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Vermont Firsts

Definition: First or one-of-a-kind events or situations having occurred in Vermont; first or one-of-a-kind achievement by or recognition of native Vermonters (wherever they may be) or persons living in Vermont at the time of such achievement or recognition.

This list is by no means all-inclusive. You're more than welcome to contribute or suggest.

1775: Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold capture Fort Ticonderoga in the first colonial victory of the Revolutionary War.

1783: Lemuel Haynes becomes the first African-American Pastor of a white congregation in America.

1785: The first marble quarry in the US is established in South Dorset.

1785: Though not a member of the Union, Vermont is the first state to mint a copper cent. Reuben Harmon, Jr. was required to post a bond of 5,000 to guarantee the honest weight and quality of metal used in the coins he would produce at his mint in Rupert.

1791: Vermont is the first State to join the original thirteen colonies in the new Union. Its Constitution is the first such document to outlaw slavery, the first to prevent a person from being transported out of the state for a crime committed within, and the first to provide for a state university.

1802: The first canal in the United States is built at Bellows Falls. The British company chartered to render the Connecticut River navigable took 10 years to build the dams and 9 locks around the Great Falls, 52 feet high. Rumor has it that the first boat to try to use the thing was too wide for it. After the railroad came in 1849, river traffic declined and the canal was used for water power only.

1823: Alexander Twilight becomes the first African-American to receive a degree from an American College.

1846: The first US Postage stamp is printed in Brattleboro.

1885: Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley is the first person to photograph a snowflake. How's that for a home-grown idea?

1895: The US Postmaster General is informed that author Rudyard Kipling, living in Dummerston, receives more mail than the largest business in nearby Brattleboro, and authorizes a special post office. Waite, Vermont was named for Kipling's neighbor, Anna F. Waite, the Postmistress, in whose home the office existed. The Kiplings left Vermont in 1896, never to return and Waite, Vermont ceased to exist the following year. Today, philatelists prize the Waite postmark, being the only post office ever created for an individual. Kipling wrote The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous while living in Vermont. It is said that Kipling's Naulakha is where skiing was introduced to Vermont, and the site of the state's first tennis court.

Horatio Nelson Jackson in his Winton

Jackson in "The Vermont"

1903: On a $50.00 wager, Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson of Burlington made the first transcontinental crossing by car (San Francisco to New York) in a two-cylinder, open-top Winton. He was accompanied by a mechanic named Crocker and a dog named Bud, which they acquired during the trip. The significance of this feat requires some clarification: at the time, there was not a single mile of paved rural highway in the US. Such roads as existed were unmarked dirt tracks, swamps in wet months and hopelessly rutted in dry. Steep uphill stretches often required being approached in reverse, as the lack of a practical fuel pump permitted the fuel to flow away from the engine rather than to it. The wager was for 90 days, but the trip took only 65 (speaking of which, Horatio never collected the $50, which would equate to almost $1,300 in 2010). The event is documented in Horatio's Drive, another excellent Ken Burns film. Jackson became a successful businessman upon returning to Burlington: bank president, newspaper publisher, and owner of the first radio station in town. Despite his age he joined the army in WWI, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, and was one of the founders of the American Legion. He died at 82.

1920s: The unique singing style of Rudy Vallee makes him the first singer to be called a "crooner."

1924: President Calvin Coolidge makes the first radio address from the White House.

1934: The first ski tow in the US is built in Woodstock.

1938: Vermonter C. Minot Dole creates the National Ski Patrol.

1940: The first Social Security benefits check, in the amount of $22.54, was issued to Ida May Fuller, a Vermont widow. By the time she died in 1975 at the age of 100, Ida had received more than $20,000 in benefits.

1954: Consuelo Northrup Bailey of Fairfield is elected as the first female Lieutenant Governor in US history.

April 26, 2000: Governor Howard Dean signed into law a bill that made Vermont the first state to set up a parallel "domestic partnership" status commonly referred to as "Civil Union"), providing gay and lesbian couples the right to register their relationship and receive the same rights as heterosexual couples. The Vermont supreme court had decided less than five months earlier that existing statutes discriminated against same-sex couples and had ordered the Legislature to correct the problem. In 2009, Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without being forced to do so by a court.

The ventilated fly fishing reel was developed in Vermont by Charles Orvis of Manchester, who devised a method of allowing a fishing line to dry quickly on the reel. His invention was so successful that the company he founded in 1856 (still in Manchester) remains one of the country's best-known suppliers of fishing and sporting goods.

Education: In addition to being the first state to provide for a state university in its constitution, Vermont built the first land grant college under a national plan conceived by Vermont's US Senator Justin Morrill. The first agricultural college in the US (as it is known officially, "The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College"), the first normal school, the first private military academy (Norwich University) and the first school specifically established for the college training of women were also in Vermont.

A known "Last":

Until 1996, Vermont was the only state without a WalMart. There are now five: Bennington (how fitting is that? First town, first WalMart), Rutland, Berlin, Williston, and in 2013, after nearly twenty years of legal wrangling, the largest in the state opened in St. Albans Town. There is rumor of another being planned for the Newport area.

And a "Not likely to change any time soon":

Montpelier remains the only state capital without a McDonald's restaurant, but not for lack of trying: responding to overwhelming opposition on the part of the citizenry, the Planning Commission denied a permit to put the golden arches on an historic building at the corner of Main and State Streets (more here). The closest place to get SuperSized is Berlin (the next town east on Route 302)

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February 24, 2014