You’re Welcome: 48 reasons for the world to be grateful to NH
What do all of those things have in common? Simple. They exist because of New Hampshire.
Libraries. Thanksgiving. Mega Millions. Fast Food. Summer vacation. “Let it Go.” American Rock ‘n’ Roll. America. What do all of those things have in common? Simple. They exist because of New Hampshire. Read on to find out why the country owes the Granite State a big thank-you for these items and 41 more (did we mention Donald Trump?).
No. 1 The Vacation Destination
When the US economy first matured and started producing a middle class, it was centered in dirty, crowded cities. Citizens with expendable income soon took advantage of the new age of rapid transport (such as the Concord Coach, made right here) and discovered the simple joys of time spent at a grand hotel in the wilderness. The Granite State had lots of wilderness and plenty of entrepreneurs eager to entertain the rich city folks. Artists captured our White Mountains, making them so famous that American tourism — as we know it today — took root right here.
No. 2 Devil Horns
The music is numbingly loud, heads are banging, the guitarist just finished a face-melting solo, and you’re in the midst of the furious storm wondering, “What should I do with my hands?” Thanks to Ronnie James Dio, born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, you’ve got options. You do what any self-respecting metalhead would do: You throw the devil horns.
The devil horns — an instruction manual: For best results, queue up “The Mob Rules.” Now, hold your pointer finger and pinky out, fold your middle and ring fingers over and put your thumb over them. Hold it high and shout something like, “Woo.” Then thank Ronnie James Dio for popularizing this now-ubiquitous salute.
As metal lore goes, Dio popularized the gesture when he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. Wanting to connect with the audience, he came up with something taught to him by his Italian grandmother, a superstitious move called the “Malocchio.” Dio explained over the years that the sign is made to ward off the “evil eye” rather than as a salute to Beelzebub.
Dio first came into heavy metal prominence with Sabbath, and over the years spent time fronting bands like Elf, Rainbow, Heaven & Hell and his many solo efforts. Through it all fans could expect a throaty, “Look out!” from the New Hampshire-born singer and plenty of opportunity to throw the devil horns.
No. 3 Getting in Trouble for Being Late To Work
Without the American* alarm clock, invented by Concord’s Levi Hutchins in 1787, you wouldn’t be late to work, because the concept wouldn’t exist. Think about it. Your boss can’t get mad at you for not showing up at 9 a.m. on the dot if you have no way of waking up precisely when you need to. That’s just science. Thanks, Levi.
*Really, we should redirect our ire to one Leonardo Da Vinci (and also some 15th-century Germans) for first creating the idea at all.
No. 4 Liberty’s Catchphrase
“Yeah, yeah. Live Free or Die yada yada.” That’s what Gen. John Stark would most likely say about how his famous reunion toast has become the catchphrase for anyone wanting to do dumb stuff. What happened to good old “Hold my beer”? Anyway, it was great deeds, not grand words that Stark respected, and few have had more deeds to discuss — they could fill a book (find one here: allthingsliberty.com). But liberty, not as a misty ideal but as a birthright to be claimed, demands action. Maybe even rebellion and revolt. Or at least we hold the line on seatbelt and helmet laws. And thanks, Free State Project, for moving in to let us know that, as far as liberty lovers go, New Hampshire is still a hot ticket. Now, where’s the legal weed?
No. 5 Leftovers
Be grateful for Tupperware, because without the hearty “burp” of those plastic lids, our meal remnants would still be drying out in the icebox. Even if Tupperware itself wasn’t invented in New Hampshire, Earl Tupper was, so you’re welcome for that infamous drawer in your kitchen where mismatched lids and containers go to die.
No. 6 lowercase everything
Poet E.E. Cummings, who summered every year on his beloved family farm in Madison and ultimately died here in 1962, popularized idiosyncratic free-verse poetry with a casual-at-best attitude toward punctuation, launching a million sophomore explorations into the joys of liberation from the strictures of the “Harbrace College Handbook.” “No one else has ever made avant-garde, experimental poems so attractive to the general reader,” wrote critic and fellow poet Randall Jarrell. Cummings’ own name was eventually given the “lc” treatment on book covers and in press stories as a kind of trademark, though every indication is that this was a publicity ploy of his publishers, not a personal election to decap himself. Cummings once wrote to his mother, “I wouldn’t give an inch of New Hampshire for all the rest of New England.”
No. 7 That Song You Can’t Get Out of Your Head
You know the song a certain Disney princess sang on a tundra that’s been stuck in your head for the last seven years? You can thank University of New Hampshire graduate Jennifer Lee, who wrote and directed Disney’s Oscar-winner “Frozen” in 2013 (plus the more recent “Frozen II”). Though she didn’t actually write the song itself, it’s because of her filmmaking that we just can’t “Let it Go.”
No. 8 Thanksgiving, White Weddings and Mary’s Little Lamb
Newport is the home of a 19th-century cross between Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. Sarah Josepha Hale changed the country’s culture with her powerful influence on domestic fashion and taste. She was the first female magazine editor, heading the pre-Civil War era’s most successful women’s publication Godey’s Lady’s Book, where she wrote about women’s fashion (her coverage of Queen Victoria’s white wedding gown helped set white dresses as the norm), women’s duties and the importance of women’s education. She also wrote editorials promoting the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday, which ultimately inspired President Abraham Lincoln to formally establish Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Our “Mother of Thanksgiving” also provided instructions for celebrating the new holiday, including a description of a New England Thanksgiving dinner, the blueprint we still use today. We could go on and on (or just endlessly recite “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which she wrote).
