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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).