Curious? Ask an Expert!

Most visitors leave the Museum of the White Mountains enlightened with more knowledge of the region than they had when they first walked into the exhibit.  Many visitors leave the museum inspired to learn more about the Whites and curious about the answer to specific questions.  Museum staff and museum affiliates are available to answer visitors’ questions and are happy to do so.  There are three ways to ask the museum:

Write your question down and post it to our in-gallery curiosity board.

Post your question to our Facebook page. Email museum staff with your query at

Answers will be posted to this page; some questions will be in their original format while others will be posed in a trivia-like way.  Check back often to satisfy your curiosity!

Q: What does “platy” mean when describing micas?

A: Platy has to do with the shape the mineral tends to take—something geologists call the mineral’s habit. Platy means plate-like, or flat in one dimension, thin in the other, like the pages of a book.

Q: What are the main differences between corrosion and degradation?

A: Corrosion is a term that’s usually used in reference to metals. It is a chemical process. In geology, the term degradation is used to describe the lowering of a land surface in a river environment. You may be thinking of the more general terms erosion and weathering. Weathering refers to the breakdown of rocks by physical or chemical means. Erosion refers to the removal and transport of rock materials by wind, water, or ice.

Q: What are the steps a geologist takes when identifying a specimen?

A: Identifying rocks and minerals can be both fun and challenging. To identify a rock, I look closely at its texture and features. Is it layered? Are there visible mineral grains? If so, do the grains interlock together like a granite or are they cemented together like in a sandstone? It can also be helpful to narrow down your options by reading about the area first—especially on a geologic map. There are systematic charts and kits that can help you with mineral identification. You look at properties including hardness, the way the mineral breaks, the angles of its crystal faces, and the color of the mineral when it is ground into powder.

Q: What is the “dirt/ earth” around a specimen called?

A: The technical term for soil, dust, and other material covering solid rock is regolith.

Q: What is the difference between a rock and a mineral?

A:  Rocks are made up of minerals. See below, excerpts from Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Sarah Garlick, National Geographic Society 2014 “Minerals are the solid substances that make up rocks. There are thousands of different minerals on Earth, some rare and valuable like diamond and gold, others, like quartz, as common as beach sand. Minerals are defined by a few specific characteristics: (1) they are solids, (2) they are naturally occurring, (3) they have an ordered atomic arrangement, and (4) they have a well-defined chemical composition.” “Most minerals exist as small, irregular grains within rocks. But occasionally you find isolated minerals with beautiful geometric shapes and smooth planar surfaces. These are crystals and they are the outward expressions of the internal atomic arrangement of the mineral. Crystals form when a mineral has sufficient time and room in which to grow.” “Rocks are the solid materials that make up the Earth. There are three basic types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. “ “Igneous rocks form when molten material, called magma, cools and solidifies.” “Sedimentary rocks form from the accumulation of sediments. The sediments can be preexisting minerals or rock fragments—collectively called clasts—that have been transported by wind, water, or ice, or they can be chemically precipitated or biologically generated in place, as with many types of limestones. “ “Metamorphic rocks form when preexisting rocks are transformed by heat and pressure, a process called metamorphism. Metamorphism involves physical and chemical changes that occur in the solid state—changes like the growth of new minerals, and the physical rotation or recrystallization of existing minerals. “

Q: What do Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks have to do with White Mountain history?

A: They are credited with discovering the Old Man of the Mountain.

Q: “Devil’s shingle” is another term for what item found on Mount Washington in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries?

A:  Slideboards.  The approximately three by one foot boards which fit over the cog rail on which Among the Clouds newspaper delivers would slide down Mount Washington to bring the new edition to the bottom of the mountain.

Q: What was Mount Eisenhower known as before its name was changed in 1972 to honor the United States’ 34th president?

A: Mount Pleasant.  There is still a Mount Pleasant Brook on the mountain today.

Q: Who is commonly credited with the phrase, “All weather is good weather, some’s just different” ?

A: Joe Dodge, manager of the AMC hut system from 1928 to 1959.

Q: How many miles of interconnecting trails make up the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachain Trail?

A: Variously described as between 2168 and 2200 miles. Most sources say 2181.

Q: What do William Oakes, Francis Boott, Edward Tuckerman, and Jacob Bigelow have in common?

A: They all were botanists who have extensively studied the plant life in the Alpine Gardens on Mount Washington.

Q:Fill in the blank: The word ______ has been translated to “Living at the Sunrise.”

A: Abenaki.

Q: Mount Agassiz is named after Swiss scientist Jean Louis Rudolph Agassiz. Agassiz was the first to report which detail on the history of the White Mountains?

A:Agassiz realized that the region of the White Mountains had, at one time, been covered by a continental glacier.

Q: Which White Mountains ski area’s name referrers to the Abenaki word for blueberries? And why?

A: It is said that a group of hikers came across many, many blueberry trees when hiking a mountain in present-day Bartlett during the 19th century. According to the story, the mountain the hikers were on became known as Attitash, the Abenaki word for “blueberry.”

Q:The Native American word “Agiocochook” refers to what?

A: Mount Washington.  Some translations for Agiocochook we’ve found are: “Place of the Storm Spirit,” or, “Home of the Great Spirit,” or, “the Place of the Great Spirit of the Forest.”

Q: What historic event happened in the White Mountains during the same year that the theaters in London were closed down by the Puritan government and scientist Isaac Newton was born?

A: Darby Field becomes the first person to climb Mount Washington, 1642.

