Before Your TimeA joint podcast series from Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society.
Before Your Time Podcast Series
Before Your Time is produced by Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society. Every episode, we go inside the stacks at the Vermont Historical Society to look at an object from their permanent collection that tells us something unique about our state. Then, we take a closer look at the people, the events, or the ideas that surround each artifact.
It’s well-known that Vermont is one of the whitest states in the Union. And so the stories of African American Vermonters can sometimes get forgotten, no matter how important they have been to our state’s and our nation’s history.
Many different groups of people, from many different continents, have helped build our state. But from the 19th century through 2019, the stories of immigrants have largely been excluded from the popular image of Vermont.
It’s a shame that some of the things we record get edited out of our stories. So here’s an episode of lost clips: bike whistles, pewter purists, halfway houses on the border, needlework, and the grave of “Vermont’s Donald Trump.”
Queer lives and queer histories in Vermont were often kept private for good reason: the fear of losing one’s job, home, or family. The fear of violence. But it’s important to know that LGBTQ people are here, have always been here, and are part of the state’s history.
It can seem like every town in Vermont once had a pharmacist brewing their own special blend of medicine. Some of these cures were derived from herbal folk remedies. Others were created from a lot of alcohol, some food coloring, and a pinch of carefully honed hokum.
A massive wooden printing press made in the mid-17th century has a place of pride in the Vermont History Museum, and not just because it’s old. It represents both the history of written law in the state, and the crucial role that journalism—the press—plays in a democracy.
Plenty of Vermont’s historic buildings are traditional homes, churches, and meeting houses. But as the state changed in the 20th century, its architecture did too. Now experts are looking more closely at buildings that look nothing like what came before.
People have raced cars in the Green Mountains since 1903. There were racetracks in every corner of the state: at fairgrounds, in farmers’ back fields, and finally at dozens of dedicated racetracks. Thousands of Vermonters have been drivers, mechanics, track officials, and spectators at those tracks over the past 115 years.
More than 600 Vermonters died overseas fighting in World War I. But thousands more brought their unique experiences of battle back to their home state.
Many of Vermont’s cemeteries date back multiple centuries. They’re filled with worn-down stones that may only offer glimpses of the personal histories of the dead. But these cemeteries still hold lessons for the people who visit them today.
Many Vermonters felt a sense of liberation during the nation’s first “bike boom” in the 1890s, when bikes became cheaper and easier to ride. Although the state’s early bike clubs were the province of elites, underrepresented groups soon took up the new technology.
Vermonters love weather. They love bragging about it, complaining about it, hiding inside from it, and playing outside in it. It’s a topic of conversation across the state.
We still need libraries. But what is their role in the age of the internet? And why, in a state with so many beautiful libraries, is it such a challenge to keep them going?
Vermont today has no shortage of knitters, crocheters, rug hookers, silkers, sewers and felters. Some are avid hobbyists, and some make a living from their craft. But all are part of a long history of fiber arts in Vermont.
Among its many myths and images, Vermont is now considered a place to get excellent alcohol. Today’s visitors may not know that we used to be one of the driest states in the nation.
While the country grappled with scandals like Vietnam and Watergate, back-to-the-land communes offered settlers an alternative path in Vermont. But the 1970s were also good for business in the state.
In the years after World War II, Vermont transformed the way it sold itself to outsiders. That shift in identity made Vermont a four-season state for travelers. It also changed the state’s landscape.
Memphis has soul, Nashville has country. What is Vermont’s music? You may as well ask, “Who is a Vermonter?” Even in the 1930’s, those questions resisted easy answers.