No. 9 Elite Conspiracy Theories
Dan Brown created Tom Hanks’ career. Just kidding, but the insane popularity of his books did launch the appeal of dark conspiracies out of the tin-hat basement-dweller range to serious intellectual circles. The No. 1 bestselling author has written numerous books about early Christian history, secret societies, the ire of Cardinals in Rome, cryptography and the weird stuff on our dollar bills. You can also credit Brown for prompting modern, secular America to look deeper into the fraught relationship between science and religion.
No. 10 French Fries
The first potato in North America was planted in the common field of Derry (then Nutfield) in 1719, starting the lowly tuber on its path to becoming America’s favorite “vegetable” in all its many delicious, fat-saturated variants.
No. 11 Winter Fun
With New Hampshire residing in the New World, we won’t pretend we’re the birthplace of winter recreation. We’ll happily confer that title to Scandinavia. But when it comes to North America, the Granite State lays claim to an impressive list of “firsts” that redefined how we embrace the “cruel season.”
Let’s start with ice. No, not cars pinballing along frozen backroads. The remarkably smooth black ice of the ponds alongside St. Paul’s School in Concord gave rise to our first American hockey superstar, Hobey Baker, shortly after the turn of the 20th century. A Pennsylvania native, Baker blossomed at St. Paul’s. Following a sensational career at Princeton, Baker was a marquee amateur star playing in New York City. His legend garnered him a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inaugural 1945 class (and the only American), despite dying at 26 in an airplane crash at the close of World War I. (See our hockey story.)
On the slopes, Berlin was home to the nation’s first ski club. The Nansen Ski Club, established by Norwegian immigrants in 1882, was named after Norway’s legendary Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen. The refurbished Nansen Ski Jump, first built in 1936, still stands in nearby Milan.
At the crossroads of Route 117 and Lovers Lane Road in Sugar Hill, a historical marker denotes the location of the country’s first ski school. “In 1929, on the slopes of the hill to the east, Austrian-born Sig Buchmayr established the first organized ski school in the United States. Sponsored by Peckett’s on Sugar Hill, one of the earliest resorts to promote the joys of winter vacationing in the snow, the school provided an initial impetus to the ski sport America knows today.” The nation followed suit.
Austrian Hannes Schneider brought his renowned Arlberg technique to northern New Hampshire. Along with disciples like Benno Rybizka, he taught at Black Mountain in Jackson on trails cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Nearby North Conway, home to Mount Cranmore, became a mecca for ski instruction.
On January 11, 1931, the first Boston & Maine snow train pulled out of the Commonwealth’s capital en route to Warner, carrying 197 members of the AMC, Dartmouth Outing Club and Harvard Mountaineering Club. That winter, the railroad ran a dozen trains northward, introducing thousands to skiing (and après-ski hijinks).
Since getting skiers up the hill is as important as getting them to the hill, we must point out that New Hampshire introduced New England’s first chairlift in 1937 on Rowe Mountain in Gilford, just a year after chairlifts were invented in Idaho. The next year, 1938, two new intriguing ski lifts came to Cannon Mountain in Franconia and Mount Cranmore in North Conway. Though not the nation’s original tram, the Cannon Tramway was the first built to carry skiers to trails (the same year, Cannon hired the nation’s first professional ski patrollers).
Cranmore, in addition to giving the world the wacky Skimobile lift in 1938, also introduced ski grooming equipment in 1940.
New Hampshire is also the birthplace of “extreme” skiing. It’s not debatable. The title was secured on April 16, 1939, when Austrian Anton “Toni” Matt went sailing over the headwall of Mount Washington’s monstrous Tuckerman Ravine during the famed American Inferno ski race.
“Going over the lip is a terrifying experience,” Matt told Skiing magazine in 1964. “I was coming into the sudden dropoff at 40, 45 miles an hour. That’s not at all like coming in from a dead standstill. It’s more like jumping into a 600-foot-deep hole from a speeding car.”
Matt hit speeds estimated at 80 miles an hour, finishing a full minute faster than the second-place finisher, Olympian Dick Durrance. Speaking of races, the first modern downhill race in the United States was believed to have taken place on a Mount Moosilaukee carriage road in the mid-1920s, won by Charlie Proctor (a member of the 1928 Olympic team).
Finally, the internal-combustion crowd can also celebrate New Hampshire’s contribution to cold-weather fun. In 1917, Ossipee’s Virgil D. White received a patent for an attachment converting a Model T into a “Snowmobile” (White copyrighted the name). And on December 4, 1959, Canadian inventor Joseph Armand Bombardier delivered a Ski-Doo snow machine (known as the Ski-Dog) — the first in the United States — to Timberland Machines in Lancaster. The bright yellow Ski-Dog is still on display at the New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum in Allenstown.
— by Brion O’Connor
No. 12 Classic Sculpture with a Message
Augustus Saint-Gaudens moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1885 and brought his artistic inspiration and sculptural skills along with him. He gave a lively, naturalistic style to his public art, and is considered one of America’s most accomplished sculptors of the 19th century. Over 100 of his works are exhibited in the galleries and on the grounds at Saint-Gaudens National Park, including a reproduction of his sculpture titled “Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial.” This was the first civic monument to pay homage to the heroism of African American soldiers. Saint-Gaudens carefully created the facial features of each soldier to clearly distinguish them as individuals.
