I have a whooper of a tale to tell you about a promotion to “sell New Hampshire.”
This award was a 1950s brainstorm of Governor Hugh Gregg of New Hampshire. Recipients would receive an “Honorary Whooper” certificate, bestowing upon them an honorary citizenship of New Hampshire, and thereby allowing them to “Whoop it up for the Greatest of All States.”
In addition, Gov. Gregg also asked the state’s regular citizens to help boost New Hampshire agriculture, recreation and industry, by celebrating “Whooper Week.”
Starting in 1953 and running through 1955, an annual banquet was held. Reportedly the first banquet was a bit rowdy, with gentleman’s neckties being cut, and some “whooping and hollering” going on. The second banquet, held in April of 1954, hosted General Douglas MacArthur. Although not making many public appearances at the time, MacArthur appeared through the intercession of Bayard Pope (of Contoocook), father of Gregg’s administrative assistant, Alan N. Pope. Both MacArthur and Pope served on the board of directors of Remington Rand, with MacArthur as then chairman of the board.
The first recipient of the “Whooper Award,” of April 1953, was Henry Follansbee Long, who retired as Massachusetts tax commissioner. According to an article in the Portsmouth Herald, Mr. Long had publicly fought against the low-tax cigarettes and liquor available in New Hampshire. “The battle of the butts and bottle by which he sought to capture the tax bounty widely publicized the low NH tax. For such service to the Granite State”…he received the first award.
In December 1953 Gov. Gregg appeared on television with Arthur Godfrey, promoting “Whooperism.” New Hampshire’s famous Chesterfield Bridge had been used as a tie-in with a Chesterfield cigarette Christmas carton on Godfrey’s show. In response Gregg presented Godfrey with a replica of the Chesterfield Bridge, and a deed making him an owner. Reportedly he also received a Whooper Award.
Other recipients of the “Whooper Award” include:
– 1953/1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower (for his fishing skill in New Hampshire) and Vice President Richard Nixon, John H. Griffin, and Wayne E. Richards.
– 1954 – George N. Craig of Law offices of Craig, Summers & OHara in Washington DC,
and Carl Stephens Ell (the 2nd President of Northeastern University.
– January 1954: Nelson Maynard of Georgia, president of the Petroleum Retailers
– February 1954: Miss Bertha S. Adkins of Washington DC, assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee, former dean of women at Western Maryland and Bradford colleges
– February 1954: Carl DeSuze, a plaque for outstanding work in selling the vacation possibilities of New Hampshire.
– April 1954: Harold Ley, a New York City construction engineer and summer resident of NH for 30 years. Ley was praised for the work he has done during the previous eight years towards beautifying roadsides. Annually he has contributed $1,000 for a roadside beautification contest and has promised to continue underwriting the contest for another five years.
– June 1954: Arnold A. Schiffman of Greensboro, N.C., president of the American National Retail Jewelers’ Association.
– August 1954: Maria M. Rocha, New Hampshire’s 77th honorary “Whooper” and runner-up in the Miss Universe Contest at Hollywood.
– September 1954: Concert singer James Melton and Jay R. Moody of Newport RI president of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America
– September 1954: Louis Calder, nationally known philanthropist and holder of many honorary titles throughout the world
One newspaper stated, “A Whooper is the Granite State’s counterpart of a Kentucky “Colonel,” or an “Admiral” in the Nebraska navy. Hugh Gregg himself said, “There are those who ridicule ‘Whooperism.’ They have referred to the ‘Whooper’ program as adolescent, undignified, stupid and purposeless. Yet is is part of our whole successful effort for the further development of agriculture, recreation and industry.” “It is only by such planned publicity that we can effectively call the attention of outsiders to the joy of living, working and playing in this, the best of all states.” The governor urged the legislature to join him in an aggressive campaign “to sell New Hampshire.”
Despite reassurances by Governor Gregg that the banquets would continue, after Hugh Gregg left office, they ceased being held, and the “awards” were no longer given out.