Holds the distinction for being the First-In-The-Nation voter for every U.S. presidential primary election from 1964 to 2000, and every general election from 1960 to 2000. Also, the inventor of the cat head-shaped balloon.
Mr. Neil Tillotson
From a historic page from the Library & Archives of New Hampshire's Political Tradition
NH Political Library
We are sorry to acknowledge the death of the legendary Mr. Neil Tillotson on October 17th, 2001 in his beloved North Country home at 102 years of age. We extend our condolences to his family and friends and join them in celebrating his life.
Neil Tillotson was referred to as "The Wizard of Dixville Notch" by New England Business Magazine. Their appellation does not begin to identify the eminent man who was New Hampshire's quintessential Horatio Alger. Though born across the river in Vermont, we claimed him as one of our own. Humble and self effacing, the self-styled "kid from Beecher Falls" built and operated international businesses, becoming one of New Hampshire's most successful and revered entrepreneurs. He was a stalwart supporter of the North Country, with the same granite strength of the Old Man of the Mountains.
From the myriad of his achievements, there's one priceless record no one will ever cap: Neil Tillotson, Moderator of Dixville, cast the first vote in the nation in every presidential primary and general election since 1964.
Dixville, a small, unincorporated place which has the honor to be First in the Nation will continue its oft challenged tradition, and will undoubtedly never forget its revered and respected elder statesman who was such an important part of New Hampshire's political fabric.
Dixville Notch Continues the Tradition
At Town Meeting in March of 2002, one of the items on the agenda was to determine who would carry on in Mr. Tillotson's place. Mr. Tillotson's son, Tom Tillotson, was nominated to the position of town moderator by unanimous vote. In the words of Steve Barba, President of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel:
"It was felt by all that continuing the Tillotson lineage in this position was appropriate. Tom regularly wears a bowtie just as his dad did-so the classic image of a Tillotson poised near the ballot box, dressed in a bowtie, with his arm raised so that he can observe his watch for the stroke of midnight-that image will now continue for years to come.
Tom himself suggested that a random drawing be held to determine which citizen in town would be honored with the privilege of voting first. The town's people talked it over and decided that sometime on election eve a few hours before midnight a random drawing from the ballot box will be conducted by Mrs. Neil Tillotson to determine the honored first voter. We think the media will all be in place to cover this event, and they then will still have time to interview the person chosen about their thoughts on what it means to be the first person in America to vote.
As with all aspects of Dixville Notch's voting tradition, this event is intended to enhance the understanding that voting in America is a privilege and that each of us, as responsible citizens, should be proud to participate. Who votes and for whom one votes is not so important as the fact that we are privileged to vote."
And on ballooning history:
We did a New Year 2000 gig for a resort in the mountains of New Hamshire called The Balsams. This resort, complete with ski slope, is located on 15000 acres owned by Tillotson Rubber Company, the plant is on site and made balloons until recently when it moved operations to Fall River Ma. and formed a division called Dipco. We received a flyer on the history of it all and this is what it said about Neil Tillotson and his balloons:
At the age of 16, Tillotson secured a job at Hood Rubber Company in Boston and, returning there after a 2 year stint in the Seventh Calvary during World War I, he was the only one of 25 Hood chemists without a college degree. Yet his inventive talents earned him a place in new product development with Hood: and when the first shipment of raw latex reached Boston Harbor during the 1920's Tillotson began his lifelong association with the substance.
Hood's efforts with latex were unsuccessful at first, but Tillotson persevered on his own. At his Watertown home, he designed and produced a latex balloon with a cat's face and ears from a cardboard form which he cut buy hand with a pair of scissors. He managed to make his first sale of these balloons with an order of 15 gross to be delivered for the annual Patriots Day Parade on April 19, 1931. Tillotson put his family into production to meet the deadline while he continued his duties full time at Hood Rubber and worked at home in the evenings on the balloons.
Tillotson incorporated his latex business in 1931 and left Hood the following year. Depression tightened free money around Boston, so he bought an unlimited bus ticket which took him across the country in search of novelty company buyers for his new balloons. The great majority of those initial customers still buy balloons from Tillotson Rubber Company today. (Balloon division named Dipco)