New Hampshire — History and Culture
The state motto of New Hampshire, "live free or die," exemplifies the determined individualism of these hardy people. They have had 400 years to sort out their society and culture, often at the forefront of progressive trends like the abolition of slavery and presidential primaries. Nature dominates much of the state, which the locals use both for their personal entertainment and a thriving tourism sector.
Like all of New England, there were several Native American Algonquin tribes living in New Hampshire long before any white settlers arrived. Between 1600 and 1605 French and British expeditions visited the coast, forming the first permanent settlement in 1623 at today’s town of Rye and Dover.
When the American colonists officially rebelled against Britain, New Hampshire was one of the 13 colonies that joined the revolt. At the time it was the coast that enjoyed the prosperity, as towns like Portsmouth were busy centers of shipyards, sawmills and merchants. The only action New Hampshire saw during the Revolutionary War was a raid on Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth in 1774. Paul Revere warned the patriots that the time was ripe to raid the arsenal, and it was a success.
The Congress of New Hampshire met in Exeter in January 1776, drafting the nation’s first state constitution six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. In the early 1800s New Hampshire paved the way for slavery abolitionists, headed by Dartmouth College. During the Civil War the state’s 5th Infantry was one of the most celebrated on the Union side.
The industrial sector started to decline as textile production in the South created serious competition. During much of the 20th century New Hampshire struggled to keep its economy alive. But from 1952 onwards the state emerged as an important site of the first US Presidential primaries to test the popularity of the candidates from the two parties.
Recent years have seen New Hampshire turn largely to tourism to keep its local economy afloat. It has spent a lot of effort preserving and promoting its wealth of natural recreation areas, historic coastal towns and university star power. It is now New England’s top travel destination for outdoor adventurers who flock to the White Mountains for summer hiking and winter skiing.
New Hampshire residents are among the most independent and self-reliant in America. They’ve been living free since the beginning of the nation and still revel in their reputation as libertarians who live within a bounty of nature. They take this role of protecting their land seriously, maintaining some of the most intense conservation programs in the country. Visitors who come with an open mind and appreciation of the land will be well received.
While not instantly friendly, the folks of New Hampshire have a deep-seated tolerance for different creeds, races and religions. They have always insisted that everyone is entitled to live their lives the way they want to, and it’s this attitude that attracts many people who want the chance be themselves without judgement.