Episode 25: The 2nd Greatest Show on Earth

A quick note: this episode previously appeared in our podcast feed back in the spring of 2016, as an individual segment in one of our hour-long episodes we produced to air on New Hampshire Public Radio. So you might have already heard it, but…you might not have! And because there have been recent reports about a proposed new hotel for the summit, we thought it all the more relevant. 

Mount Washington is famously home of "The World's Worst Weather", but it also hosts a huge amount of tourist infrastructure. Senior producer Taylor Quimby brings us this tale of how the mountain was conquered, and how that process became the template for mountain tourism nation-wide. 

Voices From Mount Washington

As part of our research for this story, we went to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord to check out the Summit House Guest Register from 1854 - an incredible document where early tourists would sign their names and often leave short poems or comments about their stay on Mt. Washington.  What’s really fascinating is the diversity of reactions and writing styles contained in the guest register - everything from dreary verse about bad weather, to religious expressions of praise for the mountain, and the view. We mocked up some playful recordings of the more colorful entries.

Early Slam Poet?

THis PHOTO is OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

THis PHOTO is OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

Here’s an excerpt from one by Mary Huntington, who visited the summit on July 17th, 1854.  We think it sounds a little bit like a slam poem:

Sulky & Glum

THIS PHOTO IS OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

Here is another from August 20th of the same year. We’re not sure about the author on this one, but it sounds a little bit like an Edgar Allen Poe poem, or maybe a drinking song:

Near Death Account

Image from page 50 of "The White Mountains of New Hampshire : in the heart of the nation's playground" (1917)

Image from page 50 of "The White Mountains of New Hampshire : in the heart of the nation's playground" (1917)

On August 15th, 1854, a man from Philadelphia named W.N. Conckle penned a frightening account of his near-death experience on the summit, as he climbed through a terrific August storm.  Here’s just a bit:

Two Opposing Views

Tip Top House, Mount Washington, N. H. |  White, Franklin, 1813-1870 -- Photographer

Tip Top House, Mount Washington, N. H. |  White, Franklin, 1813-1870 -- Photographer

And finally, excerpts from two entries that appear back to back in the register - one a glowing appraisal of them mountain’s breathtaking scale, and another somewhat less enthusiastic review:


Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Taylor Quimby, with help from Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Cornelius Allsopp, a former project manager for Harvey Construction - he headed the construction of the awesome Sherman Adams Visitor Center, and knows personally how hard it is to build on Mt. Washington.

Also thanks to Jeff Leich, Executive Director of the New England Ski Museum, and Rick Russack, founder and president of WhiteMountainHistory.org.

And thanks also to the New Hampshire Historical Society, which houses the 1854 Summit House Guest Register.

Thanks to our historical re-enactors for this story, Kevin Flynn, Starskee Suavé, Sean Hurley, Maureen McMurray, and Taylor Quimby, as the voice of obnoxious circus man!

This week’s episode featured tracks from Podington Bear. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks.

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder