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A composite image of the Old Man of the Mountain created from images taken before and after the collapse.
The reverse of the state quarter of New Hampshire features the Old Man of the Mountain, alongside the state motto 'Live Free or Die'.

The Old Man of the Mountain, also known as the Great Stone Face or the Profile,[1] was a series of five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA that, when viewed from the correct angle, appeared to be the jagged profile of a face. The outcrop was 1,200 feet (370 m) above Profile Lake, and measured 40 feet (12 m) tall and 25 feet (7.6 m) wide. The site is located in the town of Franconia.

The first recorded mention of the Old Man was in 1805. It collapsed on May 3, 2003.[2]

Contents

History

The formation was carved by glaciers and was first recorded as being discovered by a surveying team circa 1805. The official state history says several groups of surveyors were working in the Franconia Notch area at the time and claimed credit for the discovery.

Face-like stone formations are common around the world. The Old Man was famous largely because of statesman Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire native, who once wrote: "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."

U. S. stamp issued in 1955.

The writer Nathaniel Hawthorne used the Old Man as inspiration for his short story "The Great Stone Face," published in 1850, in which he described the formation as "a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness."

The profile has been New Hampshire's state emblem since 1945. It was put on the state's license plate, state highway-route signs, and the back of New Hampshire's Statehood Quarter, which is popularly promoted as the only US coin with a profile on both sides. Before the collapse, it could be seen from special viewing areas along Interstate 93 in Franconia Notch State Park, approximately 80 miles (130 km) north of the state's capital, Concord.

Collapse

Defying attempts at preservation, including the use of cables and spikes for most of the 20th century, the formation collapsed to the ground between midnight and 2 a.m., May 3, 2003.[2] Centuries of wind, snow, and rain, as well as freezing and thawing cycles, finally caught up with the profile. Dismay over the collapse was so great that people left flowers at the base of the cliffs in tribute; some state legislators sought to change New Hampshire's state flag to include the profile; and many people suggested replacing the Old Man with a plastic replica — an idea that was quickly rejected by an official task force headed by former Governor Steve Merrill. On the first anniversary of the collapse, the task force unveiled coin-operated viewfinders near the base of the cliff. Looking through them shows how the Old Man used to appear.[2]

On February 7, 2007, plans were announced at the New Hampshire State Library for an Old Man of the Mountain memorial, to include five huge stones that, viewed from a raised platform, merge into a form that recreates the profile outline. It is being overseen by Friends of The Old Man of The Mountain/Franconia Notch[3], a committee that succeeded the Old Man of the Mountain Revitalization Task Force. The Legacy Fund is a private 501(c)(3) corporation with representatives from various state agencies and several private nonprofits.[4]

Timeline of the Old Man

  • 17th millennium BC6th millennium BC — An ice sheet recedes from North America, substantially reshaping the mountains, rerouting the rivers, and creating lakes and ponds found on the northern part of the continent.
  • 8th millennium BCNew England undergoes the Wisconsin glaciation, the most recent ice age. Glaciers cover New England and post-glacial erosion creates the cliff which would subsequently erode into the Old Man of the Mountain at Franconia Notch.
  • 1604 — A Native American legend states that going north on Great Merrimack River leads to a mountain with a stone face.
  • 1805 — Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks, part of a Franconia surveying crew, are the first white settlers to record observing the Old Man, according to the official New Hampshire history.
  • 1832 — Author Nathaniel Hawthorne visits the area and later publishes a story called "The Great Stone Face".
Old Man of the Mountain on 26 April 2003, about six days prior to the collapse. A late spring snow occurred the night before.
  • 1869 — President Ulysses S. Grant visits the formation.
  • 1906 — The Reverend Guy Roberts of Massachusetts is the first to publicize signs of deterioration of the formation.
  • 1916 — New Hampshire Governor Rolland H. Spaulding begins a concerted state effort to preserve the formation.
  • 1945 — The Old Man is made the New Hampshire State Emblem.
  • 1955 — President Dwight D. Eisenhower visits the profile as part of the Old Man's 150th "birthday" celebration.
  • 1965 — Niels Nielsen, a state highway worker, becomes unofficial guardian of the profile, in an effort to protect the formation from vandalism and the ravages of the weather.
  • 1986 — Vandalizing the Old Man is classified as a crime under the state criminal mischief law. Under the law (RSA 634:2 VI) it is a misdemeanor for any person to vandalize, deface or destroy any part of the Old Man, with a penalty of a fine of between $1,000 and $3,000 and restitution to the state for any damage caused.[5]
  • 1987 — Nielsen is named the official caretaker of the Old Man by the state of New Hampshire.
  • 1988 — A 12-mile (19 km) stretch of Interstate 93 opens below Cannon Mountain. The $56 million project, which took 30 years to build, was a compromise between the government and environmentalists that sought to protect the surrounding landscape.
  • 1991 — David Nielsen, son of Niels Nielsen, becomes the official caretaker of the Old Man.
  • 2000 — The Old Man is featured on the state quarter of New Hampshire.
  • 2003 — The Old Man collapses.[2]
  • 2004 — Coin-operated viewfinders are installed to show how the Old Man looked before its collapse.[2]
  • 2007 — Design of an Old Man of the Mountain memorial announced. It will feature large stone sculptures near the current viewfinders.

See also

Notes and references

External links

This audio file was created from a revision dated 2009-05-12, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. (Audio help)
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Coordinates: 44°09′38″N 71°41′00″W / 44.1606203°N 71.6834169°W / 44.1606203; -71.6834169








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