EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 17, 2007

Granite State symbols: New Hampshire's motto on way to being title of state song

By Meghan Carey , Staff writer

Krystal Stacey has lived in the Granite State all her life. Her license plates carry the state's "Live Free or Die" motto and she visited the now-fallen Old Man in the Mountain on a family vacation when she was younger.

But when it comes to New Hampshire's official state bird and flower, the 24-year-old said she doesn't have a clue.

As though "Jeopardy" music were playing in her head, Stacey frantically ran through a list of birds she's seen around Derry.

"Bluebird and the daisy," she said, clearly unsure of her final answers.

The purple finch and purple lilac would have been the correct answers.

"Oh, and purple is my favorite color," she said.

New Hampshire has more than 15 state symbols, from animals to an official state tartan. Each designation has gone through the legislative process in Concord, beginning as a proposed bill and ending up on the list of official state designations.

New official designations continue to be added to the growing list - including the state fruit in 2006. And now, a bill proposing the current state song, "Old New Hampshire," be replaced with "Live Free or Die" by Barry Palmer has passed the House and Senate and is awaiting Gov. John Lynch's signature.

Once the governor signs, "Old New Hampshire" will lose its top billing and become the ninth honorary state song.

The first state symbol still on record is the white birch - the official state tree - chosen in 1947. As a state bird, the hen wasn't able to hang on quite as long. In 1957, legislators dropped the fowl in favor of the more colorful - and tuneful - purple finch.

Debate over the official state song was the subject of legislative discussion for a quarter of a century before a decision was finally made in 1977.

There was more debate Friday afternoon when the Connors family stopped their baseball game in Salem to see who knew the most state symbols.

Eight-year-old Johnny knew the most: six.

Matter-of-factly, he shot off answers to the state's animal, saltwater fish, insect, rock, sport and tree.

Johnny's brother Mike, 12, argued that the insect is the mosquito and the tree is the pine.

"Look around you, Johnny," he said. "There's big Christmas trees everywhere."

From outside the Connors' huddle, their dad, Dave, could be heard agreeing that the rock is granite and the fish could be the striped bass.

Mike couldn't believe his younger brother knew more than he did. But Johnny wouldn't budge, and with a nod from dad, he once again recited his answers.

All correct.

School-age children are often the force behind changing or creating state designations and, therefore, probably know them better than most residents.

The state fruit, the pumpkin, was the idea of the third- and fourth-graders at Wells Memorial Elementary School in Harrisville just last year. The students traveled to Concord to present reasons for legislators to pick the pumpkin, including the facts that the pumpkin is grown in all 10 counties, and that Keene holds the world record for lighting 30,000 pumpkins at one time. The students also came up with some potential ways the pumpkin could bring revenue to the state, always popular with legislators.

High-school students were behind the two-year push to designate the red-spotted newt as the state amphibian in 1985. The same went for supporting the ladybug in 1977 as the official state insect.

Local fourth-graders from the Timberlane Regional School District learned the symbols as part of their New Hampshire unit.

But without that elementary school background, Henry Stewart, 79, said he doesn't know how people would know the symbols.

The deer is an easy guess and so is skiing, but the Derry resident said he thought the ladybug and the pumpkin were too generic.

"I'm pretty sure they grow pumpkins and see ladybugs in other states," he said. "Why can't we be different in New Hampshire?"

But then again, he laughed, the purple finch is different. Stewart said he has never seen one before.



r Butterfly: Karner blue

r Animal: White-tailed deer

r Wildflower: Pink ladyslipper

r Flower: Purple lilac

r Rock: Granite

r Mineral: Beryl

r Insect: Ladybug

* Bird: Purple finch

r Fruit: Pumpkin

r Sport: Skiing

r Amphibian: Red-spotted newt

r Tree: White birch

r Freshwater game fish: Brook trout

r Saltwater game fish: Striped bass


Words to "Live Free or Die," the new state song

"The Revolution was finally over

Many had passed away

But the note he sent his soldiers

Still lives on today

Live free or die

Live free or die

Fight the fight with every breath

There are things worse than death

Live free or die"