Vermont Eugenics, the Rutland connection

Prof. Henry Perkins. (UVM / photo)

Prof. Henry Perkins. (UVM / photo)

“One eugenical scheme to purify the state’s polluted protoplasm was bring in a better class of Vermonters — tourists and summer homeowners.”

What is one of the first things you notice when you cross the border back into Vermont? No billboards, right? What about the other features we take for granted: tourist information booths, great hiking trails, summer homes — many, many summer homes — cabins, cottages and even a few mansions. Yes, our tourist industry is one of the major things that keeps Vermont on the map. We have a brand that, thanks in part to various movie references across the decades, is known even internationally. And we are proud of it.

But what if I told you this tourist industry had racist and socially discriminatory roots? That even the construction of Route 7 and the improvement of other highways starting in the 1930s were to make our state more attractive and accessible to the “right” people”? Continue reading

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Poultney’s Writing Man: Horace Greeley

GreeleyDid you know there could have been a third president with a claim to Vermont?

In 1872, one Horace Greeley, formerly of West Haven and East Poultney, a Liberal Republican candidate endorsed by the Democrats, ran against Ulysses Grant, whom he had formerly supported. Ridiculed by Republicans and attacked in the political cartoons of Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly as an extremist and turncoat — he campaigned to pull the Federal troops out of the South arguing the war and slavery were over and that the people should now essentially govern themselves — he only received 43 percent of the popular vote.

Shortly after this defeat, his wife Mary died. Thirty days later, before the electoral vote was cast, Greeley also died, leaving him with the unfortunate distinction of being the only presidential candidate to ever die during the election process.

But this is hardly a fair claim to fame. Continue reading

Berenice R. Tuttle: A force to be reckoned with

Berenice TuttleOne of my favorite buildings in Rutland, one I was thrilled to see renovated, is the Tuttle Building on Center Street. The wide central staircase is gorgeous. That it disappears into a false ceiling adds an air of mystery, prompting me to turn in my imagination to a time when slick-haired, ink-smudged men were hurrying up and down, stacks of paper in arm. And apparently there was also at least one long- (or maybe a not so long-) skirted woman. Continue reading

Julia Dorr: Vermont’s most famous and best loved poets

julia dorrI knew Julia Dorr’s name. I’ve parked in front of the library and Grace Church enough times for the name atop the green historical marker to bury itself somewhere in my subconscious. But when I looked up her name in preparation for writing this article, I realized I hadn’t read what was on that sign with any attention at all.

You’d think I would have. Continue reading