name?
  • Are there letters in a word?
  • Is your nose on your face?
  • Can you carry water in a sieve?
  • Do soldiers wear uniforms?
  • Does it rain every morning?
  • Are newspapers made of iron?
  • Are "forward" and "backward" directions?
  • Do many people attend motion-picture theatres?
  • Do handkerchiefs frequently injure human beings?
  • Do magazines contain advertisements?
  • Are political questions often the subject of debates?
  • Are empires inclosed in envelopes?
  • Are members of the family usually regarded as guests?
  • Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?
  • Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?
  • May chimneys be snipped off with scissors?
  • Is moderation a desirable virtue?
  • Are apish manners desired by a hostess?
  • Do conscientious brunettes exist?
  • Do serpents make oblong echoes?
  • Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?
  • Is hypocrisy approved by honest men?
  • Is virile behavior effeminate?
  • Do alleged facts often require verification?
  • Do pestilences ordinarily bestow great benefit?
  • Are painters ever artless individuals?
  • Do the defenders of citadels sometimes capitulate?
  • Do physicians ameliorate pathological conditions?
  • Is embezzlement a serious misdemeanor?
  • Do vagrants commonly possess immaculate cravats?
  • Are "loquacious" and "voluble" opposite in meaning?
  • May heresies arise among the laity?
  • Are piscatorial activities necessarily lucrative?
  • Do tendrils terminate in cerebral hemorrhages?
  • Does a baby cry?
  • Can a hat speak?
  • Do hens lay eggs?
  • Is a stone soft?
  • Is one more than seven?
  • Do the land and sea look just alike?
  • Are some books black?
  • Does water run up hill?
  • Are stamps used on letters?
  • Do 100 cents make a dollar?
  • Are we sure what events will happen next year?
  • Do ships sail on railroads?
  • Do stones float in the air?
  • May meat be cut with a knife?
  • Are ledges common in mountain districts?
  • Does success tend to bring pleasure?
  • Are diamonds mined in mid-ocean?
  • Is misuse of money an evil?
  • Should criminals forfeit liberty?
  • Is special information usually a disadvantage?
  • Are attempted suicides always fatal?
  • Are exalted positions held by distinguished men?
  • Does confusion favor the establishment of order?
  • Is a civil answer contrary to law?
  • Is a dilapidated garment nevertheless clothing?
  • Are textile manufacturers valueless?
  • Do thieves commit depredations?
  • Does close inspection handicap accurate report?
  • Do transparent goggles transmit light?
  • Do illiterate men read romances?
  • Is irony connected with blast furnaces?
  • Do avalanches ever descend mountains?
  • Are scythes always swung by swarthy men?
  • Do pirates accumulate booty?
  • Are intervals of repose appreciated?
  • Are intermittent sounds discontinuous?
  • Is an avocational activity ordinarily pleasurable?
  • Are pernicious pedestrians translucent?
  • Are amicable relationships disrupted by increased congeniality?
  • Are many nocturnal raids surreptitiously planned
  • Are milksops likely to perpetrate violent offenses?
  • Are "precipitancy" and "procrastination" synonymous?
  • Is snow cold?
  • Can a dog read?
  • Do houses have doors?
  • Has a horse five legs?
  • Are three more than ten?
  • Do mice love cats?
  • Does a hat belong to you?
  • Do animals have glass eyes?
  • Should fathers provide clothing for children?
  • Is it true that lead is heavy
  • Do poor men have much money?
  • Is summer colder than winter?
  • Can a horse tell time by a watch?
  • Is a city larger than a country town?
  • Does Christmas ever fall on Tuesday?
  • Do Christians often overlook faults?
  • Are difficult problems easily solved?
  • Do convicts sometimes escape from prison?
  • Should the courts secure justice for everybody?
  • Are scoundrels always intoxicated?
  • Is a guitar a kind of disease?
  • Do jugglers furnish entertainment?
  • Should we build on insecure foundations?
  • Do annual conventions take place biweekly?
  • Does persistent effort favor ultimate success?
  • Is a shrewd man necessarily admired?
  • Is manual skill advantageous?
  • Are elaborate bonnets inexpensive?
  • Are petty annoyances irritating?
  • Are false arguments valid?
  • Do you approve of ruthless massacres?
  • Do blemishes occur in complexions?
  • Is air found in a complete vacuum?
  • Do robins migrate periodically?
  • Are weird tales sometimes gruesome?
  • Do felines possess locomotor appendages?
  • Do demented individuals frequently have hallucinations?
  • Are laconic messages sometimes verbose?
  • Are perfunctory endeavors usually efficacious?
  • Would a deluge extinguish a smouldering trellis?
  • Are devastated suburbs exhilarating vistas?
  • Are "contingent" and "independent" alike in meaning?

