March 4, 1791 – Vermont Joins the Union as the 14th State

For many years colonies in the northeast, especially New Hampshire and New York, disputed control of the area now called Vermont. [The name comes from the 1647 map made by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, on which he labeled the Green Mountains of Vermont “Verd Mont” (green mountain).] Settlers who held land titles granted by New Hampshire and New York were opposed and harassed by the many squatters who had taken up residence in the area. When the American Revolution broke out, these “Green Mountain Boys” led by Ethan Allen helped win independence from Britain, and then worked on winning independence from the other states.


The Allens set up their own courts and assembly and wrote a constitution (the first of the states to outlaw slavery). Fed up, New York Governor George Clinton ordered Vermonters to submit to New York or face an invasion. This was 1779, however, and Clinton was mostly preoccupied with British redcoats. After Ethan died in 1789, the group, now almost 85,000 strong, lacked the leadership and coherence it had previously. Nevertheless, a new assembly moved to petition for statehood. Alexander Hamilton provided invaluable mediation by convincing New Yorkers to quit their remaining claims in the territory for $30,000.


Today, Vermont is known for, inter alia, having the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history – Bernie Sanders, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Vermont is also the home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, which was started over 30 years ago by two guys, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who, however, were originally from Long Island. Their story is a quintessential American success story. As recounted on their web site:

…after splitting the cost of a $5 correspondence course on ice cream-making from Penn State University, they combined their $8000 life savings with a $4000 bank loan, leased an old gas station building in Burlington, Vermont, and opened for business on May 5, 1978.”

Besides good ice cream, they are known for combining their business practices with a social mission.


But what about what goes UNDER the ice cream? In 1999, Vermont passed an act designating the apple as the state fruit and apple pie as the state pie. In Section 2, the act provides:

When serving apple pie in Vermont, a “good faith” effort shall be made to meet one or more of the following conditions:
(a) with a glass of cold milk,
(b) with a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 ounce,
(c) with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

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