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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Cozy Facts About Vermont

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Officially recognized as the 14th state in 1791, Vermont (taken from the French word “vert,” or green, and “mont,” for mountain) has long represented bucolic, comfortable living. Whether you’re considering a vacation or relocation, have a look at some of the area’s most intriguing bits of trivia. 

1. It wasn’t always so cozy. The French and Indian War made the territory which would later be known as Vermont a chaotic place of unrest; it wasn't until the arrival of peacetime in 1763 that waves of settlers decided to give it a shot. While they were motivated to populate the area, resources like saw mills were limited; early log houses had bark roofs and flooring. 

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2. They had a beef with New York. The neighboring state had tried to claim the land as its own in the 1770s, even escalating the tension to include a small-scale invasion and threats of seizure by brandishing land titles in 1775. The resulting battle, dubbed the Westminster Massacre, left two dead.  

3. Bitter over New York’s aggression, Vermont opted to call itself a republic in 1777, electing its own president (Thomas Chittenden), making its own money, and writing a constitution that predated the U.S. version by ten years. By 1790, however, it relented and paid New York $30,000 in silver to get off its back.

4. It tried to abolish slavery early. When Vermont drafted its constitution in 1777, it made slave ownership illegal. While it was an important first step, some of the fine print was problematic: It applied only to adults 18 and over, and many of its citizens were allowed to continue the practice into the early 1800s.

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5. It once elected a congressman who was sitting in jail. In 1798, brawling politician Matthew Lyons was cooling off in a cell after declaring that President John Adams was fond of “pomp,” or showboating, which was an infraction of the country’s Sedition Act. The misstep did little to sway voters, who re-elected him to the House of Representatives even as he was behind bars.

6. One of its residents led the way in women’s education. Emma Willard was encouraged by her father to pursue studies that were previously only available to men. Moving from Connecticut to Vermont in 1807, she became principal of a Middlebury women’s academy. Leaving to have children, she continued to study advanced textbooks at home and later opened a girls' school out of the same residence. Willard’s ambitions came at a time women were banned from attending college and discouraged from teaching while married.

7. Cavendish was home to one of the most infamous neurological case studies in history. Phineas Gage was part of a railroad crew in 1848 when a tamping iron propelled by explosive powder shot clear through his brain. Seemingly unharmed, Gage remained conscious, and lived over a decade longer to the age of 36. His personality, however, was dramatically altered: he lost any sense of decorum, swore often, and became a case study in how brain trauma could affect personality. 

8. Vermont really embraced the covered-bridge craze. In the 1800s, several states took to constructing bridges with awnings to shield the wood-built crossings from the elements—and later, to make an artistic statement. Vermont has over 100 of them.

9. It wasn’t too hospitable to John Deere. The famous inventor was born in Vermont in 1804 and spent much of his early life mastering the blacksmith trade. After finding that his services weren’t needed in the area and that creditors were going to make his life miserable, Deere headed for Illinois, where he revised conventional soil plows and later became renowned for his farm equipment business.

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10. Your grocery aisles are stuffed with imitation pancake syrup, but it’s Vermont that has the market cornered on the real thing. The state’s genuine maple syrup production adds up to 1.2 million gallons every year, twice as much as runner-up New York.

11. While skiing is responsible for much of the state's tourism, over 30 percent of visitors come during the summer months to check out the parks and campsites, and to visit area lakes.  

12. Rudyard Kipling had a vision for all that snow beyond skiing: he invented “snow golf.” The author, who moved to Brattleboro with his wife in 1892, was fond of using clubs or tree branches to swat at golf balls he colored red so they’d stick out in the snow; tees were made from small, packed-down mounds of snow. Today, golf purists desperate for action sometimes take up the practice when courses are snowed in.

13. Vermont’s state capital of Montpelier happens to be the smallest in the nation. With just over 8000 residents, it’s dwarfed by Albany’s 98,000.

14. It gave the U.S. its own version of the Loch Ness Monster. “Champ,” an aquatic beast said to live in Lake Champlain, was once pursued by P.T. Barnum and has been seen by hundreds of witnesses as far back as the 1800s. In 1982, Vermont wryly declared the lake a safe haven for the creature. 

15. Its two most famous residents are on a first-name basis with the rest of the country. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened their first ice cream location, Ben and Jerry's, in Burlington in 1978 using $12,000 in seed money. In 1983, they built a 27,102-pound sundae as a promotional stunt. In 1987, the company began giving away all of their delicious waste to Vermont’s hog farmers to feed to their pigs.

16. Before they become synonymous with ice cream, Ben and Jerry also served up soup and crepes—and peddled pottery—in their original location, a converted gas station.

17. Brattleboro had a public nudity problem. In 2006, the town’s more modest thinkers were up in arms when teenagers began to jog and ride bikes while naked. An “emergency” ordinance was passed to ban the practice in 2007. A vote the following month restored the right to bare all. 

18. The von Trapp family depicted in The Sound of Music are proud Vermont residents. Arriving in 1942, the family settled in Stowe and purchased a ski lodge: Johannes von Trapp, the eldest child, still operates the property.

19. Norman Rockwell used it as inspiration. The famed painter moved to Arlington with his family in 1939. It’s said that much of his work in the 1940s reflected the nature of small-town life that surrounded him. He even used residents and landmarks as models.  

20. It was the first state to recognize same-sex civil unions. Amid some heated protesting and debates from all sides, the state legalized what it dubbed “civil unions” in 2000. (The term “marriage” was challenged by lawmakers.) In 2003, it was found that 85 percent of those joined together there had come from out of state.

21. There’s only one area code for the entire state: 802. The number has become a popular designation for tourist gear and residential license plates.

22. They had big problems with margarine. To protect the butter industry at the turn of the century, states like Wisconsin and Vermont insisted that margarine manufacturers dye their white spreads a queasy pink.

23. They’re stuffed to the brim with cute. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company operates out of Shelburne and offers factory tours to over 150,000 people annually.

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24. Billboards are illegal there. In 1968, legislator Ted Riehle proposed a law banning advertising that would distract from the colorful landscapes. Farmers didn’t love it—it cost them money from advertisers—but the ban stuck. (The state sometimes makes an exception for hand-painted murals promoting tourism.)

25. It’s the second-most peaceful state in the nation. 2012 crime rate statistics by the Institute for Economics and Peace indicated that Vermont suffers just one murder per 100,000 residents and 129 incidences of violent crime in the same population. Maine is number one. Then again, they don’t have to fight over ice cream.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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