While the Archives record series database informs the researcher about
the records we hold, the "spotlight on records" presents a selection
of information from different series to encourage research interest.
Left click on the + / -- to expand or collapse the topics listed below.
Gun Legislation 1968
President Lyndon Johnson, who took office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, supported some
controls over the selling and buying of firearms. The legislation he supported languished in Congress until
the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1968) and Robert Kennedy (June 6, 1968) created
broad support for some firearm regulation.
As part of this initiative, President Johnson polled the states on their existing firearm legislation.
On June 10, 1968 Governor Philip Hoff asked Attorney General James L. Oakes for his opinion. In
his reply, Oakes noted the ease
with which felons could purchase Vermont firearms. He also suggested a number of new
control measures including a 72-hour "cooling off period" between the time of purchase and the delivery of a
firearm; prohibiting the sale of firearms to certain classes of citizens; and the creation of a Vermont
Gun Owner Registration system.
On July 25, 1968, the Vermont Legislative Council adopted Proposal Number 34 directing itself to
"engage in a study of effective control of firearms" and to report its findings to the 1969 session.
The Council then appointed a nine-member committee to conduct the study.
The committee met eleven times between August 27th and December 6th, and gathered information from
a number of sources. It received
statistics from the Department of Public Safety on incidents involving firearms, 1963-1967. On
September 5, 1968, Assistant Attorney General Louis Peck gave the committee an
opinion on the constitutionality
of gun legislation in Vermont.
The committee also took testimony from numerous Vermonters.
Public Safety Commissioner Erwin
Alexander's testimony included discussion of hand guns, the licensing of gun owners, and the registration
of guns. Fish and Game Commissioner
Edward Kehoe outlined many of the concerns of opponents. Chittenden County State's Attorney Patrick Leahy
covered various types of permitting in his
testimony to the committee.
The committee's interim report,
including a minority report, shows the tensions among committee members.
In 1969, two gun bills were introduced: H.272 addressing the out of state purchase of firearms, and
H.273 addressing municipal authorities relating to guns. H.272 was enacted as
H.273 did not pass.
The records of the 1968 committee on gun legislation are on microfilm and can be found in Record
"Legislative Council Studies, 1962-1996," containers F-05324 and F-05325. The files
include draft legislation, correspondence among public officials, testimony, federal legislation,
reports, and general correspondence from citizens, law enforcement officials, gun clubs, and others. Bills
that fail to pass, such as H. 273, are maintained by the Department of Libraries, and we thank Paul Donovan for
providing the copy of that bill.
The Right of Assembly
The right to attend public meetings is a part of Vermont's tradition of open government,
symbolized by town meeting. Vermont's open meeting laws, however, are relatively recent,
the first being enacted in 1957.
By 1973, some legislators and citizens feared that there were too many loopholes in the
law and proposed changes. Opponents countered that too broad an open meeting law would
put the volunteer nature of municipal government at risk.
Testimony on the proposed open meeting bill (S.15) in January and February 1973 captures
the perspectives of proponents and opponents alike. Bill S.15 became Act 78 of 1973. The general assembly continues to
re-examine the open meeting through their current deliberations on bill S.67
of 2012. The earlier committee transcripts can be found in the State Archives in
PRA-102 "House and Senate bills committee meetings and hearings records, 1966-2000."
Map of Damage from the 1927 Flood
The U.S. and Vermont Constitutions protect the right of assembly. Anti-war demonstrations, civil
rights marches and other large scale gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s led to examinations of that
right. Legislative responses and case law grappled with whether it was constitutionally permissible
to delimit the right to public assembly and, if so, how (see, for example, Gregory v. Chicago, 394
U.S. III .
A three-day concert in Holland, Vermont in 1973 led the Vermont General Assembly to explore the
scope of the right to assemble. Known as Mac's Party, the rock festival brought 30,000 people to
the town, population 383. Concert goers without tickets broke down fences surrounding the venue,
set fire to buildings, and caused other damage. The Newport hospital was overwhelmed with people
who had sustained bird-shot wounds and other injuries during the event.
