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The Old Man of the Mountains

The past couple weeks, I've been scanning some old photo slides from the 1960s. It's been a lot fun having a peek into the past, at sites I've never seen or even heard of - like the one shown below at left. The slides were dated "July 1961".

At first I wasn't even sure what I was looking at and thought it was nothing significant. Then, I scanned the next slide from the set and saw the sign (shown at right), which peaked my interest (no pun intended).

The sign reads as follows:



Long the trade mark of New Hampshire

Immortalized by Hawthorne's story "The Great Stone Face"

Countless visitors have been inspired by the sight of his rugged countenance.

The profile was formed by glacial action thousands of years ago, and first seen by white men in 1805.

The Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, called "The Great Stone Face", can be read for free on by clicking here. You may also find a copy for purchase on Amazon (affiliate link).

After seeing the sign, I zoomed in to get a closer look at the original photo and was intrigued. After doing a little research, I learned that it was located on Cannon Mountain (in the White Mountains range) in Franconia, New Hampshire. The giant granite face measured 40 feet in height and 25 feet in width.

Daniel Webster, the famous lawyer and statesman who was born in New Hampshire in 1782, wrote the following of the Man of the Mountains:

I was shocked to learn that many of us have probably carried a picture of this natural wonder in our pocket. "When?", you say? Well, it is featured on the backside of the New Hampshire quarter in the "50 State Quarters" series , minted between 1999 and 2008.

Unfortunately, the profile collapsed and crumbled in May of 2003, leaving Cannon Mountain faceless. Years of freezing and thawing had caused deep cracks, which weakened and ultimately destroyed this natural wonder. Now, all that remains of this cultural icon are what we see in photography and on commemorative items such as the state quarter. It is also featured on the state's license plates.

As a bonus, another stunning photo from the set of slides was "Profile Lake", located at the foot of Cannon Mountain, named after the profile of the "Old Man of the Mountains".

A modern day photo on Google Maps gives us a 360-degree view of the site which unlike The Profile itself, has changed very little. What changes do you notice?

If you had ancestors who lived in New Hampshire, you can find loads of resources for the state, county, and towns here. For thousands of free resources for all states, click here.

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