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Why Is New Hampshire Called the Granite State?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Due to the abundance of granite, an igneous rock made mostly of quartz, New Hampshire has been awarded the nickname the granite state. Granite mining became increasingly popular throughout New Hampshire and Vermont in the late 1700s, which triggered the private ownership of small quarries around the state. This profession grew rapidly and eventually larger quarries emerged. In the late 1800s, the largest quarry in New Hampshire was incorporated by the Swenson family and is currently being operated by fifth generation family members. Aside from the amount of this natural resource located in the granite state, it is also well-known for having two types of granite, Conway and Concord.

Conway granite is distinctive due to the salmon colored feldspar that mixes with quartz and mica to create this rock's orange-like appearance. Concord granite is greyish with a unique salt and pepper appearance and is well-known for its lack of imperfections. Although both types of granite can be found in other locations, they are named after two cities within the granite state. It has been rumored that in 1825 Marquis De Layfette, a general in the American military, visited New Hampshire and remarked that it was the granite state, which it has been referred to ever since.

Another granite phenomenon in New Hampshire is the Old Man of the Mountain, which is the image of an old man's profile on the side of Profile Mountain. The height of this natural sculpture has been recorded at around 40 feet (about 12.19m), and the general opinion is that it formed during the end of the glacial period. This is another factor that contributes to the nickname the granite state but the official date of discovery of this mountain profile is a matter of dispute. It has been noted that this landmark became an attraction in the early 1800s and has been the inspiration for several poems, paintings, and other artistic works.

Granite mining in New Hampshire was a small production in the 1700s but in the early 1800s prisoners began building a state prison out of granite slabs. The rock gained in popularity, and eventually the granite state would provide materials for monuments throughout the world. By 1890, granite was readily available for many locations due to the introduction of railways, and the granite industry has steadily continued to grow.

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Discussion Comments
By ripper — On Dec 05, 2020

Great information. I am not a resident of NH, but have going there since the early 1950s and even worked there for 2 summers. I feel the article should have mentioned that the old man of the mountain collapsed a few years ago, to the chagrin of residents and non residents. All felt it was one of the outstanding icons of any state, a symbol of NH and also called attention to its granite history and industry now and in the past. Thanks. Bob.

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