1927 2¢ Vermont Sesquicentennial
Issue Date: August 3, 1927
First City: Bennington, VT and Washington, DC
Issue Quantity: 39,974,900
Vermont served mainly as a hunting ground for the tribes of the Algonquian Indians before white settlement. France’s Samuel de Champlain was the first European to explore the Vermont area. He reached Lake Champlain, which bears his name, in 1609. Champlain claimed all of Vermont for France. In 1666, the French built a fort on Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain. The English built a fort at Chimney Point, west of today’s Middlebury, in 1690. However, the first permanent settlement was Fort Dummer, near today’s Brattleboro, built by colonists from Massachusetts in 1724. This fort was needed to protect western Massachusetts from attacks by the French and Indians. Vermont was a battleground during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The war resulted in England’s control of Vermont and most of North America.
Land Disputes with New Hampshire and New York
The royal governors of New Hampshire and New York both made land grants to settlers in the Vermont area. Unfortunately, their claims often overlapped. In 1764, England ruled that the claims made by New York were legitimate, and ordered settlers with New Hampshire grants either to pay New York or else leave. This resulted in the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, a military force organized to protect land claims granted by New Hampshire. The Green Mountain Boys drove the New York settlers from Vermont.
Vermont and the War for Independence
Vermont provided many soldiers in the fight against the British during the American Revolution (1775-1783). In May 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and a force of more than 80 Green Mountain Boys took Fort Ticonderoga from the British. Fort Ticonderoga was located in New York on Lake Champlain. Colonial troops held the fort until 1777. When the patriots were driven from the fort, the British pursued. A rear guard action commanded by Seth Warner delayed the British long enough for the patriots to escape. Although the Battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, is associated with Vermont, it took place in New York. The Battle of Bennington and the surrender at Yorktown ended British occupation of the northern colonies.
14 Years as an Independent Republic
As the Revolutionary War continued, the land disputes involving Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire remained unresolved. On January 15, 1777, Vermont settlers declared the area an independent republic named New Connecticut. In July 1777, Vermont adopted its first constitution and took its present name, which is taken from the French “vert mont,” or “green mountain.” In 1783, George Washington wrote that he believed it would take force to end Vermont’s independence. However, no efforts were ever made to do so.
In 1790, Vermont paid New York $30,000 to resolve its land claims. New Hampshire relinquished its claims in Vermont. As a result, Vermont joined the Union on March 4, 1791. Vermont was the first state admitted to the Union after the 13 original colonies.
Vermonters fought the British during the War of 1812 in the battles of Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane, and Plattsburgh. Yet, the war was very unpopular in Vermont, as the state depended on trade with the British colony of Canada. The end of the war marked the start of a period of economic decline. In fact, when the economy revived from 1823-36, many people left the state, afraid that recession would return. These people moved to better farmland in the Midwest or took factory jobs in cities in other states.
The completion of the Champlain Canal in 1823 allowed the state’s farmers to find markets for their products. The canal linked Lake Champlain and New York’s Hudson River. This meant farm products could be sent quickly to New York City. The market for wool was especially lucrative. By 1840, Vermont had six sheep for every person in the state. Soon after, competition from Midwestern farmers caused wool prices to drop. Vermont farmers sold their sheep for meat, and by 1860, the sheep population had been cut in half. This crisis forced Vermont to become a dairy-farming state.
About 34,000 Vermonters served in the American Civil War (1861-65). History records that the northernmost land action of the war took place in Vermont. A group of 22 Confederate soldiers robbed banks in St. Albans, and then fled to Canada with over $20,000.
The Decline of Agriculture and Expansion of Industry
Farming became even less profitable after the Civil War. Large numbers of farmers left the state for factory work or to claim land in the Midwest. However, French Canadians and European immigrants continued to move to Vermont’s cities. During the late 1800s, Vermont’s wood-processing and cheese-making industries began to flourish.
Entering the 20th Century
From 1900 to 1920, the value of Vermont’s manufactured goods more than tripled. Tourism also grew in importance. During the early 1900s, many resort hotels and camping areas were constructed. In 1911, Vermont created the nation’s first official tourist bureau.
