New Hampshire is a small but geographically diverse and scenic state. Its natural beauty is highlighted by hundreds of crystal-clear mountain lakes with Indian-sounding names like Winnipesaukee, Sunapee, and Ossipee. The rest of New Hampshire consists of covered wooden bridges, giant forests, wildwood paths, and spectacular ski resorts in the White Mountains.
New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die”, which was the rallying cry of John Stark, the state’s Revolutionary War Colonel. During the war, New Hampshire was the only colony that the British did not invade, due largely to its geographic isolation from the other New England states. Colonel John Stark’s cry embodies the determined independence the state had then and still retains today. This strong-willed, independent spirit manifests itself in various ways. The state embraces a strong right-wing stance, best described as conservative democracy. It also has no state income tax or sales tax. Instead, New Hampshire gets its funding from lottery tickets, liquor sales, property taxes, and taxes on restaurant meals and hotel rooms. Political independence and self-determination are evident in New Hampshire’s form of governance as well. The governor, for instance, must face elections every two years. There are also dozens of senators and hundreds of congressmen – one for every tiny town. New Hampshire’s state government, in fact, is one of the world’s largest legislative assemblies. Town meeting also plays an important role in local government, as it has since the early settlement days. Each man and woman in the community has an equal voice in local affairs.
In the federal arena, New Hampshire’s Presidential primary is the first in the country in a national election year. It has become the predictor of success or failure for candidates, a mega event considered a “make or break” on the political scene. Candidates who otherwise would have a tough time identifying the state on a map descend upon it quadrennially to vy for the support of its people. Hopeful politicians make their typical eloquent speeches and cite their usual political platitudes, but they never seem to work in New Hampshire. Its residents are a different breed, a population of unpretentious Yankees who cut quickly to the relevant political issues. And they have a remarkable history of reflecting the national mood. Approximately 75% of the time, New Hampshire’s primary winners have gone on to become the elected presidential candidate for his or her party.
It comes as no surprise that New Hampshire’s original residents relished their independence. The first settlers in 1623 were a group of fishermen who embarked on the dangerous journey across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving at Odiornes’ Point to found a fledgling fishing industry. Naturally, independence and self-reliance were traits necessary for survival.
The early settlers had a hard time. The land was heavily forested, profuse with rocks and boulders, and cursed with a top soil that only had a thin layer. Much labor had to be put in to clear the land in order to plant and grow food crops. Winters were also bitterly cold, characterized by heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.
Aside from subsistence farming, the new settlers had two basic means of supporting themselves: fishing and logging. Settlers fed themselves with the rich cod off the Atlantic, sailing their fishing fleets from the state’s only deep water port in what is today the town of Portsmouth. Loggers also cut down the state’s 1,000-year-old pines to build ships and masts using the timber.
By 1641, the struggling settlements totaled about 1,000 residents. Barely surviving, the residents agreed to merge with the flourishing Massachusetts Bay Colony in the south. Only a few decades later, however, the colony was disrupted by the year-long King Phillip’s war and did not recover from it until shortly before the American Revolution.
In 1679, New Hampshire once again became an independent colony, separating from Massachusetts after King Charles II declared it a royal province. John Wentworth, a successful merchant, was appointed the colony’s governor in 1717. It prospered for several years under his rule. Portsmouth became the lead town during this time, taking on an English elegance that still remains today.
In 1775, however, after several years of brewing fervor for independence in the years leading up to the Revolution, Wentworth was forced out of Portsmouth. A year later, on January 5th, 1776, New Hampshire drew up its own state constitution and proclaimed independence from England a full six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
In the 19th century, New Hampshire’s economy changed gradually from a resource-based one dependent on fishing, logging, and farming to a more manufacturing-based economy, focused on cotton and wool production. This transformation continued into the 20th century, attracting thousands of poor French Canadian farmers from the north. Many factories prospered, including the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, which grew to become one of the largest mills in the country. Immigrant workers from around the world work these mills, toiling through grueling hours. The mills at its peak produced more than one mile of cloth per minute. Unfortunately, the Great Depression, labor strikes, and the changing economy combined in the first half of the 20th century to deal New Hampshire’s economy a crippling blow.
Today, the state has a more diversified and revitalized manufacturing industry that combines with a growing tourism segment. The tax climate is also very favorable and the lifestyle a relaxed one, making New Hampshire an attractive place to live and work.
New Hampshire is divided into seven distinct regions that can be traversed north to south in less than three hours. These regions include the Hampshire seacoast, the Merrimack River Valley, the Monadnock region, the Hanover and Lake Sunapee region, the Lakes region, the White Mountains, and the Far North.
The Hampshire seacoast runs 18 miles (29 kilometer), following the Atlantic Ocean between Maine to the north and Massachusetts to the south. It is about an hour’s drive from Boston. The Merrimack River Valley in this area is known as “The Golden Corridor” because of the numerous high-tech industrial firms and financial institutions headquartered there. The region’s history is a colorful one.
The Monadnock region, meanwhile, is a like a picture straight out of Currier and Ives prints. The land is a rolling countryside of small villages, consisting of crisscrossing ski trails and hiking paths.
On the western edge of the state, the Lake Sunapee and Hanover regions serve as the home of the Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College. The area is known for its popular winter resorts, which draw skiers from all over the northeast.
In the Lakes region, New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee attracts thousands of visitors in the summer. There are some 275 islands and a vast expanse of wooded shores that provide vacationers a variety of activities and pleasures during the warmer months.
The White Mountains begin near the Maine border and extend in the southwest direction towards the central regions of New Hampshire. These mountains are the tallest in the East and boast rugged and dramatic scenery of granite faces towering over valley towns below. The region also abounds with forests and Whitewater streams and autumn colors that takes on a particular kind of beauty.
The area near the Canadian border is known as the Far North and is completely unspoiled. Its waterways are pristine and one of the most scenic in the entire state.
Bond, Richard. The Insider’s Guide to New England. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 1992. ISBN: 1556504551.
Chase, Suzi Forbes, and Ann Lee. New England. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671878999.
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