DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If you get into the game early, you can make your mark on a lot of things. But Vermont boasts a remarkable list of firsts that go far beyond just being the 14th state in the Union (Vermont was the first state to join, on March 4, 1791, after the Constitution was ratified).
Most of us know that Vermont was the first state to outlaw
slavery - the 1777 constitution - and the first to offer gay couples
many (but not all) of the rights of marriage through civil union.
But there are many more Vermont firsts. Here's a short list. Be
proud. Be very, very proud.
The first Revolutionary soldier to shed British blood at
the Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, was Solomon Brown from New
Haven, Vt. - who thus fired the first effective shot in the
In 1783, Lemuel Haynes became the first African-American
pastor of a white congregation in America.
In 1785, the first marble quarry in the U.S. was established in South Dorset. Also that year, the first copper cents minted by a state were authorized by the Vermont General Assembly in 1785 and made by Reuben Harmon, Jr. at Rupert, Vt.
The first U.S. congressman elected who served time in jail
was Matthew Lyon of Vermont (1789). Jailed under the terms of the
Alien and Sedition Acts - later declared unconstitutional - Lyon was
reelected to Congress while still in jail.
The first canal in the United States was built at
Bellows Falls in 1802. Designed to make the Connecticut River
navigable, it took 10 years to build. (Rumor has it that the first
boat to try it was too wide for it.)
In 1823, Alexander Lucius Twilight, born free in Vermont,
became the first African-American to receive a bachelor's degree -
from Middlebury College.
The first globe factory was established in 1813 by James
Wilson of Bradford for the manufacture of geographic globes. Wilson
made the first artificial globe in America in 1799.
The first school for higher education of women was
established by Emma Willard in her home in Middlebury in 1814.
The first private military college was established at
Norwich in 1819 by Capt. Alden Partridge.
The first Normal School exclusively for the preparation of
teachers was established by S. R. Hall in 1823 in Concord. Hall also
wrote the first textbook on teaching and was the first person to use
the blackboard in the classroom.
The first platform scale was built by Thaddeus Fairbanks at
St. Johnsbury in 1830.
Sandpaper was invented by Isaac Fisher at Springfield in 1834.
The first electric railway (1837), printing press, piano,
and motor (1834) were built by Thomas Davenport of Brandon. He was
also the editor of the first electrical journal.
Laughing gas may have been discovered by Gardner Colton of
Georgia, but Horace Wells of White River Junction was the first
person to use it as an anesthetic for pulling teeth in 1844.
The first toy carts, violin cases and guitar cases sold in
America were invented by Joel A. H. Ellis of Springfield in the mid
1800s. Ellis also invented doll carriages and jointed dolls.
The first postage stamp used in America was made in
Brattleboro in 1846.
The first state to offer troops in the Civil War was Vermont.
The first agricultural society for dairymen, the Vermont
Dairy Association, was organized in 1869 in Montpelier.
The first Morgan horse, owned by Justin Morgan, was brought
to Randolph in 1792. The American Morgan Horse register, published in
Middlebury in 1892, established it as the first American breed of
Successful photographs and measurements of snowflakes and
raindrops were made by Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley in 1895.
The first person to cross the entire United States by
automobile was Dr. H. Nelson Jackson, a Burlington physician, who
traveled from San Francisco to New York City in 1903 - to win a bet
The first Boy Scout troop was organized in Barre in 1909 by
William F. Milne, a Scottish immigrant.
The first ski tow in the U.S. was operated in Woodstock on
Clinton Gilbert's farm in 1934. It was powered by a Model T car
A Vermont state symphony orchestra was organized in 1935,
with Alan Carter of Rutland as its conductor. That makes the Vermont
Symphony Orchestra the oldest state-supported orchestra in the
The first beneficiary of monthly Social Security payments
was Ida M. Fuller of Ludlow who received check #000-000-001 for
$22.54 on Jan. 31, 1940. Ida lived to be 100 years old and collected,
in total, $20,000.
The first wind turbine used to generate power for an alternating current power system was operated at Grandpa's Knob in Castleton in 1941.
The first United States Ambassador to the United Nations
was Warren R. Austin of Burlington in 1946. Before that, Austin was a
United States Senator.
The first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing -
actually, she won two - was Andrea Mead-Lawrence of Rutland, in 1952.
The first woman elected lieutenant governor of any state in
the Union was Consuelo N. Bailey, who served from 1955 to 1959.
In 1968, Vermont became the first state in the nation to
have a total ban on billboards - one of only four states today.
In 1968, Sen. Winston Prouty co-sponsored the Handicapped
Children's Early Education Assistance Act, the first bill in history
approved by Congress without being attached to any other legislation.
In 1969, the Winston Prouty Center in Brattleboro (then called "First
Chance"), now celebrating its 40th anniversary, became the first
pre-school of this kind in the country.
Vermont was the first state to limit any proposal or development that might harm the environment - Act 250 - in the Spring of 1970.
The first American medal in an Olympic nordic skiing event
was won by Bill Koch of Guilford in 1976.
The Head Start Program (1965), used to prepare disadvantaged preschool children for elementary school, was started in East Fairfield with 12 children.
And that's just the beginning... .
Sources:The Vermont Secretary of State; Wikipedia;
VirtualVermont.com; and the Vermont Encyclopedia.
Joyce Marcel is a journalist currently writing a book on Vermont.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.