Send Me a Box

Feb 19, 2021

We examine some of the products that people have mailed to and from Vermont, from maple syrup to complete houses and almost everything in between.

This Episode’s Featured Object:

Civil War Letters Sent Home

Victoria Hughes: They’re asking for boots. And a couple of the soldiers are asking for boots that are larger than normal or boots that are better than the army boots. Or they’re asking for socks or warmer clothes. So very practical items.

Victoria: A lot of them are asking for food. They’re asking a lot for maple, which they are certainly not getting in Virginia. They’re asking for things that are tasty, that they will enjoy eating perhaps more than the standard mush that they’re getting from the army or the peas or the salted meat that they’re getting.

Detail of Civil War letter asking for boots
Vacation cottage house on the Champlain Islands
The Vermont Country Store in Weston

Images: Hodgson cabins in North Hero, VT on the Lake Champlain Islands. Note the panel dividers on the left side of the cabin. Photo Mark Brack, courtesy of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

The Vermont Country Store in Weston, with an inset photo of co-founder Vrest Orton, courtesy Vermont Country Store.

(Vertical photo): Sugarmaker John Leavitt of East Barnard, VT.

Sugarmaker John Leavitt of East Barnard

Episode Transcript

(Sounds of walking to a house and knocking)

Ryan Newswanger: Do you consider that you live in East Barnard, or in Pomfret?

John Leavitt: I always called it East Barnard, but I’m actually in Pomfret. But a lot of times I’ll say “Pomfret/East Barnard.”

The Leavitts have lived in Barnard and Pomfret since 1797. John Leavitt grew up helping his father on the dairy farm on Allen Hill Road, which John took over in 1958. Producer Ryan Newswanger lives nearby.

John: This farm here, the market for 12 months of the year was shipping milk. That was your living. And then when maple syrup time came, sugaring, that was a little extra profit. You know, it only lasted for six weeks or so.

John has made maple syrup for most of his life. Only in the last couple of years has he stopped.

John: I love doing it, but, you know, when you get to be 85 years old, you got to slow down. I figure, like I said, I paid my dues. I sugared ever since I was a little kid, could lug a pail around.

The most syrup John ever produced in a year was 550 gallons.

John: Most of my syrup back in my good years was retail. I always had [local accounts] and also shipped it out UPS or by mail order to Georgia and South Carolina and Nevada, or California.

Read the full transcript.

Episode Credits

Before Your Time is presented by Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society. This episode was produced by Amanda Gustin and Ryan Newswanger, with help from Hannah Kirkpatrick.

Thanks to our guests: John Leavitt, Victoria Hughes, Devin Colman, Dick Hodgson, and Lyman Orton.Thanks also to Historic New England and Charlotte Barrett for providing the interview with Dick Hodgson.

Music is by Michael Chapman and the Woodpiles, Jo Masino, Winston McMahon, Miguel Jiménez, Christian Larssen, and Jonny Boyle.