New Hampshire Folklife Logo
New Hampshire Folklife - an official New Hampshire Government website
Smaller text size Reset text size Larger text size
link to website translation page

NH Firsts & Bests

What is it about New Hampshire that makes it so unique?

Over the years, many remarkable accomplishments, natural phenomenon, and incidents of national significance have occurred in New Hampshire. We have started a list and we call them New Hampshire Firsts & Bests.

Test yourself or take a journey of discovery.

First State Constitution in the Nation:

On January 5, 1776, the Provincial Congress of New Hampshire ratified the first-in-the-nation state constitution in Exeter, New Hampshire.

First Free Libraries in the Nation:

The Dublin Juvenile Library, established in 1822, was the first free public library. The Peterborough Town Library, established in 1833, was the first library supported by public taxation.

The First National Thanksgiving:

In 1863, President Lincoln established the first national Thanksgiving Day, inspired by letters from Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, New Hampshire.

First Old Home Days in the Nation:

In 1899, Governor Rollins declared the nation's first statewide "Old Home Week" to be held annually the third week in August.

Invention of Tupperware:

Earl Tupper of Berlin, New Hampshire, invented "tupperware" and founded Tupper Plastics Company in 1938.

Oldest and Largest Artists' Colony in the Nation:

In 1907, inspired by her husband, composer Edward MacDowell, Marian Nevins MacDowell officially founded the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, which has become a world-renowned artists' retreat.

Pioneer in State Support of the Arts:

In 1931, Governor John Winant established the New Hampshire Commission of Arts and Crafts which formed The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen in 1932.

First Women's Magazine Editor in the Nation:

In her pioneering work as editor of Ladies Magazine (1828-36) and Godey's Lady's Book (1837-77), Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, New Hampshire, elevated the status of women and the importance of American literature.

Pioneers in Integrating Baseball:

In March 1946, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey assigned Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe to the Nashua Dodgers, a new farm team, making Nashua, New Hampshire, the first modern city to host an integrated professional baseball team.

First Credit Union in the Nation:

In 1908, Monsignor Pierre Hevey, Pastor of St. Mary's church in Manchester, New Hampshire, organized the first credit union to help Franco-American mill workers save and borrow money.

Oldest Unrestored Meeting House in the United States:

In 1775, the Old Meeting House, one of the finest examples of original colonial architecture in the United States, was completed in Danville, New Hampshire.

First Meeting of the Republican Party:

On October 12, 1853, Amos Tuck called a meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, of four political parties opposed to the Democratic Party and proposed the name Republican.

Largest State Legislature in the Oldest Representative's Hall in the Nation:

The 400 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives still meet in their original chambers at the New Hampshire State House, built in 1816 in Concord, New Hampshire.

First-in-the-Nation Primary:

Since 1920, the first ballot of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary has been cast in the Ballot Room of the Balsams Hotel in Dixville Notch.

First Legal State Lottery in the Country:

In 1963, the New Hampshire Legislature approved the Sweepstakes Program. In 1964, Governor John W. King purchased the first lottery ticket at Rockingham Park, Salem, New Hampshire.

Stagecoach of the Nation:

In 1827, Lewis Downing and J. Stephens Abbot built the first Concord Coach in Concord, New Hampshire, celebrated world-wide for its leather belt suspension described by Mark Twain as "an imposing cradle on wheels."

Largest American Flag in the Nation:

In 1914, Amoskeag Mills of Manchester, New Hampshire manufactured a United States flag that measured 95 feet long by 50 feet high.

Oldest Unaltered Textile Mill in the Nation:

Built in 1823, the Belknap Mill in Laconia, New Hampshire contains a working set of drive wheels and belts that illustrate the mechanics of the Industrial Age.

Largest Textile Mill Under One Roof in the World:

At its peak in the early 20th century, the Amoskeag Mills of Manchester, New Hampshire, was the largest textile mill in the world located in a single community.

Largest Wooden Barrel in the World:

In 1998, Spaulding & Frost Cooperage of Fremont, New Hampshire, made the world's largest wooden barrel, now located at the Red Hook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth. The barrel is 16 feet high by 10 feet wide and weighs 2,450 pounds with the capacity of 7,200 gallons.

First Women's Strike in the Nation:

In 1828, women mill workers at the Cocheco Mills, Dover, New Hampshire, went out on strike to protest new mill regulations, in what became known as the "Factory Girls" Strike.

