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Old Man of the Mountain

Reverse of the New Hampshire state quarter.

In the United States, the Old Man of the Mountain, also known as the great stone face, was a series of five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that, when viewed from the correct angle, appeared to be the jagged profile of a face. The profile was 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide.

On May 3, 2003, despite many attempts through the years to keep it together, the formation collapsed to the ground. Centuries of wind, snow, and rain, as well as freezing and thawing cycles finally caught up with the profile.

Such formations are common around the world, including the famous Napoleon's Nose, in the hills north of Belfast. This one is famous largely because of statesman Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire native, who once wrote: "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

The profile, which was 1,200 feet above Profile Lake, was New Hampshire's state symbol for decades. It was put on the state's license plate, state highway-route signs, and on the back of the state quarter, which is popularly promoted as the only U.S. coin with a profile on both sides. It could be seen from special viewing areas along Interstate 93 in Franconia Notch State Park, where many visitors began leaving flowers after the profile collapsed. The park is located approximately 65 miles north of Concord, New Hampshire.

The formation was carved by glaciers approximately 10,000 years ago and was first discovered by colonial settlers around 1805. For nearly the entire 20th century until it collapsed, cables and spikes had been in place to hold the granite slabs together along with cement and epoxy filling its large cracks.

Governor Craig Benson announced that former Governor Steve Merrill would lead a task force to examine the possibilities of restoring the rock formation. Some residents called for rebuilding the profile at the original site, while others said a memorial nearby would be more appropriate.

Timeline of the Old Man

Hasan ibn Sabbah, the leader of the Hashshashin, was known as "The Old Man of the Mountain" in Europe.