In light of the concert in Holland, the 1974 legislative session took up bill S. 100, a bill to
regulate public assemblies. The Senate Judiciary Committee held extensive hearings on the bill and
deliberated on how to regulate public assemblies in the interest of public health and safety without
violating constitutional protections on the freedoms of assembly and speech.
Included here are the Senate Judiciary Committee transcripts from the February 8th and
March 12th hearings. A copy of S. 100 can be found at the end of the February 8th transcript.
The General Assembly eventually passed a narrower bill,
Act 181 of 1974, which only regulated public assemblies conducted for commercial purposes.
While these deliberations took place in the context of the laws and understandings of almost forty
years ago, they provide interesting context to current discussions over public assemblies associated
with the current Occupy Wall Street protests. The committee transcripts can be found in the State
Archives in Record Series
PRA-102 "House and Senate bills committee meetings and hearings records, 1966-2000."
The Governor's Commission on Food, 1975-76
Following the 1927 flood, the Vermont Department of Highways created a map of
the damage to roads and bridges throughout the state. The Agency of Transportation
is creating similar
maps documenting the destruction resulting from Tropical Storm Irene.
The original 1927 flood map can be found in the State Archives in record series
Additional records documenting the flood and its aftermath are also available in
the State Archives. Digital sections of the flood map can be explored below.
||Addison and Orange Counties
||Rutland and Windsor Counties
||Bennington and Windham Counties
The Bottle Bill
In the Vermont of 2011 there is much discussion of tying local food production to preserving
or expanding our agricultural economy; improving health through locally grown foods; or reducing
our dependence on fossil fuels by eliminating transportation costs. We talk of food self-sufficiency
and support "localvore" and "farm to plate" initiatives.
In 1975, Governor Thomas P. Salmon had similar concerns, stemming in part from the impact of the
OPEC oil embargo on the cost of food. In a press announcement
on his creation of a Governor's Emergency Commission on Food, he warned of a unique "emergency in
terms of the supply and the price of food." Among the commission's charges were to "develop programs
and policies which will provide an adequate supply of food for Vermont residents at reasonable and
justifiable prices." The Vermont Agriculture Department provided the commission with a
report on Vermont crop and
livestock production as of 1975.
On July 16, 1975 the Commission issued a progress report covering the activities it was conducting
and reported on such diverse studies from fish farming to regional grain storage facilities.
The Commission's final report was released in
January 1976. The report offered wide-ranging ecommendations from support for food cooperatives
and farmers' markets to the development of economic models showing the impact of agricultural
activities on Vermont's economy to encouraging development of specialty cheeses. Some of the
recommendations were enacted under Act 217 of 1976,
yet all remain part of our ongoing dialogues over food, landscape, health, and self-sufficiency.
Some of the commission members and state officials involved in creating and possibly implementing
the report offered Governor Salmon their insights. These included Vice Chairman of the Commission
Brendan Whittaker, Commissioner of
Agriculture Robert Branon, and Secretary of
Environmental Conservation Martin Johnson.
The records of the Commission can be found in two files in the Governor Thomas P. Salmon records
(Record Series A-183, Container 183-00006, Folders 5 and 6).
The Right of Privacy
A cornerstone of Vermont's early environmental reputation was the "bottle bill" of 1972.
Bottle bills are back before the 2011 legislature (H. 74 and S. 21).
The history of the bottle bill is part of the progression from our first awareness of litter
(tied in part to agricultural concerns and the growing importance of tourism) to a larger
awareness of the need to manage solid waste (this is also before the 2011 legislature;
see H. 218, for example).
Roadside litter had long been a concern in Vermont, dating at least to a 1937 anti-littering law. From 1952 to 1956 non-returnable
beer bottles were required in hopes of cutting down on
that particular form of litter. The bill was controversial and challenged all the way to the
Vermont Supreme Court, which
upheld its constitutionality. Opponents then amended the law to require a report on the law's
effectiveness. That 1956 report
questioned the law's value and it was allowed to lapse.
Attempts to revive a bottle bill failed until the administration of Governor Deane C. Davis (
1969-73). Participants in Vermont's first Green-Up Day (April 18, 1970) gathered 40,000 cubic
feet of litter from along Vermont's highways and roads. An estimated 90% of the litter
consisted of bottles and cans. The respective merits of returnable bottles, enhanced re-cycling,
and tougher littering laws were debated as was the question of who should pay for the different
solutions. Governor Davis called for a report on a bottle bill, which he received in December
The first bottle bill, H. 100, was introduced in 1971.