Largest Dwelling in a Shaker Community:

In 1837, the Enfield Shakers built the Great Stone Dwelling. Made entirely of New Hampshire granite, the communal dwelling is 62 feet high with 860 built-in drawers and is the largest Shaker dwelling ever constructed.

First Machinists' Tool Manufacturer:

In 1845, the shop of Nashua machinist John H.Gage, housed in Nashua Manufacturing Company, was considered the first shop devoted to the manufacture of machinists' tools.

First Transatlantic Cable in the Nation:

The first direct ocean telecommunications cable between Europe and America stretched 3,100 nautical miles from Balinskelligs Bay, Ireland, to Straw's Point, Rye Beach, New Hampshire, completed June 27, 1874.

Oldest and Largest Manufacturer of Firefighting Suits in the World:

Globe Firefighting Suits, located in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and owned by the Freese family since 1887, is an innovative leader in the field of protective garments.

First Crafts Fair in the Nation

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen held its first crafts fair in 1934 at Crawford Notch. Today, the Fair, held in August at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury, attracts hundreds of craftsmen and thousands of visitors each year.

First Interactive Video Game in the Nation:

In 1966, Ralph H. Baer of Sanders Associates, Inc., Nashua, New Hampshire, recruited engineers William Harrison and William Rusch to develop the first interactive video game and patented the invention in 1969.

Most Popular Computer Language:

In 1964, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz invented BASIC (The Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

First Private Citizen to Venture Into Space:

Christa McAuliffe of Concord, New Hampshire, became the first private citizen selected to venture into space, but perished with her six crewmates in the January 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger disaster.

First American in Space:

On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., of Derry, New Hampshire, rode a Mercury spacecraft aloft for 15 minutes, and reached a peak altitude of 115 miles.

Pioneers in Science and Technology Education:

In 1992, Dean Kamen of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) founded the first national robotics competition in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Piscataqua River Gundalow: Workboat of New Hampshire:

For over two hundred years, the gundalow, a flat-bottomed cargo vessel, sailed the Piscataqua River and played a vital role in the region's commercial and military development.

Oldest Summer Resort in America:

In 1768, Governor John Wentworth built an estate in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire that served as a summer resort for his friends and family.

Oldest Professional Summer Theater in New Hampshire:

In June, 1931, Francis and Alice Cleveland with Edward P.Goodnow founded the Barnstormers, a summer touring company, which in 1935 transformed an old store in Tamworth, New Hampshire, into a permanent theater.

Second Oldest Summer Theater in New Hampshire:

Inspired by the June 8, 1933, performance of "Manikin and Minikin" presented to a few MacDowell colonists in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Edith Bond Stearns founded "Our Playhouse" which in 1935 became the Peterborough Players.

First Mountain-Climbing Train in the Nation:

On August 29, 1866, Sylvester Marsh demonstrated the first mountain-climbing railway with his steam engine, nicknamed "Peppersass," which pushed a flat car over the first 1/4 mile of track up Mount Washington.

Oldest Continuous Conservation & Mountaineering Club in North America:

In 1876, Edward C. Pickering and a few friends founded the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to conserve and hike the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Largest Private Wild Game Preserve in North America:

In 1888, Austin Corbin, II, of Newport, New Hampshire, bought 25,000 acres near Croydon Mountain to establish a wild game preserve in hopes of saving remnants of the vanishing American buffalo.

First Bird Club in America:

In 1911, Ernest Harold Baynes founded the Meriden Bird Club in Meriden, New Hampshire. Baynes performed in "Sanctuary," a play which toured to 120 towns and inspired the formation of over two thirds of America's bird clubs.

Largest Ice House in the World:

In 1890, Fresh Pond Ice Company in Brookline, New Hampshire consisted of 9 icehouses under one roof that had the combined capacity of storing 60,000 tons of ice.

Admiral Byrd and New Hampshire Dog Sledding:

For his 1928 Antarctica expedition, Admiral Byrd chose Arthur Walden of Tamworth, New Hampshire, as trainer for the 100 dogs on the expedition and designated Walden and his dog Chinook as the lead team.

First Passenger Aerial Tramway in North America:

The Cannon Mountain Tramway, opened to the public on June 18, 1938, in Franconia, New Hampshire, is a double reversible tram system that makes a 2,022-foot vertical ascent in under 8 minutes.

First Skimobile in the Nation:

In 1938, George Morton of Bartlett, New Hampshire, and his son Parker designed and built the "skimobile," inspired by the San Francisco cable cars. On December 27, 1938, the Mount Cranmore Skimobile pulled its first cars halfway up the mountain.

