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Haverhill, we never knew you

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  July 2, 2013 09:16 AM

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It didn't make the best-seller list but this past May saw the publication of a title with standing in its own right: the "Haverhill, Massachusetts Trivia Book."

The book was originally produced in 1988 and was recently updated by authors E. Philip Brown and Pat Garwich in collaboration with students at Haverhill High School (home of the "Hillies"). In an objective sense, the trivia is probably only of interest to only a small circle of people. But, the book is delightful on a larger scale as an index of a place (described in the introduction as "an enterprising and uncommonly beautiful city, noted for the manufacture of boots and shoes") and a representation of how small facts and minor superlatives take on bigger meaning when they pertain to where you're from.

For instance, "Haverhill was referred to, but mispronounced, in the 2006 series finale of which popular NBC TV show?" If you're older than 20- and you're from Haverhill- you probably remember the slight like it was yesterday and have since sworn off reruns of The West Wing. There are also many trivia questions about Haverhill's most famous son, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier (or just "John" as perhaps he's known along the Merrimack), standard almanac type questions about geography and demographics, and a fun section called "Locate the Scenes from Haverhill."

Most people may not be in a position to care who the first fire chief in Haverhill was (Ezekial Hale, 1841-1845) or "What is the name of Howard Sterns' [sic] first wife who was from Haverhill?" (Alison Berns), but the world feels more accommodating to know that someone does.

You can browse the book here.

Image of Haverhill courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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