No. 13 Cyberspace
The term “cyberspace” was first coined by a Danish arts group to describe the operating theatre of the mind in its creative mode, but it was adopted and popularized by science fiction writers like William Gibson, who is credited with applying it to his visions of an information ecosystem that could be navigated and harvested by hackers. Great idea for fiction, but it was computer games that actually made the electronic environment into a playground for the mind. Computer games were invented right here by engineer Ralph Baer who, while working for Sanders Associates Inc. in Nashua, created the first video game test units in 1967. He went on to create the basic digital moves and challenges that evolved into “Pac Man” and eventually into the massive multiplayer online games that many now choose to occupy the majority of their free time.
No. 14 Fast Food as We Know It
It doesn’t take much imagination to call the Golden Arches one of the most familiar symbols on the planet. You’d be hard-pressed to leave the US and not stumble across at least one McDonald’s. Who can definitively say whether or not their place of birth —Manchester, New Hampshire — contributed to their success, but perhaps some good old-fashioned New England pragmatism helped Richard and Maurice McDonald create a business that has served billions (billions, with a “b”) of burgers worldwide.
The brothers were responsible for more than a megasuccessful restaurant — for better or worse, they helped bring about what we now call “fast food,” thanks to their invention of the “Speedee Service System.” With a reduced staff, paper wrappers swapped for plates, no silverware, fewer menu choices and a kitchen-turned-assembly line, the brothers created an entirely new way of selling food. Should you want to thank them in person (or at least one of them), Richard is interred in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Manchester, where his niche is marked with — what else? — the Golden Arches.
No. 15 Books for the People
More than three centuries ago, New Hampshire set the national library trend. Established in January 1717, our State Library is the first state library in the country. Literary enthusiasts rested for a while (about 100 years or so), but then two things happened in relatively quick succession — first, the town of Dublin created the original free library. The Dublin Juvenile Library was supported by voluntary contributions, not membership fees. A decade later, in 1833, the Peterborough Town Library was founded, becoming the first library in the US funded by public taxes.
No. 16 The GOP
There is some dispute about the birthplace of the Republican Party, but there are a few facts everyone agrees on. Fact number 1: The political meeting where the name “Republican” was adopted was in Exeter some 159 days before any other potential claimant to any other birthplace location. Fact number 2: New Hampshire’s story involves not just moral outrage on the slavery question, but also deep personal animus involving two towering figures of New Hampshire politics. In other words, there was great incentive to create something new, and quickly.
After New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, entered the White House in 1853, one of the first orders of business was kicking three-term former congressman (and fellow Granite Stater) Amos Tuck out of the Democratic Party. Pierce backed pro-slavery moves like the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Tuck was an abolitionist.
Tuck began talking to prominent politicians in and around Exeter about founding a new party and, as the story goes, held a meeting in town with a dozen others at the Squamscott Hotel on October 12, 1853. Soon, Republican Party meetings were popping up all over the country and, in seven short years, the first Republican president, Abe Lincoln, was elected. He was the first of 19 Republican presidents extending to Donald Trump, which is more than any other party in the nation’s history.
— by James Pindell
No. 17 Citizen Spaceflight
Alan Shepard may have had the Right Stuff, but to Granite Staters, he was just one of us — an everyman in space. This reputation was burnished in 1971 when he smuggled a golf club and ball along for his moon landing, and became the first (and only, so far as we know) person to drive a golf ball in what could be described as the largest sand trap ever played.
Our status as the home of citizen space explorers peaked with the selection of Christa McAuliffe, the tragic but still inspiring figure chosen to be our first “teacher in space,” until her claim to immortality was altered in the explosion that killed her and her crewmates, 73 seconds after liftoff. Blue Origin’s “New Shepard” suborbital commercial vehicle, named for Alan Shepard, is the latest evidence that the Granite State helped open the skies to regular folks. And today, anyone who wants to take a vicarious trip to outer space can visit the space museum of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord or visit our Statehouse, where, along with bloody Civil War battle flags and portraits of our governors from centuries past, are some fragments of moon rock brought back by Shepard.
So how far did Alan Shepard’s lunar tee-shot travel? Theoretical astrophysicist and writer Ethan Siegel calculated that a good drive could send a golf ball flying in the airless, reduced-gravity environment of the moon for 2.5 miles and stay in the air for 70 seconds. Shepard’s shot wasn’t perfect, but he was probably correct in his claim the ball traveled more than a mile, demolishing the 515-yard drive record held by Mike Austin, and granting Shepard the unofficial record for making the longest golf drive in human history.
No. 18 Instant Millionaires
Back in the ’60s, New Hampshire annoyed the federal government, sparked a national moral scandal (or sensation, depending on the point of view) and caught the attention of the Mob — all because of a horse race.
Or, more specifically, because of betting on a horse race. On September 14, 1964, the Live Free or Die state hosted the first legal modern lottery, the New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park racetrack in Salem.
Today, with scratch tickets available at every convenience store and household names like Powerball and Mega Millions, it’s hard to imagine that such games of chance were once illegal. Without New Hampshire taking the first step (and all the heat, legal and otherwise), it’s possible no other state would have taken the same risk.
And it was a risk. The national media criticism was relentless, and New Hampshire governor John King was inundated with letters decrying the decay of the state’s very character. The FBI, IRS, FCC and even the US Post Office were against it. The Justice Department told the public they feared racketeers (the Mob) would infiltrate the operation, a not-so-unreasonable stance given the Mob’s penchant for running their own numbers games.
Unlike the racetrack betting of today, the sweepstakes was a fairly simple two-step process: Selected ticketholders were matched with a horse and, if that horse won, they won. Not so simple were the federal government’s numerous restrictions and obstacles, such as the prohibition of advertising, promoting or selling tickets outside of New Hampshire. Clever (or dubious, again depending on what side you were on — federal government or sweepstakes enthusiast) loopholes were exploited, and plenty of tickets were sold to both Granite Staters and people from away, despite a few arrests by the FBI.
