“By the Wand of Some Magician”: Embracing Modernity in Mid-nineteenth Century Vermont, by Gary G. Shattuck.
“A masterful account of a pivotal period often overlooked by Vermonters and Vermont historians,” - Randolph A. Roth, Professor of History and Sociology, Ohio State University.

This book examines Vermont’s turn toward modernity in the 1850s by describing a number of key events and the people involved in them during this turbulent time in Vermont’s past. Stories in the book include:

  • The legislature’s abandonment of its oversight responsibilities of the new railroad corporations in 1843 that led to significant problems in the next years;

  • The existential challenge the legislature faced following the destruction of the statehouse in 1857 in deciding whether Montpelier should remain the capital;

  • The rapid development of Rutland and its centrally-located rail yard over the course of a few years representative of the rapid change taking place elsewhere in the state;

  • The effects of modernity on agriculture, specifically “The Grass Interest”;

  • The history of the important Registration law of 1857 concerning the recording of the state’s health-related statistics (births, marriages, and deaths);

  • Alcohol prohibition (1852), opium addiction (present by 1860) and the disproportionate impact of consumption killing many females;

  • The origin and history of Vermont’s abortion law of 1846 and its use by women and doctors, together with increased instances of infanticide; and,

  • The deeply divided medical profession and its involvement in criminal abortions, to include what appears to be the state’s first serial killer.

BUY THIS BOOK by sending an email to Richard Watts with your name and address. Although we are not selling the book, donations are welcome. Send a check made out to the University of Vermont, 411 Main Street, Burlington Vermont 05401 or click on this link.



Gary Shattuck is a historian, former federal prosecutor, and author of a number of books and articles on Vermont history, including Insurrection, Corruption & Murder in Early Vermont: Life on the Wild Northern Frontier (2014), Green Mountain Opium Eaters: A History of Early Addiction in Vermont (2017), and The Rebel and the Tory: Ethan Allen, Philip Skene, and the Dawn of Vermont (2020).

The book is published by the Center for Research on Vermont and White River Press. Eliza Giles designed and produced the book.

Gary Shattuck in baseball cap

Author Gary Shattuck