[h/t Futility Closet]

10 Not-So-Small Facts About the Volkswagen Beetle

While Volkswagen has announced—for a second time—that it's going to cease production on the Beetle, people are still singing the praises of the quirky little car. Here are 10 not-so-small things you need to know about the German car that was once named one of the top four cars of the century.


Adolf Hitler checks out a VW Beetle
Getty Images

It’s long been said that Adolf Hitler was the man behind the Beetle, and that’s sort of true. The dictator wanted German families to be able to afford a car, so he enlisted automaker Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to make “the people’s car.” But the basis for the Beetle had been around since long before Hitler’s demand; the Bug was heavily influenced by Porsche's V series. Rumors that Hitler directly designed the car are probably false; though he was the one who reportedly said that the car should look like a beetle, because “You only have to observe nature to learn how best to achieve streamlining,” it’s likely that he was regurgitating something he had read in an automotive magazine. Still, one thing is for certain: Hitler himself placed the cornerstone for the Porsche factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.


Perhaps still wary of anything imported from Germany, Americans shunned the Beetle when it was introduced in the States in 1949: Only two were sold in the first year. But after that, sales grew quickly. By the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Bugs were sold every year, topping out at 570,000 in 1970.


A pink VW Beetle

We have the public to thank for the car’s distinctive nickname. Originally known as the Volkswagen Type 1, the car’s curves and rounded top led to its later, insect-like moniker. Volkswagen must have realized they had a good thing on their hands, because they started referring to the car as the VW Beetle in the late 1960s.


The UK and the U.S. aren’t the only countries that bestowed a new name on the Volkswagen Type 1. In France, it's called Coccinellewhich means ladybug. It's Maggiolino and Fusca in Italy and Brazil, respectively, both of which mean "beetle." Mexico calls it Vocho; it's Peta (turtle) in Bolivia; and Kodok (frog) in Indonesia. 


In 1999, Advertising Age declared the car's not-so-small ad campaign to be the best campaign of the last 100 years, besting Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Nike, and McDonald’s. The quirky concept and copy—which, according to Advertising Age, “Gave advertising permission to surprise, to defy and to engage the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body”—was a game-changer for the entire industry.

The "Think Small" line and accompanying self-deprecating copy was written by Julian Koenig, who was also responsible for naming Earth Day and coming up with Timex’s “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” tagline. He’s also half-responsible for daughter Sarah Koenig, whom you may know from NPR’s This American Life and Serial.


Herbie the Love Bug

Because of their distinctive aesthetic, VW Bugs have been associated with everything from the Beatles to Transformers. A few highlights:

  • The Beetle with the license plate “LMW 28IF” on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album was sold at an auction for $23,000 in 1986. It is now on display at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
  • The Fremont Troll sculpture in Seattle, a huge statue lurking under the Aurora Bridge, clutches an actual VW Beetle. An in-progress picture shows that the car was once red. It also once contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia, which was stolen.
  • The Herbie the Love Bug series was a big hit for Disney in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the original Herbies sold for $126,500 at an auction in 2015.
  • In the original Transformers cartoon, Bumblebee transformed from a VW Bug. The car was changed to a Camaro for the live-action movies.


The so-called “blumenvasen,” a small vase that could be clipped to the dashboard, speaker grille, or windshield, was porcelain when it was originally offered. The nod to flower power became such a symbol of the car that it was incorporated into the 1998 redesign. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut for the most recent overhaul: The vase was eliminated in 2011 by marketing execs apparently seeking to make the car more male-friendly.


When the millionth VW Beetle rolled off the line in 1955, the company capped the achievement by plating the car in gold and giving it diamante accents. They also created a Bug with a wicker body in collaboration with master basket-maker Thomas Heinrich.


After WWII, the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, was supposed to be handed over to the British. No British car manufacturer wanted to take responsibility for the company, though, saying that "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car," "it is quite unattractive to the average buyer," and that "To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." Whoops.


The last VW Bug
Getty Images

Beetle #21,529,464—the one celebrated by the mariachi band—is now at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum.


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