Vermont History

Summer 2005


Class six: The Progressive Era


New section of course: The Progressive Era, 1890s-1910s




Key Words and phrases:

William Seward Webb

The Vermont Fish and Game League

Nelson Fisk

John Titcomb

Victor I. Spear

The Vermont Development Association

Picturesque Burlington (1893)

The Vermonter magazine (1895)

Old Home Week


Essex County in 1894, according to the Vermont Fish and Game League, “public sentiment favorable to the enforcement of the fish and game laws is noticeably an exception to the rule.”


Vermont in 1890, where we begin today, was on the verge of a dramatic surge in tourism. What was attractive to tourists about Vermont, in addition to its scenic beauty, was its backwardness, its essentially rural and traditional character. Tourism held the potential to help revitalize the state’s economy.


--As tourism gets bigger, will uphillers and downhillers agree on more issues? Will they grow more sympathetic to each other?


Victor I. Spear of the Board of Agriculture, 1894: “It needs no argument to prove the importance of this industry to the State. It is doubtful if any agricultural product, except the dairy product, is bringing as much money to the State at the present time as our summer visitors, and even our dairy product would find there a close rival in point of profit.”


Rutland Herald, 1897: “the summer boarder is the most profitable crop the state has.”


Dual narratives: on the one hand, there is an idea of Vermont entailing utilitarian exploitation of natural resources in the interest of development. On the other, there is romantic ideal of retreat to the land as antidote to the evils of modernity. If these narratives fuse in Vermont—development and preservation reconciled—isn’t that no more than the original idea of Vermont?





Key Words and phrases:

Joel Sherburne


“Local Option”

The “Black List”

John G. McCullough

The Vermont Farmers Legislative



Key Point: The referendum repealing prohibition in 1903 produced in some Vermonters great excitement that the state was entering a new era of progress and prosperity…but that feeling was not exactly universal.


Free Press, 1901: “…there is no intolerance like that of the shiftless resident for his industrious, energetic and successful neighbor.”


St. Albans Messenger, 1902: “Conditions in the rural communities and in the larger towns and cities are not the same and that a liquor law that may give fair satisfaction and be reasonably well enforced in one may at the same time be a howling face in the other…the broad-gauged man of small towns can believe in not opening a bar in the little village of Winhall, and yet not feel that he has a right to prohibit the licensing of respectable places in Burlington, St. Albans, Montpelier and other similar cities.”


Hardwick Gazette, June 1904: “we are greatly disappointed by the continual talk of ‘repealing’ the license law before it passed its infancy…Those preoccupied with repealing the law are merely extremists, little fellows who see things but one way, their own.”