In the end, at $3 a ticket, New Hampshire made a total of $5.7 million, more than enough money to begin smoothing over moral objections and legal obstacles, clearing the way to the lottery as we know it today. Check out this past feature for more of the story.
No. 19 You’re Welcome for our Alien Overlords
Washington state can take credit for inspiring the term “flying saucer” after a strange incident in its skies, and New Mexico gets a lot of press for being a dangerous place for UFOs to tour — at least in 1947 — but extraterrestrials didn’t start taking an interest in human beings personally until they found New Hampshire.
Apparently, the early 1960s was a time for earthlings to understand our place in the universe, and our off-planet instructors chose Lincoln and Exeter for their first two lessons.
The rest of the country was mere fly-over territory for extraterrestrials until 1961. Over the midnight of September 10 and 11 of that year, somewhere around Lincoln, a UFO touched down on New Hampshire soil. The inhabitants whisked Betty and Barney Hill aboard their spaceship to experiment on them, making the two locals the first alien abductees of modern times. Their story set all the tropes for alien abductions going forward, in fiction and real life. You can draw a direct line from the Hills to Randy Quaid in “Independence Day.”
And those beings from another world liked what they found in the Granite State so much that they returned on another September night four years later (and only 13 miles from where the Hills lived in Portsmouth) for an incident at Exeter that came to be known as, well, the Incident at Exeter, when a cluster of red lights and a massive flying object scared teenagers and law enforcement alike before inspiring the annual Exeter UFO Festival.
After those two incidents in the 1960s, UFO accounts and visitation claims increased as aliens buzzed about the country to see if it had more of what New Hampshire had to offer. There wouldn’t be another increase in sightings until the 1990s when the number skyrocketed into the exosphere in parallel with the advent of a show called “The X-Files.”
These days, we have more UFO hotspots than WiFi hotspots in the country, and even the Department of Defense has come clean about the existence of UFOs, declassifying three Navy videos in 2020 that prove the skies are full of weird. But the extraterrestrials didn’t forget us in the Granite State after they went national. According to the National UFO Reporting Center, some 150 UFOs were reported in the past two years above the Live Free or Die state.
Basically, we look to the skies a lot more, thanks to New Hampshire, which may be a good thing if we’re being prepped for the big intergalactic reveal in 2021. We’ll be as ready as you can be.
— by J.W. Ocker
No. 20 New Hampshire’s Comedy Triumvirate
Adam Sandler, who grew up in Manchester and graduated from Manchester Central, has become a huge star over the years, thanks to a string of comedies from “Happy Gilmore” to the recent “Hubie Halloween.” He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his films have grossed billions worldwide, he’s been to Cannes, and he even drew Oscar buzz in 2019 for his jaw-droppingly impressive — if not funny at all — turn in “Uncut Gems.” Without Stan and Judy’s kid, we wouldn’t have Opera Man, the “Water Boy” or “The Hanukkah Song.” Or an excuse to keep wearing cargo shorts and hoodies year-round well into our 50s.
Dan Aykroyd on Adam Sandler:“He gave young men a confidence to be funny and to be bold and to go out there in the world and make a mark with compassion and with heart. If you look at his movies, they’re full of heart and compassion and very, very funny. He keeps his friends working and everyone who works with him loves the experience. He’s truly one of the world’s comic giants.”
One-time Bedford resident and Manchester West grad Meyers, host of “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” spent years writing for “Saturday Night Live” and gifted the world with dozens of memorable sketches, characters and lines (“I can see Russia from my house”) before taking the helm of the late-night juggernaut.
Sarah Silverman, also from Bedford, has a credit list a mile long, including writing and performing on “Saturday Night Live,” and creating and starring in “The Sarah Silverman Show.” Never one to shy away from taboo subjects, she cemented her spot in (ironically) Disney history by voicing Vanellope von Schweetz in “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
No. 21 Rock ‘n’ Roll
Rock ‘n’ Roll was invented in the USA, but it was quickly adopted everywhere, most notably in Great Britain where an “invasion” was staged in an attempt at payback against the whole American Revolution thing. With bands like the Beatles, the Stones, and Freddy and the Dreamers assaulting our shores and airwaves, what’s a young, spunky country to do? Many acts tried to reclaim America’s rock preeminence until, after meeting at a barn nightclub in Sunapee, hometown rockers Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had a thought. The first concert by Aerosmith took place in a tiny school gym in Mendon, Massachusetts, because Perry’s mom knew someone at the school and helped set it up. Tyler even formally christened the bad-boy band by swiping a Nipmuc Regional High School T-shirt from a locker room to wear on stage for the show. Thus was born a legend.
22 A Band Better Than the Beatles
Walk by the Fremont town hall on a Saturday night in the late ’60s, and a seemingly random cacophony of sounds may have come tumbling out across Route 107, smashing into the old Spaulding and Frost Cooperage across the street, causing a jagged harmonic pileup. This was the music of The Shaggs.
Described as “better than the Beatles,” a quote attributed alternately to either Rolling Stone scribe Lester Bangs or legendary eccentric Frank Zappa, and referred to as the grandmothers of punk, the core of The Shaggs (Dot, Betty and Helen Wiggin) was formed in Fremont in 1968 at the insistence of their father. It was, by loose definition, music. It had guitars, a drummer who seemed to be marching to her own beat, and a singer who touched on topics such as Halloween, parents and their pet cat named Foot Foot. It was not, in the traditional sense, good. Yet 50 years after the release of The Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World,” fans and admirers continue to flock to the sound.
