Topic: New England

A Brief History

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7000 B.C.
The first maples appear on the New England landscape. New Jersey tourists soon follow.

September 1818
Mass.’ Topsfield Fair, now one of the oldest existing agricultural fairs in the country, opens.

September 7-8, 1846
Henry David Thoreau, with friends, makes his first ascent of Maine’s Mount Katahdin. His finding: “Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful.”

1852
The New Hampshire legislature laughs at Sylvester Marsh’s idea to build a railroad up Mount Washington, telling him he “might as well build a railway to the moon.”

October 1862
Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Autumn Tints,” in which he gushes over the New England foliage, is published in The Atlantic Monthly. “Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our autumnal foliage,” he brags.

July 3, 1869
Sylvester Marsh gets the last laugh and realizes his dream when Old Peppersass becomes the first train to climb to the top of Mount Washington; the Mount Washington Cog Railway is born.

1888-89
The Appalachian Mountain Club erects its Madison Spring Hut in New Hampshire’s White Mountains; today it’s the oldest hut site in the country.

October 22, 1914
The Mohawk Trail, New England’s first scenic road, opens to cars and, eventually, one Big Indian.

1924
Inspired by fall in the Berkshires, Arthur Tauck Sr., a 27-year-old coin-tray salesman from Newark, N.J., comes up with an idea for a tour business. The next summer, he takes his first customers around New England, charging them $69 apiece. Fall-foliage itineraries are soon added to Tauck Tours’ roster.

1927-31
The Airstream is invented, and with it a cavalcade of silver tubes motoring at 25 mph along narrow rural roads.

1935
Kodak invents Kodachrome, the dominant color film of leaf peepers in the 20th century.

October 1939
One down … Yankee Magazine débuts its first foliage-themed cover.

1956
Foliage Fanatics, Part I: Betty Hatch and four others launch the Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival, now one of the Green Mountain State’s largest autumn events.

1958
Foliage Fanatics, Part II: Harry S. Orr, the man who would come to be known as “Mr. Fall Foliage Festival” throughout western Mass., steps in to help with the Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival Parade. Today, a trophy in his memory is awarded each year to the float judged to be the best theme entry.

1959
New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, a scenic 34.5-mile stretch of twisty road between Lincoln and Conway, opens to cars and neck-craners.

1960
Wait ’til next year: Eager New England foliage fans are left disappointed after Hurricane Donna blasts through the region; on the coast, salt spray turns many tree leaves brown.

1971
Columbus Day is now observed as a federal Monday holiday. The three-day break, occurring during peak New England color, makes this the Super Bowl weekend of leaf peeping.

1976
Frustrated New England outdoorsman and backpacker David DeLorme of Maine decides to make a better map of his home state and creates the first item that would soon grow into scores of DeLorme atlases.

1978
Hot off the press! The state of Vermont issues its first foliage reports to newspapers and other publications.

1986
Press 1 for great color: Vermont’s Travel Division launches its Foliage Hotline, a frugal operation at the time, featuring eight answering machines.

1990
New England folksinger/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler releases her song “When Fall Comes to New England.”

2001
“Leaf peeping” enters the national culture as the Rhode Island-centric animated TV comedy Family Guy shows what happens when Manhattan tourists invade New England.

2010
Allen J. Coombes’s 656-page Book of Leaves, a whopper of a guide to 600 different species, is published.

2011
Snowliage! A record 32-inch snowstorm hits Peru, Massachusetts, on October 29-30.

September 2012
Forty-six down … Yankee Magazine publishes its 46th foliage-themed cover.

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