Creating an Image

“Now there is no crop more profitable than this crop from the city,
and it is one that comes directly to the farmer, and he should encourage and promote this visiting from our city cousins.”

                     —Victor Spear, “Farm Management,” State Board of Agriculture, 1893

Many of Vermont’s leaders were worried and concerned at the end of the nineteenth century. The state’s farming communities suffered from continuing decline as young rural Vermonters moved to the cities or left the state for better opportunities elsewhere. Vermont’s population was just barely growing, increasing only by immigrants coming to work in industries in cities such as Barre, Rutland, Springfield, and Winooski. Some people feared that Vermont would lose its rural Yankee character. Tourism came to be seen as the key to bolstering the state’s lagging farm economy.

Using the state’s natural landscape and rural lifestyle as selling points, Vermont first advertised itself as a tourist destination beginning in the late 1800s. The Board of Agriculture, the state agency responsible for promoting tourism, focused on the state’s healthy rural settings and played on Americans’ growing fascination with and longing for the country. Vermont became known as a place of escape for people living in the cities of southern New England and New York. 

Vermont succeeded in developing this attractive image by the 1940s, but outsiders’ perceptions did not tell the entire story. Many did not know about Vermont’s successful industries or the immigrants who worked in them. These ethnic groups contributed to their communities’ cultures but weren’t featured in tourism promotions. Like other places in America during the first half of the twentieth century, tensions arose in Vermont communities between labor and industry, Yankee and immigrant, the rich and the poor. As you walk through these two rooms ask yourself these questions: What was the real Vermont? Who were Vermonters?

Copyright 2006, Vermont Historical Society.  All rights reserved.
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