Happy 150th Birthday, Jessica Swift!

four senior ladies sitting at a table
Jessica Swift seated second from left at the Bicentennial Picnic, Middlebury, Village Green 1976. Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, Vermont

September 17, 2021 is the 150th birthday of Anna Jessica Stewart Swift who lived in the Main House of the inn for most of her 110 years.

Jessica and her family moved into this house in 1876. The family included her father former Vermont governor (1870-1872) John Stewart, mother Elizabeth Battell Stewart, sister Elizabeth, brother Philip, and twin-brother Robert.

Jessica Swift was a committed philanthropist, particularly after the death of her husband, Charles Swift (grandson of the original owner of the house) in 1929—months before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. If you ever visit Newfoundland, know that our Jessica significantly contributed to improved healthcare in this remote Canadian province through the auspices of the Grenfell Foundation, championed by physician Sir Wilfred Grenfell.

Jessica witnessed incredible change during the parade of human history that was her lifetime. Ulysses S. Grant was President when she moved into Swift House and Ronald Reagan was finishing his first year at the time of her passing on January 2, 1982.

Here are just a few of the noteworthy events that happened in the month of September, Jessica’s birth month, throughout the century of her long life.

September 17, 1900 – William Jennings Bryan accepts Democratic nomination for U.S. President.

September 8, 1906 – The automatic carriage return for the typewriter is invented.

September 9, 1912 – The airplane achieves record speed of 107 mph.

September 8, 1927 – British television inventor John Laird sends his own image between two U.K. cities.

September 18, 1928 – Bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers mold that forms basis for penicillin.

September 1, 1939 – Beginning the war in Europe, German troops march into Poland.

September 2, 1945 – Japan surrenders to the Allies.

September 6, 1956 – Sturgis, Kentucky: National Guard with fixed bayonets confronts White civilians in order to open schools for twelve Black students.

September 23, 1966 – Lyndon B. Johnson signs minimum wage bill of $1.60 an hour.

September 2, 1972 – Munich: The Black September faction of the Palestinian Liberation Army kill eleven Israeli Olympic athletes.

September 7, 1977 – President Carter signs Panama Canal Treaty transferring future control of Canal Zone in 1999.

September 18, 1978 – Camp David Accords conclude with Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, and President Carter.

By Tony Drapelick

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