NH History

NHPR/Hannah McCarthy

Coiled in jars of half-evaporated alcohol, hundred year-old snake specimens glow under soft lights. Nearby, the last cougar killed in New Hampshire sneers with lifeless eyes, early taxidermy technique making it look more like a stuffed toy than a once-live animal. But these attractions are nothing compared to the man-eating clam and four-legged chick, staple oddities at the Woodman Museum.

Public Domain

In 1870, Marilla Ricker, an attorney from Dover, attempted to cast a ballot in an election, but she was turned away. She tried again every year for the next five decades and was either refused or had her ballot destroyed. Ricker died in 1920, shortly after women won the right to vote. 

Wikimedia Commons

He was governor of New Hampshire, the first head of the Social Security Administration, and U.S. ambassador to Great Britain during World War II. Yet John Gilbert Winant remains little known among Americans. We unearth the history of this unsung Granite Stater and hear about an effort to memorialize his contributions.

Sean Hurley

Completed in 1875, the Great Wall of Sandwich is a shoulder height granite wall that runs more than a mile. Together with its 7 foot tall statue of Niobe, the Great Wall became something of a tourist attraction in the early 20th Century.  But in 1941, a hurricane toppled the statue, and its shattered pieces went missing for nearly 70 years. I recently visited Sandwich to learn more about the wall and to find out how Niobe was finally recovered.  

Courtesy Photo

A forthcoming book explores the tumultuous history of this first-in-the-nation state-run lottery. Approval for the lottery followed a bitter fight, with opponents warning it could lead to Communism and racketeering.  Now, fifty years later, lotteries are in forty-three states. Still, controversy remains over whether this is the best way to raise revenue.

Little-known facts about the lottery:

From "Old Virginia and Her Neighbours"
Internet Archive Book Images / Flickr Creative Commons

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Capt. John Smith's voyage and mapping of New England, and the dedication of a new monument to him in Rye, New Hampshire.  The obelisk at Rye Harbor State Park is made of four pieces of New Hampshire granite and has a bronze reproduction of Smith's map. It's enlarged to 26 inches tall from the original size of 12 inches.

Catherine Gregg, the wife of one New Hampshire governor and the mother of another, has died. She was 96.  Gregg, who died Friday at her home in Exeter, was the widow of former Gov. Hugh Gregg and the mother of former Gov. Judd Gregg, who also served as a congressman and U.S. senator.  Along with her husband, she was passionate about preserving New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, and was heavily involved in protecting the state's environment and cultural heritage.

jbspec7 via Flickr CC

New Hampshire is often advertised as a state filled with natural attractions, famous for our mountains (Mt. Washington and Mt. Monadnock are both known world-wide), lakes, and rivers. But the state is filled with historical landmarks as well, which Lucie Bryar covers in her book Exploring Southern New Hampshire: History and Nature on Back Roads and Quiet Waters. Here are some of the cultural attractions in southern NH you may not have heard about, but that you’ll definitely want to check out.

Flickr: InAweofGod'sCreation

  Some things never change in New Hampshire – including our position as a battleground state. In 1788, eight colonies had ratified the constitution – but nine were needed to establish the United States of America.

Stephanie Seacord, with Strawbery Banke Museum, says New Hampshire was split. "There were two factions in NH," she says.  One, wanted to stay independent, the other hoped to join the union. The latter was largely based in Portsmouth and led by then-Governor John Langdon.

Michael Samuels


Marelli's Market in Hampton celebrates its centenary with a new book and a museum exhibit.

Town Meeting Vs. SB2

Mar 20, 2014
Robert Dennis Photography

The town meeting has often been called “the purest form of democracy,” and for more than three centuries, it was how New Hampshire local government was conducted.  Residents would gather on the second Tuesday in March – a convenient “down time” for farmers and loggers.  They’d deliberate for hours on budgets, and do a fair bit of socializing as well.   But more recently, attendance at town meetings steadily waned.  And so, about 20 years ago, the legislature gave towns a new option called Senate bill two.  This approach split the traditional process into two parts:  first, a “deliberative s

Sara Plourde / NHPR

In a year-long series called “250 Years In The Making: Stories From 13 New Hampshire Towns," NHPR’s Keith Shields has traveled all across the Granite State, learning the unique stories of these towns and how their tales also reflect the broader narrative of new Hampshire history.


Sara Plourde / NHPR

In a year-long series called “250 Years In The Making: Stories From 13 New Hampshire Towns," NHPR’s Keith Shields has traveled all across the Granite State, learning the unique stories of these towns and how their tales also reflect the broader narrative of new Hampshire history.


Sean Hurley / NHPR

On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to President Lincoln.  The author of Mary Had A Little Lamb and one of America’s first female novelists wrote, "The subject is to have the day of our annual thanksgiving made a national holiday."  Lincoln, a great observer of the wisdom of others, quickly agreed and in 1863 Thanksgiving became our third national holiday alongside Washington’s birthday and Independence Day. 

NHPR’s Sean Hurley set out to discover what Thanksgiving was really like during Sarah Josepha Hale's time. His tack: participating in a 19th century re-creation at the Remick Country Doctor Museum.


Everybody can benefit from taking a field trip. And here’s your chance… this Saturday is Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live. Follow this link: Smithsonian's Museum Day Live to download a free ticket that will get you and a guest into any participating Smithsonian museum, including the McCauliffe-Shepard Discovery Museum in Concord, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Manchester, and the Strawberry Banke museum…where you can learn – among other things – about Portsmouth’s long love affair with beer.  And while brewing may not be the focus of 7th grade class trip, there is plenty more to learn at Strawberry Banke.

Communities Celebrate Old Home Day

Aug 25, 2013
Sara Plourde / NHPR

August is the month when towns all over New Hampshire hold their Old Home Day festivals, featuring fair food, games, entertainment, and kid-friendly events.  Saturday was the big day for Pembroke, south of Concord. 

Pat Fowler is a life-long resident.  She chairs the Old Home Day Parade committee.  “At the end of the day, when I’m sitting back and watching all the families, watching the fireworks and the music’s on Main Stage, you just get that good feeling of family and friendship and community," Fowler says.  "I think that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Depression-Era Pool At Center Of UNH, Durham Debate

Jul 22, 2013

At the heart of a heated debate between UNH and Durham residents is a swimming pool.  During the Great Depression, the pool was built over a popular pond as part of the New Deal.  Now, the university is pushing to upgrade its facilities and downsize the pool.

1763: A Landmark Year In New Hampshire History

Mar 11, 2013

This year, 13 New Hampshire towns are celebrating their 250th anniversaries.  As part of a new series called “250 Years In The Making: Stories From 13 New Hampshire Towns," NHPR’s Keith Shields will travel to each of these places, learn more about their founding and find the unique stories buried within their borders. But before we do, we begin with a look back two and a half centuries to the year 1763.

Broadside quoting Marquis de Lafayette, issued 1800-1899 / Rare Books Collection, Boston Public Library, Flickr Creative Commons

Back in 1779, 20 slaves made the case for their freedom before the New Hampshire General Court.  After noting it wasn’t the right time, the body postponed the decision “to a more convenient opportunity.” 

Lawmakers never took that opportunity, and 14 of the petitioners died as slaves. 

But on Wednesday, a Senate committee unanimously passed the bill.