Whether that’s attributable to an odd affection for the innocence of the Wiggin family band or to the sheer audacity of their effort, the quirky sonic experiment has continued to amass new fans, prompt live performances, and inspire a stage play. The story of this garage band/proto-punk/free-form jazz/girl group has even been optioned for a film.
And while The Shaggs were certainly not punk in the traditional sense, they represented that same independent DIY spirit. You’re welcome, Ramones and Sex Pistols.
No. 23 Mall Cop Tech
If there was one thing that ensured the elevation of the lowly mall cop to a source of cultural relevance, it was the introduction of Dean Kamen’s Segway people mover. It’s fitting that the Happy Madison production company created by Manchester-boy-cum-mogul Adam Sandler was the brain trust behind the unlikely hits “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” both starring Kevin James and the usual gang of Sandler pals, and featuring the Segway as prop-comedy gold. The Segway plant in New Hampshire may have closed, but there’s still talk, and even a petition circulating, regarding the possibility of a “Paul Blart 3” being green-lighted by Happy Madison this year.
No. 24 Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paintball
Ahnold, as he has come to be known, was an aspiring body-builder-turned-actor in the 1970s, but his bulbous body-type and extreme accent (and his unspellable name) worked against him until an arty bodybuilding documentary (and book) titled “Pumping Iron” boosted his image and made him into a folk hero. That film and book were largely the creation of local filmmakers George Butler and Charles Gaines. They teamed up a few years later to invent the game of paintball by staging a game of “capture the flag” in the woods with some friends using paint guns designed for marking cattle.
No. 25 The Joke That Launched a Presidency
I never thought a joke I wrote in my pajamas could end the world.
Nobody cares about monologue writers. No one. We are to comedy what kickers are to football; the game can’t start without us, and you can nail a million in a row without anyone batting an eye. It’s the one you miss that people remember. Jimmy Fallon told exactly 4,245 jokes I wrote for “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show” — most doing quite well. But it’s the one I missed that everyone remembers. And it wasn’t even told by Jimmy.
In 2011, Seth Meyers [of Bedford, you may recall from above] was the featured performer at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That night, I watched from home in Queens with my then-fiancée when Seth said: “Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican. Which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke.” We then watched as the camera turned to a fuming dinner guest: Donald Trump. Despite click-baity books by pundits pushing their own theories, the rumor persists Trump decided then and there he would run for president in 2016. Well … I am the person who wrote that joke. So, in the words of President John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs Invasion: “Ma bad, y’all!”
A couple days later, I was sitting in my office at Fallon when I received a surprising and somewhat urgent visit from Seth. He relayed The Donald was furious — demanding to know who “defamed” him — wanting “names.” For a long time, it was funny. Then one night, as my pregnant wife slept in the next room … Donald Trump won. Immediately, they started. Texts, emails — each observing that I may have indeed ended civilization. One friend even nicknamed me
“Forrest Trump.” For a while, I tried to talk myself out of it — saying there’s no way a simple joke could drive someone to run for president. But given what we now know about this man … would it really surprise you?
Believe me, I tried everything. During my time running the Fallon monologue in the Dawn of Trump, I scratched, clawed, grasped at any idea that could be The Joke To Undo The Joke. Gotta stop Trump. Gotta get us all off the hook.
It became an obsession.
And eventually, it quite literally broke my brain. Then came a day when — as I beat myself up for my Fallon run ending and marriage ailing — my well-meaning psychiatrist said: “What else you gonna blame yourself for? Trump?
So in 2020, I awakened each day — apart from my ex-wife — and stared directly into the apocalypse. And when Joe Biden won … I cried. Not because I was happy — because I was sad; the people with whom I’d worked so hard to celebrate were no longer in my life. And we’re not out of the woods yet; the vaccine could fail and everything shut back down. What if my joke still ends the world? But then, think of all the things from which I spared you! The Lakers will never pass the Celtics. No more “Real Housewives.” I assume “Baby Shark” is reserved only for Hell. But if there’s one lesson I can bestow, it is to be careful — for a person who can’t take a joke could damn near take us down with them.
— by Jon Rineman Jr., Writer: 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
No. 26 The Singer-Songwriter Pantheon
Tom Rush was born in Portsmouth and grew up, he likes to tell his audiences, at “Hogwarts” (actually Concord’s Gothic campus of St. Paul’s School where his father taught). His 1968 hit, “No Regrets,” is still a folk standard, and Rolling Stone magazine credited him with “ushering in the era of the singer-songwriter.” With his mellow growl, good looks and curious guitar stylings, Rush made hits out of a number of songs by other young singer/songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s, helping to launch the careers of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor, among others. Rush now lives in Vermont and, when asked the reason for the move, he drawled, “I just couldn’t take another New Hampsha wintah.”
No. 27 No Judgement Fitness
Gyms have always been the sanctuary of lunks, but no one knew what to call them until Planet Fitness popularized the term. Lunk, which originally meant a brawny, good-looking guy, has become a fittingly monosyllabic description of the “pick-things-up-and-put-them-down” school of fitness. Hampton-based Planet Fitness pioneered the concept of the No Judgement Zone with bountiful banks of equipment, meaning you (almost) never have to wait in line for the one good elliptical machine. More importantly, it’s the type of place where you don’t need designer fitness gear to fit in. And that extra “e” that appears in their “no judgEment” motto? Well, AP Style may object, but we’re learning not to be so judgemental.
