The Many Hanovers

Last updated November 18, 2007



Shortly before I moved into my townhouse at the Village of Dorchester, I stopped by the local Safeway on Arundel Mills Boulevard. I was browsing the aisles when I came across a bag of Snyder's pretzels. It read "Snyder's of Hanover." Though I hadn't yet moved into the neighborhood, I was already feeling a sense of pride that my town was known for producing something. But as I looked at the bag more closely, I realized that the Hanover mentioned on the bag was actually Hanover, Pennsylvania. My bubble burst.

City names get recycled over and over again. In the case of Hanover, I'm guessing that the first was probably the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony, Germany. Hanover, Germany was already a fairly large town in the 13th century. But today, it has a population of over a half million and is home to Oktoberfest Hannover, the second largest Oktoberfest in the world (English speaking people tend to spell Hanover with one 'n' while Germans use two) [1]. Thinking of Oktoberfest makes me wonder if Hanover was really just a shortening of "hangover" though I don't imagine that is the case.

Hanover, Germany in rich in both history and culture. Unlike our own Hanover, Maryland, which may soon have its own roving off-duty police officer, the one in Germany had its own army, called the Hanoverian Army of Observation. Sixty percent of its forces came from Hanover, Germany. They were defeated during the Seven Years' War on July 26, 1757 at the Battle of Hastenbeck. This led to the occupation of Hanover by the French who eventually lost it to the British. The British gave the territory its own king, Ernest Augustus I, King of Hanover (1771-1851). Later, in 1866, Hanover was annexed by Prussia. Several years later, in World War II, two-thirds of Hanover was bombed to ruins. After the war, Hanover was in the British zone of occupation of Germany. Hence, it became part of the new state of Lower Saxony in 1946. Today, Hanover is a thriving metropolis. One very impressive fact about Hanover, Germany, is that the rock band known as the Scorpions are from Sarstedt, a small town just outside of Hanover [1].

A plethora of other Hanovers emerged after the one in Germany grew to significance.

In 1854, Hanover, South Africa was established on the North Cape Province. South African author and women's rights pioneer, Olive Schreiner, lived in Hanover from 1900 to 1907. She described Hanover as "...the prettiest village I have ever seen" [2].

Another Hanover is Hanover, Ontario which was first settled in 1894 by Abraham Buck [3]. This Hanover was home to former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Burns (1881-1955) [4].

Here in the states, probably the first Hanover was Hanover, Massachusetts which was first settled by the English in 1649. I say "probably" because the town remained unincorporated until 1727 so it is hard to say when the name became widely used [5].

Just a few years before Hanover, Massachusetts became incorporated, Hanover County, Virginia was created in 1720. Like the town in Massachusetts, the county was named for the Electorate of Hanover in Germany, because King George I of Great Britain was Elector of Hanover at the time. This Hanover was home to Patrick Henry, the patriot that said, "Give me liberty or give me death" [6].

In 1774, Hanover, Maine was settled by German immigrants. With only 251 people at their 2000 census, I'm guessing our Hanover, Maryland might be overtaking them in size [7].

In 1761, Hanover, New Hampshire was granted a charter by the Royal Governor of New Hampshire. In 1769, Dartmouth College was established in this town which considerably increased its economic and cultural development. In addition to scholars, this town is also significant to many outdoor enthusiasts. Anyone who has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) has surely passed through Hanover, New Hampshire. Folks who haven't walked the AT but instead may be thinking about hiking it, might have read A Walk in the Woods, a famous book by Hanover, New Hampshire native, Bill Bryson [8][9].

Mentioning the history of some of the various Hanovers brings me back to Hanover, Pennsylvania. Learning about the history of this area was not easy. What I found is that it was undeveloped until 1763 then claimed by both Maryland and Pennsylvania. The border was hotly contested until the British government stepped in and hired two engineers, Mason and Dixon, to survey the land. During the Civil War, a battle was fought at Hanover, Pennsylvania which delayed Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry from joining General Robert E. Lee's forces at Gettysburg. Supposedly, this delay helped the Union forces achieve victory at this turning point in the war [10].

Today, Hanover, Pennsylvania is known primarily for its snack foods. It has been called the "snack food capitol" since it is home to both Utz and Snyders. If you like your chips and pretzels REALLY fresh, this is the place to be [11].

     Snack food from Hanover, Pennsylvania

After moving to Hanover, Maryland in January 2007, I became more aware of the other Hanovers...and not just cities or counties.

On August 6, 2007, I visited the Shelburne Museum in Vermont where I photographed an old Hanover Fire Insurance Company calendar. Note that it is dated 1915.

     Hanover Fire Insurance Calendar

On November 17, 2007, I was biking on the York County Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania and passed a place known as Hanover Junction which was a key stop in transporting wounded Civil War soldiers after the battle of Gettysburg.

     Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania

Now that I'm taking note of the other Hanovers, I'm sure I will see many in my future travels.

Hanover, Maryland does not have a rich history. To the best of my knowledge, there were no great battles fought on our hometown soil, no multi-state trails pass through, our town did not contribute to the stardom of any famous rock bands, our city has no famous authors, patriots, or boxers, and Hanover, Maryland is virtually unknown to the snack food world. But our fine city is still young and though our boundaries keep us from growing much larger, we have some fine communities that are home to good, hard-working people with great potential. Only time will tell what lies ahead.

[1] Wikipedia: Hanover, Germany

[2] Wikipedia: Hanover, North Cape

[3] Wikipedia: Hanover, Ontario

[4] Wikipedia: Tommy Burns (boxer)

[5] Wikipedia: Hanover, Massachusetts

[6] Wikipedia: Hanover County, Virginia

[7] Wikipedia: Hanover, Maine

[8] About the Town of Hanover

[9] Wikipedia: Hanover, New Hampshire

[10] York County History: This website no longer exists as of 2016.

[11] Hanover: Snack Food Capital. This link no longer exists as of 2014.