The photo above was inspired by Winslow Homer's "The Nooning" (1872). With the passing of the trauma of the Civil War, in the 1870's rural life was idealized for it's innocence and Homer's paintings reflected that sensibility. For this image my nephew agreed to pose for me in the cold wet grass and the setting is Calvin Coolidge's childhood home at Plymouth Notch, VT.
Despite the suggestion of an idyllic setting, rural life has never been one of hours passed in pastoral leisure. And most assuredly young Calvin did not spend his summers lounging in the yard. Reality required constant, tiring manual labor with the chores varying by season and this reality was magnified by the terrain and weather of Vermont. Vermont grew fairly rapidly in the first half of the 19th century to just over 300,000 citizens at the start of the Civil War. However, population growth after the Civil War was limited, largely due to Vermonters taking their hard work and considerable skills elsewhere in the country. As Morrison writes in Vermont - A History (p.123), "Fifty-four percent of all Vermonters were living outside Vermont by 1880; no other state in the nation was losing such a large portion of its native-born. Vermont's greatest export has been its natives, especially its young people.".
Two U.S. presidents were born in Vermont, Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge, but both pursued their political careers in other states. Wells of Wells, Fargo grew up in Thetford, VT. Frederick Billings of Woodstock built the Northern Pacific Railroad. Inventors from Vermont such as Elisha Otis (safety elevator) and John Deere (steel plow) impacted the country greatly and their eponymous companies persist yet today. Joseph Smith from Sharon, VT founded a major religious faith - The Church of The Latter Day Saints.
The above are just a few examples and many states can also lay claim to native sons and daughters whom made their mark elsewhere. But it can also be argued that Vermont's native-born have made an outsized contribution to the nation given the state's small population. One can also argue that the determined flinty nature of these individuals was instilled in them in the rocky Green Mountains and the harsh weather that had to be endured. Creative responses were demanded and just maybe those responses were dreamed up while lying in the grass at noon before chores were to be enjoined again.
These images are part of an ongoing VT History Photo Essay Project. The project objective seeks to explore VT history through images that also reflect the art and photography of the respective time period. Eventually the best images will be curated into a gallery on the website. Unless otherwise specified, the history is sourced from the excellent book by Charles t. Morrisey: Vermont - A History.