Vermonter Calvin Coolidge became the nation’s 30th President in 1923. Elected Vice President, Coolidge became Commander-in-Chief when President Warren G. Harding died in office. To much of America, the quiet and shy Coolidge represented the “typical Vermont conservative.”
In November 1927, Vermont experienced the greatest flood in its history. The Winooski River and several branches of the Connecticut River washed away large portions of several towns. The flood resulted in 60 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage.
The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Vermont particularly hard. Many smaller businesses, factories, and lumber mills closed. Farm products brought lower and lower prices. The state’s economy did not improve until the late 1930s.
World War II brought an end to the Great Depression in Vermont. Vermont factories supplied many products for the war effort. In 1949, the state established The Vermont Development Department, which successfully attracted many new industries to the area. Over time, agriculture continued to diminish while manufacturing increased. The tourist industry, centered in the state’s beautiful Green Mountains, generates nearly $700 million in revenue each year. In 1970, Vermont passed one of the strictest environmental laws in the U.S., to protect the state’s natural resources.
Revolutionary War Sesquicentennial
On August 3, 1927, the US Post Office issued two stamps honoring significant events from the Revolutionary War in 1777.
One of the stamps is the Vermont Sesquicentennial stamp. The stamp honors the Battle of Bennington and pictures a Green Mountain Boy. The other stamp honors the Saratoga Campaign and pictures the surrender of General Burgoyne. It also honors the Battle of Bennington, with an inscription on the right-hand side.
Although US #644 is called the “Burgoyne Campaign,” it commemorates several different events. In fact, General John Burgoyne isn’t the central character in the stamp and it wasn’t originally intended to honor him, as he was a British general fighting against America. The stamp pictures Burgoyne (left of center) handing his sword to General Horatio Gates of the Continental Army. The stamp image is based on John Trumbull’s 1821 painting Surrender of General Burgoyne.
The history behind the stamps…
Known as Gentleman Johnny, General Burgoyne first arrived in Quebec in May 1777, planning to take control of New York’s Hudson River and Mohawk Valley. Commanding about 7,700 British troops, Indians, Germans, and American loyalists to Britain, Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga. But he was slowed to only one mile a day by his excessive baggage train and the American forces who had cut down trees to slow his progress.
The Battles of Fort Stanwix and Oriskany
On August 3, British lieutenant colonel Barry St. Leger began an attack on Fort Stanwix, located in present-day Rome, New York. As the fort’s 750 men defended themselves, a group of 800 soldiers from Fort Dayton began a 30-mile trek to provide support. However, St. Ledger knew they were coming and planned an ambush on them six miles from Fort Stanwix in Oriskany.
Although St. Ledger’s Indian forces eventually retreated, about 200 Colonists were killed, 50 wounded, and their leader, General Nicholas Herkimer, was mortally wounded. With Herkimer’s men in no shape to relieve Fort Stanwix, Benedict Arnold put together a force of 1,000 men to come to their aid. In the meantime, the Indians rioted against the British, forcing St. Ledger to retreat to Oswego, leaving no one to meet Burgoyne at Albany.
The Battle of Bennington
In the meantime, Burgoyne and his men were critically low on supplies. Knowing the Continental Army stored weapons and supplies at Bennington, New York, (present-day Walloomsac) Burgoyne sent a raid. They were surprised to find more than 1,600 soldiers from New Hampshire and Vermont protecting the supplies. More than 200 British soldiers were killed with another 700 taken prisoner. (While the Battle of Bennington didn’t take place in Vermont, it was fought by Vermont soldiers just west of the Vermont border.)
Surrender at Saratoga
Burgoyne continued to move toward Albany, losing another 600 men at Freeman’s Farm on September 19, 1777. Less than a month later, Benedict Arnold led another successful campaign against Burgoyne at Bemis Heights, taking the lives of 600 more British soldiers. As his forces grew smaller and weaker, Burgoyne finally retreated north to Saratoga but was surrounded by American forces outnumbering him three to one. By October 17, he surrendered.
The victories at these New York locations not only kept the British from taking control of New York, but they showed the doubtful French that the Colonists were capable of winning the war for their freedom. Shortly after Burgoyne’s surrender, the French joined the American cause and helped win the war.