Posted by: Frances Westbrook, Regional English Language Officer
The Green Mountain State, Vermont, joined the federal union as the fourteenth state in 1791, and was the first state to join after the original thirteen colonies. Vermont is the second least populous state in the United States (Wyoming is the least), and Vermonters often boast that there are more cows than people living in the state.
The first inhabitants of Vermont were Native Americans, mostly Algonquian and Iroquois tribes. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the region for France in 1609, with French settlements starting in the area in 1666. Vermont remained part of France until after the French and Indian War, when it was claimed by Great Britain. Today many people of French or French-Canadian origin remain in Vermont, and the northern part of the state is located on the border with French-speaking Quebec, Canada. In fact, roughly three percent of Vermont’s population speaks French as their first language.
Vermont is known for its natural beauty. The autumn is a favorite time for visitors to Vermont. Known as “leaf peepers,” people from all over the East Coast come to Vermont to see the wonderful fall foliage, thanks to the many maple and other deciduous trees in the state. The snowy winters bring skiers, and visitors during Vermont’s temperate summers enjoy many small and large lakes. Lake Champlain forms part of the border between New York State and Vermont, and supposedly has its own sea monster, nick-named “Champ.”
Apart from its beauty, Vermont is well-known for a variety of other reasons. Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. Ben and Jerry’s, the beloved ice cream company, was founded in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978, with ice cream served out of a former gas station. Vermont was the first documented stop on the Underground Railroad, with fleeing slaves hidden at a farm in 1843, and Vermont was the first state in the Union to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The Von Trapp family (of The Sound of Music fame) settled in Vermont upon immigrating to the United States in 1942. They opened the popular “Von Trapp Family Lodge” in Stowe in 1950, which is still functioning today.
Vermont is one of the few states in the United States that does not have a single major league professional sports team. However, well-known snowboarders Kevin Pearce and Hannah Teter hail from Vermont.
Vermont was the birthplace of two U.S. Presidents: Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge. It was also the first state to outlaw slavery, having done so before joining the union.