First Snow Train in the Nation:

The first "snow-train," a Boston & Maine Railroad train sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club, left Boston on January 11, 1931, with 197 passengers, headed for Warner, New Hampshire.

Oldest Ski Club in the Nation

In 1882, a group of Scandinavians from Berlin, New Hampshire, formed a "skiklubben" later renamed the Nansen Ski Club to honor Fridtjof Nansen, when he skied across Greenland.

Pioneers in Ski Racing:

The first intercollegiate ski meet (1914), the first American slalom race (1925), and the first American downhill race (1926), were all held at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

First American Book on Skiing:

First serialized in the 1931 and 1932 issues of "Dartmouth Alumni Magazine," published in Hanover, New Hampshire, Modern Ski Technique by Otto Schniebs and John McCrillis, was published in 1932.

First American Ski Film:

In 1932, Otto Schniebs of Hanover, and John McCrillis, of Newport, made the first American ski film, which premiered December 1932, at the National Ski Association Meeting, in Chicago, Illinois.

Fastest Recorded Wind Speed on Earth:

On April 12, 1934, Mount Washington Observatory meteorologist Salvatore Pagliuca recorded the world's wind speed record of 231 mph atop Mount Washington.

"First Citizen" of New Hampshire:

The "Old Man in the Mountain," a rock profile carved by receding glaciers 10,000 years ago, was one of New Hampshire's most beloved symbols. It jutted out of the upper edge of Profile Mountain, 1,200 feet above Profile Lake in Franconia Notch. Over time the formation weakened. The Neilson family maintained it regularly using steel rods and epoxies to help hold it together. On May 3, 2003 The Old Man in the Mountain finally succumbed to the ravages of time, ice, and weather, tumbling to the ground below.

Pioneer Quarrier of Granite in North America:

The John Swenson Granite Company, of Concord, New Hampshire, owned by the Swenson family since 1883, supplies over 330,000 linear feet of granite curbing for New England each year.

Most Monumental Building of its Time:

From 1886 to 1897, 300 men quarried and split 350,000 cubic feet of New Hampshire granite to build the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., the largest building in the world at the time.

Oldest Covered Bridge in the Nation:

Built in 1829, the 278-foot-long Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge in Woodsville, New Hampshire is thought to be the oldest covered bridge still standing in the United States.

Longest Covered Bridge in the Nation:

Built in 1866, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge, a double-span, 460-foot covered bridge connecting Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont, is the longest covered bridge in the United States.

First Organization to Protect Forests in the Nation:

On February 6, 1901, a group of nine conservationists, including Governor Frank West Rollins, founded the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the first forest conservation advocacy group in the United States.

Pioneer in Forest Management, Corporate Research:

Founded in 1888, the Brown Paper Company of Berlin, New Hampshire, pioneered the concept of "sustained yield" in forestry management, and in 1900 developed one of the first corporate research facilities in the United States.

First "America's Cup":

On June 20, 1873, in the "Grand Opening Regatta" for the opening of the Oceanic Hotel, over 50 yachts sailed a race from the Isles of Shoals to Boon Island and back, a race won by General Butler and his yacht "America.".

First US Navy Shipyard:

Purchased from William and Sarah Dennett on June 12, 1800, Fernald's Island in the Piscatagua River, became the first government-sanctioned Navy shipyard in the United States.

First Warship Built in North America:

In 1690, the British Government contracted local ship builders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to construct the HMS Falkland, a 637-ton, 54-gun frigate, which was added to the Royal Navy, March 2, 1695.

First Submarine built in an US Navy Yard:

The L-8, the first submarine built in a US Navy Yard, was completed in 1917 by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at a cost well below the contract price, which prompted a long tradition of Portsmouth-built submarines.

This compilation was first researched for the New Hampshire presentation at the 1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival held in Washington DC. Original Compilation: May, 1999.

Principle Researcher: Quincy Whitne.

Supporting Researchers.

  • James Garvin & The Division of Historical Resources
  • Lynn Martin Graton, NH State Council on the Arts
  • Dr. Betty Belanus, Smithsonian Institution

All rights reserved by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and Quincy Whitney.

Selections of NH First & Bests appear in "New Hampshire's Living Legacy – Calendar 2001" published by the NH Department of Cultural Resources.

New Hampshire State Council on the Arts
19 Pillsbury Street - 1st Floor, Concord, NH 03301