Vermont History

Summer 2005


Class seven


Beginning in the 1890s, a giant increase in summer tourism led Vermont to be imagined by outsiders as a resplendent, idyllic retreat from the modern world.


Downhillers gradually came to see tourism as a chief means by which the state could reverse the long-term “decline” they saw. They wanted to make Vermont modern and prosperous by commodifying and selling Vermont’s traditional character and backwardness. (implicit in this effort, of course, was the danger of destroying the very thing they were selling)


Will this make it more or less likely that Vermonters will work to solve the problems that plague the state?




Key Words and phrases:

Frederick Sheldon/Expansion magazine

Hickok Lumber Company

Lewis Hine

The Vermont Pathfinder Exhibit

The Green Mountain Club

The Greater Vermont Association


Exactly how “new” did downhillers want the “New Vermont” to be?


Vermonter, Feb. 1902, on Governor John McCullough:Here he was married, here he has lived almost for a generation, here his children were born…Surely it is a small-minded thing to say he is not a Vermonter.”


Barre Times: “For the average voter, “Gen. McCullough is enough of a Vermonter to satisfy any qualms of conscience.”


By the end of the Progressive Era (the 1910s) was “real Vermont” more likely then before to be preserved or destroyed?


Barre Granite Producers Association, 1907: “The introduction of the latest in modern quarrying technology will make Barre the most hustling city in New England.”


Vermonter, 1915: “Vermont, untouched through the generations, might be fashioned into utilizable form. The Utopian dream of Vermont—‘Perfect as a garden and beautiful as a park’ may in time become true.”


How long can downhillers go before their actions need to be coincident with their rhetoric?





Key Words and phrases:

Helena Doless

Vermont Children’s Aid Society

Henry F. Perkins

Harriet Abbott

The Vermont Eugenics Survey

The Vermont Commission on Country Life

Samuel Insull/Central Vermont Public Services Corporation


Vermont’s popularity as a pastoral paradise, it can be argued, reached its peak in the 1920s, coinciding with Calvin Coolidge’s presidency.


Harriet Abbott, 1925: “With the L.’s the information was very hard to get. It was like going into ancient history as the people are illiterate and the information they give is embellished by stories of things that never happened (as with all primitive people).”


The purpose of the Eugenics Survey is to gather information, as full and accurate as possible, that can be used for social betterment in Vermont -- that is, for the ultimate improvement in the quality of our citizens."

Henry F. Perkins

Second Annual Report, 1928


In 1910, Vermont had over 70 small utilities serving local customers. In 1912, Samuel Insull formed the CVPS.


By the end of the 1920s, most Vermont utilities had been bought up by large multi-state holding companies; the vast majority of the power generated in Vermont was consumed outside Vermont.