Defining the scope of the bill became quite contentious: should it cover all food and drink containers
or just those for beer and carbonated drinks, the major source of roadside litter.
H. 100 did not pass the House until March 26th on an 88 to 45 vote. It then went to the
Senate Natural Resources Committee which, despite pressure from Governor Davis and other
supporters, failed to act on the bill.
Numerous supporters of the bill expressed their disappointment to Governor Davis, including
town officials from Georgia and Carl Buffum of Calais. Governor Davis, in turn, expressed his
disappointment to Senator Arthur Jones,
the chair of Senate Natural Resources, who was accused of sitting on the bill.
In January 1972 Senate Natural Resources held a
hearing on H. 100 and then passed its version of the bill. After three conference committees failed
to produce a version that the House and
Senate could approve, H. 100 died.
An alternative bill, H. 407, was then
introduced. It also was contentious but this time when the bill reached the senate it was quickly
maneuvered out of the natural resources committee and put on the calendar. It then passed. The
limits of a bottle bill were recognized and even as the battles raged on H. 100 and H. 407, a
larger proposal addressing solid
waste management in general appeared in January 1972.
The documents for this spotlight on records are drawn from the Governor Deane C. Davis Records,
Record Series A-181, Box A181-00023; the Legislative Committee Records,
Record Series A-116, Boxes A116-00041 and A116-00043) House and Senate Natural Resources Committees);
Original Acts, SE-005,Box SE005-00062; and
Legislative Council Bill files. H. 100; 1971-72 (under the control of
the Legislative Council).
Rural Health After the War, July 1944
1 V.S.A. § 315 states that "all people . . . have a right to privacy in their personal and
economic pursuits, which ought to be protected unless specific information is needed to
review the action of a governmental officer." There is no further elaboration of a right to
privacy in the open meeting/open record provisions of Title 1.
Vermont, like the federal and other state governmetns, created laws guaranteeing the right
to inspect and copy public records following the Watergate scandal and resignation of
President Richard Nixon in 1974. At the same time federal and state governments became
concerned with the protection of the growing volume of personal information contained in
In October 1974, the Committee on Administrative Coordination presented a reprot to Governor
Tom Salmon on "
Confidentiality, Privacy and the Security of Information." Its reccomendations
were incorporated into
Senate Bill 33 of 1975. The bill died in
committee, leaving our right to privacy largely undefined.
The Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, circa 1932
As World War II moved to its last bloody stages the Vermont Rural Policy
Committee began to plan for post-war Vermont. One issue that attracted
their attention was “the development of adequate health and medical
facilities in Vermont after the war.” The Committee examined what health
services were needed, “how medical and hospital care can be made available
to all,” and how to provide for these services. County sub-committees
looked a wide range of health-related issues, including “socialized medicine.”
The results of their work were published in the
“Report of the Fourth Meeting
of the Vermont Rural Policy Committee.”
(The Vermont Rural Policy Committee records, including the Report, can be
found in Record Series PRA-063
, Commissioner of Agriculture records, 1933-1961, Box PRA-00301.)
Also in the folder for the Rural Policy Committee is a report on
“A Social Security Program for Rural Vermont,”
produced by a sub-committee chaired by long term Vermont Farm Bureau leader Arthur Packard. The
report weaves Christian ideals with the belief that “in no true democracy should any substantial
portion of the human personality be forced to live weighted down” by the fear “of want and of
insecurity.” While the report envisions a broad social safety net it also addresses health care in
post-war Vermont. Preventive care is addressed in both reports, including the role of good nutrition.
The folder also includes the
“Nutrition Report For Vermont Post-War Planning.”
Vermont Emergency Relief Administration
On March 17, 2009 Governor Douglas, along with Governor Patrick of Massachusetts and
White House representatives, held a regional White House forum on health care reform
at the University of Vermont. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Burlington was also
the site for a national look at health care and its costs. From 1926 to 1932 the Rockefeller
Foundation helped fund the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care. Vermont, as a typical
rural state in the eyes of the Committee, was surveyed on how health care was provided and
paid for. A summary
of the survey can be found in the records of the Vermont Commission on Country Life (PRA-005). The Country Life Commission
went on to consider
a Canadian health care plan as one possible solution to costs (see the
June 2005 Voice From the Vault.) See also the 1933 national report of the
Costs of Medical Care.