No. 28 Modern Makeup
Cosmetics industry pioneers Charles and Joseph Revson were born in Massachusetts but were raised in Manchester in the early 1900s, where their father worked as a cigar roller at a local factory. The Revsons founded Revlon, now a multinational cosmetics company, using pigments instead of dyes in their makeup products — a unique manufacturing process at the time. Six years after its founding, the company was worth multimillions.
No. 29 Balloons with Ears
When scientist Michael Faraday invented the modern rubber balloon in 1824, it was to further his experiments with noble gases at the Royal Institution in London. It was more than 100 years before rubber researcher Neil Tillotson figured out how to make affordable latex balloons in different shapes. His cat-head balloons led to new designs, including the invention of latex gloves, and he founded the Tillotson Rubber Company in 1931 to manufacture them. Tillotson bought and moved to The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch in 1954, where he created a polling location for the tiny town and arranged for himself to be the first voter in every American presidential primary and election for 40 years until his death at age 102.
No. 30 The Quicker Picker-Upper
They might not have been as absorbent or colorful as a four-pack of Bounty, but an invention by William Corbin in 1922 got the whole concept of convenient cleanups rolling. Actually, the brown “Nibroc” (his name backward) paper towels he developed were folded into metal cabinets that could be mounted where needed, but this product of the Brown Company in Berlin soon became one of the most recognizable paper products in the country, and Corbin went on to become the mayor of Berlin.
No. 31 The Road Less Traveled
Four-time Pulitzer prize-winner Robert Frost, born in California, is one of the most-quoted writers since Shakespeare and therefore belongs to the world, but his most famous works were mostly penned here in New Hampshire during the years he was still trying to learn how to farm. His first Pulitzer was awarded for his 1924 book “New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes” which, ironically, was published after the poet had moved across the river to Vermont.
No. 32 A Baseball Icon
Even nonsports fans know the name Jackie Robinson, the now-legendary player who broke the race barrier in major league baseball as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Today, his is the only number retired across all of baseball, meaning no player can claim it, with one exception — each year on Jackie Robinson Day (April 15, the anniversary of his first game), all players wear 42 as a sign of respect and remembrance.
Like most famous moments in history, there’s more to the story. A year before Robinson became the first Black player in the majors, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey assigned Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe to a new farm team, the Nashua Dodgers, making Nashua the first modern city to host an integrated professional baseball team.
No one named any days after Campanella and Newcombe, though both went on to successful big-league careers. Newcombe was the first pitcher to win Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards, something no one accomplished again until Justin Verlander in 2011. Newcombe was also the first Black pitcher to start a World Series game, and the first to win 20 games in a single season. Campanella, a Hall of Fame catcher, played for the Dodgers from 1948-1957, until a car accident tragically left him paralyzed.
Without Campanella and Newcombe helping to pave the way, would Robinson have gotten his shot at the majors? Who can say for sure, but regardless, these two unsung players deserve to be remembered not only as talented athletes, but also for their role in fighting racial injustice.
No. 33 The Divine Female
Christian Science was “discovered” by Mary Baker Eddy, who was born atop a hill in Bow where faithful Christian Scientists still make visits to honor the founder of their church. With all due respect to the Shakers’ Mother Ann and Ellen White’s leadership of the Seventh-day Adventists (both churches having numerous ties to New Hampshire as well), and the Japanese faith Tenrikyo, no other major modern religion can boast of being founded by a woman.
No. 34 Camo Chic
Now it’s popular on everything from baby bibs to lingerie, but military camouflage was a hard sell when it was first developed by New Hampshire’s Abbott Thayer. Thayer, a naturalist and artist who helped found the Dublin Arts Colony in the 19th century, wrote a book examining the abilities of animals to conceal themselves in their native habitats. His concepts became more relevant when the world erupted into war in 1914. Early in the conflict, the French military found Thayer’s book and instituted programs for disguising facilities and equipment based on his work, and soon a US camouflage unit was established for the war effort (commanded by a son of fellow New Hampshire artist Saint-Gaudens). In the years between the two world wars, European surrealist artists found inspiration in the visual disruptions and mimicry of camouflage, although Pablo Picasso maintained that the “dazzle camo,” developed by Thayer for the Navy, was in fact borrowed from his own cubist movement.
No. 35 Life After Holden
World-famous reclusive (and now deceased) author J.D. Salinger and New Hampshire are forever tied. His ability to hide from a fawning (and, frankly, obsessive) public was aided by the fact that he fit like a pea in a pod with the Yankee folk that surrounded and sheltered him in tiny Cornish. It would probably be wrong to mention that, without this mystique of his seclusion, Salinger’s fame might have receded. Would Mark David Chapman still have channeled an evil Holden Caulfield on that fateful night outside the Dakota in Manhattan where Chapman, carrying a tattered copy of “Catcher,” fired five shots into the back of John Lennon? We’ll take no blame for that, but the eventual, inevitable flood of the writings from the vault of J.D. Salinger that were allegedly holed up in a safe in the wall of his Cornish home will, like all information, eventually be disclosed, only to be published, sell some millions of copies, then disappear into the flux of the World Wide Web. For that, you’re welcome in advance.
“And I’d build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life.” — Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye.”
Salinger reportedly bought the Cornish home and land with the money he made on “Catcher,” which was published two years before he moved in on January 1, 1953.
No. 36 The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, was built from more than 30,000 tons of New Hampshire granite. So were Boston’s Quincy Market and countless other monuments and landmark structures throughout the world. You’re welcome, but, as the bumper sticker reads, “Don’t Take NH for Granite.”