Q: What was Thomas Starr King writing about when he penned, “…at Lancaster he looks humpbacked.  In Shelburne he appears heavy and dowdy.  From Bethlehem he shows grand height, but unsatisfactory form.”

A: Mount Washington

Q: Who are the four peaks (the summit, the two major subsidiary peaks, and one smaller peak) of Mount Adams named for?

A: The largest, center peak is named after John Adams, the second president of the United States.  The next largest is the peak named for John Quincy Adams, John’s son and the sixth president of the United States.  Finally, to the west is the peak named for Samuel Adams, known throughout New England as a “Brewer and Patriot.” And finally, the smaller peak was named in 2010 for Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, and mother of John Quincy Adams.

Q: Who penned the following phrase: “The God who made New Hampshire taunted the lofty mountains with little men.”

A: Ralph Waldo Emerson

A: He is known as the first European to have reported seeing the White Mountains from off the New England seacoast.  This was in 1524.

Q:  What was the length of the profile of the Old Man of the Mountain, from the top of the forehead to the point of the chin?

A: About 40 feet.

Q:  During what year was Jacob’s Ladder, a Mount Washington Railroad trestle, built?

A: 1868.

Q: What are the four major rivers of the White Mountains?

A: The Connecticut River is the largest, and drains about 3,600 square miles and is nearly 450 miles long.  The other three are The Merrimack River, The Androscoggin River, and the Saco. Q:  When was the first effort made to secure the Old Man of the Mountain’s profile to its parent rock? A: 1915.  The expert stone mason, Edward H. Geddes, spent 8 12-hour work days installing a system of turnbuckles and lewises in hopes of fastening the profile to the mountain.

Q:July 3, 1869 is an important date in Mount Washington’s history.  Why?

A:  It was when the first train reached Mount Washington’s summit successfully.

Q:  The locomotive Old Peppersass got its name because its upright boiler reminded people of a peppersauce bottle.  What was it originally christened as?

A:  Hero. Q: The image of the beloved “Old Man of the Mountain” is a widely recognizable symbol of New Hampshire.  His wasn’t the only profile in the White Mountains.  Can you name some of the other rock profiles throughout the region? A: Here are the ones we have come up with so far: Indian Head, Martha Washington, George Washington, Old Man of the Valley, Imp Face, Elephant’s Head, Lion’s Head…  If you think of more, please let us know!

Q:  When his grand resort hotel burned down in 1923, Karl Abbott decided not to rebuild and instead sold his property, which, in 1928, became part of The Franconia Notch Forest Reservation and Memorial Park.  Any idea which hotel we refer to?

A:  Profile House.  Although Abbott had first planned on rebuilding, his father convinced him that the site should become part of a state park.  The property sold for $400,000; half of the money coming from the State of New Hampshire, and the other half coming from The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Q: In 1880 Bethlehem had 24 hotels. How many guests do you guess they accommodated, total?

A: 1,450 guests could be accommodated in Bethlehem’s 24 hotels in 1880. Bethlehem had the most recorded number of hotels for any town in the White Mountains in 1880. To compare, Jackson had only 4 hotels accommodating 200 guests, total. Jefferson had eleven, accommodating 665 total guests.

Q: Do know which northern New Hampshire town was known as Chiswick when it was first chartered in 1764?

A: Littleton.  In 1770 the area was re-chartered as Apthorp. It wasn’t until 1784 that it became known as Littleton.

Q: Built in 1858 by the Trickey family, what was the first hotel to operate in Jackson?

A: The Jackson Falls House.  In 1885 it was determined that the Jackson Falls House was not big enough to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the area. The entire hotel was raised onto blocks in order to install a first floor underneath the original structure.  The Jackson Falls House was dismantled in 1971 and the last remaining part of the Jackson Falls House property, the Trickey Barn, was disassembled in 2008 to make room for a new town building. It was recently reassembled and is now the new home of the Jackson public library.

Q:  What was the name of the newspaper once printed in the Tip-Top House on Mount Washington from 1877 to 1884?

A:  Among the Clouds.  An established White Mountain photographer of his day, Henry M. Burt, was the original editor of Among the Clouds, which was originally published in the Tip-Top House from 1877 until 1884, when it moved into a new office in the Summit House on Mount Washington.  When Henry passed away in 1899 his son, Frank, took over publication of the paper until 1908, when the paper’s office burned.  Following the fire, publication was resumed by Reginald H. Buckler in temporary offices at the Mount Washington Base Station, however, this lasted only several seasons. Men would travel down Mount Washington on 3′ x 1′ “slideboards” at an average rate of 3 miles every 10 minutes to bring fresh editions of Among the Clouds to the base of the mountain!

Q: Originally the Oak Lee Ski Lodge and Barracks, then the Maple Cottage, what is the current name of this property in Jackson?

A: Purchased by the Mulkerns in the early 1950s, the property was turned into the Irish pub we know today, the Shannon Door!

A: The Honeymoon Bridge.  Spanning the Ellis River, it was built in 1876 by Charles A. and Frank Broughton.  The lovely bridge is said to have become known as the Honeymoon Bridge because of the tradition with newlyweds in Jackson having their picture taken by it.

Q: What does the Abenaki word, Pemigewasset mean?

A:  Rapidly moving.

Q: Who was the first man to ride a horse up Mount Washington…and how old was he?

A: The first man to ride a horse up Mount Washington was Able Crawford, known also as the, “Patriarch of the Mountains.” It was done in 1840 when he was seventy-five years old! His son, Tom, held the reins.

Q: Many years before the legendary Native American Chocorua had an influence on its name, the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range was known and recorded as what?

A: Conway Peak.