Governor's Commission on Environmental Control
State government is currently exploring the impact and potential projects associated
with the federal stimulus package. Over seventy years ago Vermont also implemented
programs associated with federal stimulus opportunities, those of the New Deal.
The Vermont State Archives and Records Administration holds the records of some of
these New Deal programs in Vermont. The records of the Vermont Emergency Relief
for example, provide information on the scope of relief projects launched around the
state. A folder marked “Woman’s Division”
includes records outlining “manual” and “professional” jobs created under VERA.
Governor's Commission on Vermont's Future
Governor Deane Davis' Executive Order
number 7, May, 1969, created the Governor's Commission on Environmental Control. The
commission, known as the Gibb Commission, was chaired by Representative Arthur Gibb. From
the Gibb Commission final report came
the framework of Act 250 (1970), the landmark legislation created to control irresponsible
development in Vermont. In November 1970, an
analysis was done on the initial Act 250 process in terms of number of permit applications,
number processed, etc. (See the records of Governor Deane Davis, Box 3A, Folder 3,
for additional records on the commission. The copy of the final report and the
November 1970 analysis is located in the reference file under "Act 250".)
Government on Government
The Vermont Governor’s Commission on Vermont’s Future was established by Governor Kunin
by Executive Order No. 50 in 1987. The purpose of the commission, also known as the Costle
Commission, was to “assess the concerns of Vermont citizens on the issue of growth, to
establish guidelines for growth, and to suggest mechanisms to help plan Vermont’s future.”
The commission issued its final report, Report
of the Governor’s Commission on Vermont’s Future: Guidelines for Growth, in January 1988.
The Vermont Growth Management Act, Act 200 of 1988, was passed in response to the commission’s
recommendations. (See Record Series
Governor's Commission on Vermont's Future records, and Record Series
Kunin’s records, for materials relating to the commission.)
Little Hoover Commission
Currently the Joint Legislative Government Accountability Committee is looking at the
various functions of government. Such studies are common in times of economic uncertainty.
In 1977, Governor Snelling issued an executive order establishing the Vermont Council
for Effective Government. The council organized a task force called the Governor’s Cost
Control Council which was charged with studying the efficiency of state government; the
council issued a report
with its recommendations in July 1977. (See Governor Snelling's records,
A-184, for materials relating to the council.)
The Blue Ribbon Commission on State Government Performance and WorkforceNeeds was established
by executive order in 1998. The executive order implemented section 272a of No. 147 of the Acts
of 1998. The commission was charged with recommending a five-year state workforce plan designed
to increase the efficiency of state government while controlling costs. The commission produced
summary and appendices
in December 1998. (See Governor Dean's records,
Record Series A-187,
for materials relating to the commission.)
For another report on state government, see the Little Hoover Commission, featured below.
Vermont and the Dred Scott Decision
By 1957 there were fears that government had grown too unwieldy and inefficient. There
was no way to project revenue, track expenses, or even understand the basis of department
appropriations. There were over a hundred independent departments, boards, and commissions
whose missions and productivity were unknown. While the governor had to sign all personnel
changes for each employee, no one knew precisely how many employees there
were or how many positions were vacant.
Act 283 of 1957 appropriated $35,000 to fund a commission to study state government. The
act was modeled after similar efforts in other states, collectively known as "Little
Hoover Commissions" after a study of the federal government headed by former
President Herbert Hoover. The Vermont Commission (also know as the Commission to Study
State Government) was headed by Deane C. Davis of National Life. The Commission issued its
final report to
the General Assembly in January 1959. The 1959 legislature reorganized state government,
incorporating many of the recommendations of the Commission.