No. 37 The Facebook
As the legend goes, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook at Harvard. Where better to formulate the app that changed everything? But there’s plenty of evidence that the seed of the concept was planted in Zuck’s high school years (2000 to 2002) here in New Hampshire at Phillips Exeter Academy. The common student photo/address book for the school was informally known as “The Facebook,” and was a big part of the culture of bonding between peers, checking out who is hot or not, and keeping tabs on whereabouts of old friends and new kids. If that all sounds familiar, consider the fact that, during Zuckerberg’s senior year, the student council voted to have the school’s IT department put the contents of the directory online with the URL student.exeter.edu/facebook.
No. 38 “Our Town”
Is “Our Town” the most staged play in America? We’re going to go with, well, probably not, but it’s definitely up there (top 10?). Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, based famously (at least in New Hampshire) on Peterborough, remains incredibly popular at community and professional theaters all across the country. Certainly some thanks is due to Peterborough’s charming nature for serving as Wilder’s inspiration, but it’s the MacDowell Colony that gave him the space and support to write his enduring play.
In 1907, inspired by her husband and composer Edward MacDowell, Marian Nevins MacDowell founded the now-world-renowned artists’ retreat in Peterborough, the first and largest of its kind. “MacDowell makes a place in the world for artists, because art makes the world a better place,” states the retreat’s mission.
And it has, no doubt about it, lived up to its mission, helping to bring great works like “Our Town” and countless others to life. Collectively, MacDowell artists have received nine Academy Awards, 31 Tony Awards, 93 Pulitzer Prizes, 33 National Book Awards, eight National Medal of Arts awards, 17 Grammy Awards and much more. Awards, of course, are not the only measure of success — creating a piece of art, be it a book, painting, symphony, sculpture or movie — is a huge achievement on its own. Without the MacDowell Colony, thousands of artists may not have had the resources to realize their dreams. The fact that a place like MacDowell exists to give them the means to do so is what truly makes the world a better, brighter place.
No. 39 The Original Land Conservationists
Before the National Park Service was getting all the glory for preserving natural wonders, New Hampshire was already on board with the idea that destroying nature (albeit on a somewhat smaller scale) was not such a great idea. In February 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests was formed, the first such society in the US. The group of nine conservationists came together after witnessing the dire toll industrial innovation was taking on the White Mountains region — hills were stripped of trees, and streams were clogged with sawdust and silt.
The society sought the support of Massachusetts congressman John W. Weeks, and in 1911, the eponymous Weeks Act was passed, allowing the federal government to buy private land if the purchase was deemed necessary to protect rivers, watersheds and headwaters. It also allowed the acquired land to be preserved and maintained as a national forest, leading to the creation of the White Mountain National Forest — and much more. According to the Forest History Society, “To date, nearly 20 million acres of forestland have been protected by the Weeks Act, land that provides habitat for hundreds of plants and animals, recreation space for millions of visitors, and economic opportunities for countless local communities.”
No. 40 Stephen King 2.0
The poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the haunted tree. While the sprawling cosmic mythos of Stephen King has transformed his home state of Maine into the backlot of the horror industry, next-door New Hampshire gets only slim pickings from Mr. King. But his son and fellow horror writer Joe Hill chose the Granite State seacoast for his home and even set his dark fantasy “Horns” and pandemic-themed “Fireman” novels in New Hampshire, citing many local landmarks. Inspired by his parents’ work ethic (his mom, Tabitha King, is also a celebrated novelist), Hill reportedly began writing for two hours a day, even on weekends, at the age of 8, preparing himself to discover and illuminate new worlds shrouded beneath the long, dark shadow of his famous father.
No. 41 The Civil War
Franklin Pierce was not our country’s worst president, but because of his feckless leadership on the issue of slavery, we had to endure our country’s “War Between the States.” His successor, James Buchanan Jr., a prominent Democrat with foreign policy experience and a states’ rights platform, is often given the “worst president” dunce cap, but in many ways, he just continued the course that Pierce had set. Like Pierce, Buchanan opposed the abolitionist movement and helped set the stage for the violent uprisings in Kansas that sparked John Brown’s countrywide rally for weapons and funds to lead a slave rebellion (watch Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird” and be amazed). Pierce’s acts of Southern conciliation and his prochoice view of the enslavement of his fellow human beings put him on the wrong side of history. When history starts to slide on its wrong side, it can take an act of God to set it right, and some see our secular saint and 16th president Abraham Lincoln as the divine anointing that, through blood, fire and angelic rhetoric, was able to reverse the course that Pierce had set for America.
No. 42 America, Abolition and Abraham Lincoln
Through the years in my various conversations with people, more often than not, the topic of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary comes up. This is understandable, mainly because of the publicity it generates nationally every four years. But there are many other “firsts” to talk about, including New Hampshire being the first state to declare separation from the crown in 1776, and, in turn, the first to adopt a written constitution anywhere in the world, resulting in the creation of a free and independent government. New Hampshire also has the distinction of having the first senator, John P. Hale of Dover, to call for the abolition of slavery on the US Senate floor.
One of my favorites, though, is this: The first time Abraham Lincoln was publicly introduced as the “next president of the United States” was in Manchester on March 1, 1860.
Lincoln was in the state mostly to visit with his son Robert, a student at Phillips Exeter Academy. While here, Lincoln decided to accept several speaking engagements — the first was in Concord that morning. When he spoke that night in Manchester, Frederick Smyth, chairman of the City Republican Club, former Manchester mayor, city clerk and future governor, made that famous introduction before more than a thousand people gathered at the Smyth’s Block auditorium on Elm Street.
