Two US presidents, both of whom assumed office upon the death of their predecessors, were born in Vermont. Chester Alan Arthur (1829–86) became the 21st president after James A. Garfield's assassination in 1881 and finished his term. A machine politician, Arthur became a civil-service reformer in the White House. Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), 28th president, was born in Plymouth Notch but pursued a political career in Massachusetts. Elected vice president in 1920, he became president on the death of Warren G. Harding in 1923 and was elected to a full term in 1924.
Other federal officeholders have included Matthew Lyon (1750–1822), a US representative imprisoned under the Sedition Act and reelected from a Vergennes jail; Jacob Collamer (1791–1865), who, after serving three terms in the US House, was US postmaster general and then a US senator; Justin Smith Morrill (1810–98), US representative and senator who sponsored the Morrill tariff in 1861 and the Land Grant College Act in 1862; Levi Parsons Morton (1824–1920), Benjamin Harrison's vice president from 1889 to 1893; George Franklin Edmunds (1828–1919), a US senator who helped draft the Sherman Antitrust Act; Redfield Proctor (1831–1908), secretary of war, US senator, state governor, and the founder of a marble company; John Garibaldi Sargent (1860–1939), Coolidge's attorney general; Warren Robinson Austin (1877–1963), US senator and head of the US delegation to the UN; and George David Aiken (1892–1984), US senator from 1941 to 1977.
Important state leaders were Thomas Chittenden (1730–97), leader of the Vermont republic and the state's first governor; Ethan Allen (1738–89), a frontier folk hero, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, and presenter of Vermont's claim to independence to the US Congress in 1778; Ira Allen (1751–1814), the brother of Ethan, who led the fight for statehood; Cornelius Peter Van Ness (b.New York, 1782–1852), who served first as Vermont chief justice and then as governor; and Erastus Fairbanks (1792–1864), a governor and railroad promoter.
Vermont's many businessmen and inventors include Thaddeus Fairbanks (1796–1886), inventor of the platform scale; Thomas Davenport (1802–51), inventor of the electric motor; plow and tractor manufacturer John Deere (1804–86); Elisha G. Otis (1811–61), inventor of a steam elevator and elevator safety devices; and Horace Wells (1815–48), inventor of laughing gas. Educator John Dewey (1859–1952) was born in Burlington. Donald James Cram (1919–2001), a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles, was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1987.
Robert Frost (b.California, 1874–1963) maintained a summer home near Ripton, where he helped found Middlebury College's Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He was named poet laureate of Vermont in 1961. In 1992, Louise Gluck (b.1943) became the first Vermont woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. A famous Vermont performer is crooner and orchestra leader Rudy Vallee (Hubert Prior Rudy Vallee, 1901–1986).