September 9, 2004

THINK BIGGER (via The Mother Judd):

Mount Reagan piques interest (Alex Beam, September 9, 2004, Boston Globe)

"Mount Reagan" is one of the White Mountains' best-kept secrets. Not one hiker I encountered during the trek here had any idea it existed. It is barely noticeable, like an impacted tooth between the majestic peaks of Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson.

But it does exist, thanks to the New Hampshire Legislature, which approved the name change last August. According to the website of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which is hoping to slap the Great Communicator's visage on the $10 bill (sayonara, Alexander Hamilton!) and on one-half of the country's dimes (farewell, FDR!), Mount Reagan is their only successful "dedication" in the six New England states. Our nation's capital renamed its airport; the Marshall Islands dedicated a ballistic missile defense test site. And New Hampshire threw in Mount Clay, named after the southern statesman Henry Clay, now Mount Reagan.

There's just one problem. No one calls it Mount Reagan. No signs call it Mount Reagan. The New Hampshire legislator who submitted the naming bill, Representative Kenneth Weyler, does call it Mount Reagan, and says he left a piece of paper at the top, under a cairn, reading "Welcome to Mount Reagan." The paper has vanished. But the US Forest Service sign clearly directs hikers to Mount Clay.

What gives? Well, just because the New Hampshire Legislature says something is so doesn't make it so. "There can only be one official name for a feature," Roger Payne, executive secretary of the US Board on Geographic Names, told me. (In an interview with Appalachia magazine, Payne said: "It would have been nice if it hadn't happened.") Only his board, part of the US Geological Survey, can officially change names. And the board considers name changes only after an eminento has been dead for five years. So Mount Clay it is.

President Reagan would likely have been appalled at the idea of bumping another American statesman just to add his name. There are plenty of features remaining in the country that could have been chosen instead--for instance, "grand" is likely not a proper name: how about the Reagan Canyon?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 9, 2004 7:53 AM

Why should we honor Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian, so extravagantly? The United States of Reagan would be more appropriate. He was, after all, an American Reaganite.

Posted by: pj at September 9, 2004 9:12 AM

An NJ Assemblyman of my acquaintance did file a bill to change the name of Clinton Township to Reagan Township, but it never got out of committee.

Posted by: Bart at September 9, 2004 10:11 AM


When I worked on the NJ gubernatorial the only town we carried was Roosevelt.

Posted by: oj at September 9, 2004 10:21 AM

Was that the ill-fated Shapiro for governor campaign?

Posted by: Bart at September 9, 2004 10:29 AM

It would be far more fun to rename Hollywood -- or at the very least, Beverly Hills -- after the former president, just to watch the reaction from the locals.

Posted by: John at September 9, 2004 10:32 AM

The Moon. What a drab boring name. Wouldn't it be more fun to say, "Is Reagan up yet?" or "What phase is Reagan in tonight?" We could even use lasers to etch his face on it.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 9, 2004 10:47 AM

Etching works for lunar day, although shaped atomic charges are more practical than lasers. For lunar night, we'll need to deposit radioisotope activted luminscent paint.

Posted by: Bigtime at September 9, 2004 12:27 PM

I still say "California" is a boring name, whereas I would pay money for a sweatshirt from the "University of Reagan at Berkely."

Posted by: David Cohen at September 9, 2004 3:18 PM
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