As it happened, the national press was also on hand to witness the event. They were always in New Hampshire this time of year to cover state politics. Because New Hampshire was the first state in the country to hold its elections — each March on Town Meeting day — the Granite State was considered an early bellwether of national political trends. After Lincoln had given his now-famous Cooper Union speech in New York a few days earlier, he had suddenly become a hot political news item.
After Lincoln’s Manchester speech, he retired to the City Hotel at the corner of Lowell and Elm streets where he told Smyth the introduction had “taken him by surprise,” and that he had never been introduced like that before. New York senator William H. Seward would be nominated for president, Lincoln said.
Three months later in May, at the Republican convention in Chicago, Smyth’s prediction came true when Lincoln won the nomination as a dark horse candidate on the third ballot, and the presidency that November.
Once again, one can say a US president, Abraham Lincoln, got his start on the road to the White House here in New Hampshire.
— by New Hampshire Secretary of State William M. Gardner
No. 43 A Murder Story “To Die For”
The sad tale of the murder of Gregg Smart by young associates of his wife Pamela Smart produced some of the most riveting television since the Watergate hearings. That’s in part because it was the first such trial in the US where cameras were allowed in the court room, but also because of the salacious nature of the allegations: A young teacher (actually a media coordinator) has an affair with a student who shares her love for heavy metal music and agrees to help execute her husband. The story was immortalized in fictional form by New Hampshire’s famous writer and memoirist Joyce Maynard, and made into a film starring Nicole Kidman as Pame (her preferred spelling). It was also an early example of the split-screen effect that was beginning to take hold in American media, where people could see the same set of facts and draw two entirely different conclusions (e.g., the OJ Simpson trials and the Fox News/CNN coverage of current events). And for those who believe Pame, who is serving a life sentence in New York, there’s a new hope with the recent story suggesting that Smart’s prosecuting attorney Paul Maggiotto once failed to reveal exculpatory evidence in a trial he argued prior to moving to New Hampshire.
No. 44 The Global Economy
At the end of World War II, with the global economy in battle-ravaged tatters, a gathering of delegates from all 44 Allied nations was arranged to set a course for the future of the new world order, establishing the International Monetary Fund and encouraging open international markets. The US dollar became the backing for all the world’s currencies. The meeting took place at the Mount Washington Hotel and was named for the town in which it stands: Bretton Woods.
This October, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva gave a speech saying that now, with global governments having swiftly blown $12 trillion on pandemic mitigations, “We face a new Bretton Woods ‘moment.’”
No. 45 Marvel-ous Universe
With all due respect to DC’s Batman and Superman, at least some credit for the multimedia juggernaut that is the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe should go to four turtles and a rat.
The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic was created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird of Dover in the early ’80s. After their first self-published issue sold out, the pizza-loving, anthropomorphic turtles and their rat leader, Splinter, exploded into the general public’s awareness, becoming a huge and decades-spanning pop culture icon on the small and big screens (not to mention endless lines of merchandise). No kid growing up in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, and likely even today was unfamiliar with the crime-fighting foursome named for the masters of the Italian Renaissance. We don’t even have to name them here, you all know. That’s actually pretty remarkable given that the entire concept is, well, really weird.
Talking turtles. Who fight crime, live in a sewer and have a thing for surfer phrases. It’s not surprising that characters like Batman and Superman found widespread success outside of comic book fans. One may be an alien, but it’s not exactly unusual for people to idolize strong, handsome, male do-gooders (though Batman might fall a bit on the gray middle of the morality spectrum). It’s a whole different thing for the world to embrace the strangeness of TMNT.
And that acceptance (and resulting piles of money) potentially helped lay the groundwork for Marvel’s unprecedented success with its multiphased, overarching story that spans movies, TV, streaming services and comics. There’s Captain America and Iron Man, sure, but there’s also a cynical talking raccoon and tree creature from space, a dude that’s a god and also kind of a planet, various Norse gods, an android/AI being and many more characters that fall into the “that’s pretty weird” category. So raise a slice to the turtles (and Eastman and Laird) in thanks.
No. 46 Independent Film
No, not “On Golden Pond.” That trademark Lakes Region film was from Hollywood and came a year later. The film that many credit with creating the indy auteur mystique (that has now spread to online streaming services) was John Sayles’ “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” filmed in and around Conway over 25 days in 1979 and starring lots of local landmarks and talent (including Emmy-winner Gordon Clapp who still performs with the Peterborough Players). “Secaucus Seven” is often compared to “The Big Chill” as a boomer classic, but it was also the director’s first movie, so manage expectations. After immortalizing New Hampshire, Sayles went on to earn Oscar noms while eschewing studio control and became known as the Godfather of American Independent Film.
No. 47 The Bode Miller Effect
“Live Free or Die” must have translated to “Ski Like a Madman” in the mind of young Bode Miller when he was being raised like a feral ski bum in his parents’ hippie home in the woods of Franconia. Yet, somehow, that “technique (and medals) be damned” attitude made him an Olympic and World Championship gold medalist, a two-time overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2008, and the most successful male American alpine ski racer of all time before he retired in 2017. Like watching a bumblebee fly, experts still don’t quite understand how Miller increased his speed by flailing and making corrections on his way downhill.
No. 48 The Soothing Sound of Velcro
The Manchester home office of Velcro International supplies everyone from shoemakers to NASA with its useful hook-and-eye closures, but for a dose of brutalist ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) just look up “the soothing sound of Velcro” on YouTube. There’s even a 10-hour loop of the unforgettable pop and frizzle that is Velcro’s auditory trademark, which might provide an suitable replacement for nonstop holiday music in households celebrating Festivus.