Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.
April 2, 2009

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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 Revolutionary War.
    • 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 horses.
    • 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 of $50.
    • 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 engine.
    • 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 country.
    • 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 joycemarcel@yahoo.com.

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