The Preamble to the Vermont Constitution, 1777
On March 6, 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that people of
African descent could never be citizens of the United States. According to the Court
the drafters of the U.S. Constitution believed African-Americans as “beings of an
inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social
or political relations…”
The Dred Scott decision mobilized abolitionists and marked a significant step in the
collapse of political dialogue that led to the Civil War. In Vermont, whose 1777
Constitution not only prohibited slavery but also based citizenship solely on age and
gender (not race or property qualifications), there were questions on Dred Scott’s
impact. In an 1857 letter
to Vermont Secretary of State Charles Willard, J.J. Grindale of Baltimore asked whether,
in Vermont, since “both white and coloured vote because they are men, the
question of citizenship is not important…” (Manuscript Vermont State Papers, Vol. 95 Page 181.)
The Vermont Legislature indirectly responded to Grindale’s letter through
Act 37 of 1858 that declared, in part,
that: “Neither descent, near or remote, from an African, whether such African is or may
have been a slave or not, nor color of skin or complexion, shall disqualify any person
from being, or prevent any person from becoming, a citizen of this State, nor deprive
such person of the rights and privileges thereof.”
Commission to Investigate State Institutions, 1904-1906.
The July 1777 constitutional convention, which met at Windsor, created the State of Vermont
through adoption of a state constitution. Ira Allen was instructed to draft a
preamble to the Constitution which he completed
by November 1777. A second Windsor convention adopted the preamble as part of the
Constitution in December 1777.
The preamble was similar to the 1776 Declaration of Independence of the United States in that
it set out grievances that in the eyes of Vermonters violated the social contract (Vermont’s
grievances addressed not only Great Britain, but also the State of New York, which claimed
Vermont). Therefore Vermont reverted to a state of nature, free to adopt a new governance
charter. The opening of the preamble declared that ”…whenever those great ends of government are
not obtained, the people have a right, by common consent, to change it, and take such measures
as to them appear necessary to promote their safety and happiness.”
The preamble was continued by the Vermont Constitution of 1786 but, following statehood in 1791,
was dropped from the 1793 Vermont Constitution.
A typescript of the 1777 Constitution, with preamble, can be found at:
Record Series PRA-077
The Governor's Task Force on Wood as a Source of Energy, 1975.
The Commission was created by Act 163 of 1904 and was charged with investigating the "state
hospital for the insane" and in the commission’s "discretion" the state prison, house of
corrections, and industrial school. PRA-077 consists of the Commission’s hearing transcripts
on the state prison.
This series has it all: sex, drugs, possible malfeasance, and bureaucratic infighting. The
transcripts include insights into daily life within the prison; for example, how many plugs
of tobacco were provided prisoners since chewing but not smoking was allowed. They also include
allegations that the prison warden put family members on the payroll without specific duties
and misappropriated prison supplies for his personal use. There is discussion of the smuggling
of morphine into the prison and on inappropriate sexual relations between prison officers,
staff and prisoners. Many of the transcripts focus on such relationships with Mary Rogers
who was awaiting execution for murdering her husband. The series is a rich resource for any
one researching the state prison or the Mary Rogers case (Mrs. Rogers was the second, and last,
woman executed by the State of Vermont).
Vermont Commission to Investigate the Taxation of Public Utilities, 1931-1932
The Task Force was created by Governor Thomas P. Salmon on May 24, 1974 in response to the
energy crisis occasioned by the 1973 oil embargo launched by the Organization of Oil
Producing Countries (OPEC). The Task Force records and
report, issued August 14, 1975, can be found
records of Governor Thomas Salmon (Box BBB, Folder 520 and Box DDD, Folder 534).
The report looked at Vermont's renewable wood supply, the economic impact of increased
reliance on wood-based energy, and the environmental impact of wood energy.
An interesting point of comparison is offered by the June 21, 2007 study by the Biomass
Energy Resource Center entitled: The Vermont Wood Fuel Supply Study; an Examination of
the Availability and Reliability of Wood Fuel for Biomass Energy in Vermont. The study
was conducted for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the
Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services. It can be accessed, as of
July 9, 2007, at the Biomass Energy Resource Center website at:
(Record Series PRA-007
The Commission was created by Joint Resolution No. 304 of 1931. The series consists of
public testimony, financial information from public utilities, and studies on utility
taxation. The Commission's report was
issued in 1933. Within the series are three maps
showing different views of the distribution of electricity in Vermont. For more
information on the Commission's records see the Archives'
Record Series Database.