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Happy Birthday, Daniel Webster: In New Hampshire they DO 'make men'

Webster Hall (right) on the campus of Dartmouth College.
Webster Hall (right) on the campus of Dartmouth College.
ST Seacord

New Hampshire’s state motto is famously, “Live Free or Die,” derived from a toast made by Revolutionary War veteran General John Stark (remembered today with a statue in front of the New Hampshire State House – and a vodka, the first distilled spirits manufactured in the state in modern times.)

Yet another State House statue and an even more resonant quote comes from native son Daniel Webster, born in Franklin NH ion January 18, 1782.

Daniel Webster is probably the biggest reason the “Old Man of the Mountains” remains the official New Hampshire emblem found on license plates, State Trooper badges and the New Hampshire quarter. Even though the Old Man collapsed in the night in May 2003, there is still a viewing platform in Franconia Notch, with memorial pavers and a line-of-sight sculpture that allows the thousands of visitors who stop by to see what the rock outcropping looked like when the face was actually granite.

The Old Man, or Great Stone Face, was reported by a surveying team in 1805. Decades later, Daniel Webster proclaimed, “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

Though claimed by Massachusetts whom he represented as US Senator, Webster is as immortal in New Hampshire as the Face and those who wish to follow his trail can do so with many stops: in West Franklin, where the family farm, The Elms (a National Historic Landmark) was saved from development in 2005; his own peak Mount Webster in the White Mountains; the Daniel Webster Scout Trail up Mount Madison that is maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club; the building said to have been his law office in Portsmouth NH (now privately leased, on the campus of Strawbery Banke Museum) Dartmouth College in Hanover from which he graduated in 1801, whose Webster Hall holds the college library Rauner Special Collections including some of his papers and belongings – and the statue that tirelessly guards the State House in Concord.