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Chloe Effron

25 Cozy Facts About Vermont

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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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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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