New exhibit explores crunchy piece of Vermont history

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:40 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A museum in Montpelier is paying tribute to a crunchy snack that’s made in Vermont. The Common Cracker exhibit opened Thursday at the Vermont History Museum.

The Vermont Country Store still makes them. But that’s compared to the 10 or so bakeries all over Vermont that used to turn them out in the 19th century.

It all started with the invention of machinery to make crackers. That started a whole industry back in 1835.

By 1884, 10 bakeries across the state figured out how to make them including Cross in Montpelier and Beach’s in Burlington.

They’re described by the exhibit as oyster crackers on steroids. Made of flour, yeast, leaf lard, salt, baking soda and water-- they were the least expensive crackers of the 19th century.

They were a staple in most Vermont homes.

“There’s a really neat story here and that is of the bakery out west that stole the baker from out east to duplicate the cracker. But they couldn’t duplicate it, it just didn’t come out right. And that’s because they didn’t have the Montpelier water,” said George Edson of the Montpelier Historical Society.

Many Vermonters used to enjoy these crackers on a Sunday evening, in a bowl with milk.

While they’re not known for their expansive flavor profile, there is a lot to be said for these pieces of Vermont history.

Historian George Edson’s family used to make the crackers. Watch the video below to see my full conversation with him.

There’s a reception for the new exhibit on the cracker at the Vermont History Museum on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 pm. The exhibit will remain open for viewing until January 2023.

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