Between 1842 and 1873, the town was home to four glass manufacturers. The glass produced by these works, now known as Stoddard glass, is noted for its deep amber colors and design. Stoddard glass products are highly prized by collectors.
This territory was first granted in 1752 to Colonel Sampson Stoddard of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and others as Monadnock Number 7. It was known locally as Limerick before being incorporated as Stoddard in 1774, in honor of Colonel Stoddard.
Colonel Stoddard was appointed to survey southwestern New Hampshire by the colonial government, receiving several land grants for the service. One of his surveying assistants was Benjamin Pierce, father of U.S. President Franklin Pierce. Colonel Stoddard never lived in the town of Stoddard.
The town was first settled in 1768 by John and Martha Taggart, immigrants from Derry, Ireland. Three years later, the Richardson family joined the Taggarts in Stoddard. By 1774, the town had 24 residents.
The first census taken in Stoddard, in 1790, reported 701 residents. The town's first schoolhouses were built in 1792. The first post office was established in 1822; Isaac Duncan was the first Postmaster.
In 1800, Stoddard's 1,148 residents outnumbered those of the nearby county seat of Keene. During Stoddard's glass-manufacturing years, 800 people were employed by the industry. After the Stoddard glass industry ended in the early 1870s, the town's population declined; by 1960, the census recorded 146 residents. , the town had 1,232 residents.
Between 1840 and 1873, Stoddard was a center of glass manufacturing, home to four glass factories whose products are prized by collectors today. The town's abundant forests fed the industry's need for the temperatures necessary to melt sand into glass. Stoddard also had plenty of clear, fine sand. The sand's trace minerals gave Stoddard glass its unique hues: manganese produced the olive green and amber colors most closely associated with Stoddard glass, and oxide of gold created a red-amber glass.
The glass houses were located in two settlements within Stoddard: Joseph Foster's and the South Stoddard Glass Company were located in South Stoddard, which was located near the present-day intersection of state Routes 9 and 123. The Granite Glass Company and the New Granite Glass Works were located in Mill Village, near the present town center.
Among the wide variety of glass pieces turned out by the glass houses were Masonic flasks, containers for liquor and patent medicines, and bottles for mineral water bottled in Saratoga Springs, New York. However, the fame of Stoddard glass does not come primarily from these commercial items, but from the "off-blown" pieces made by glassblowers at the end of the workday using leftover glass. These items, sometimes called "whimseys", could be anything desired by the glassblower, and were the property of the glassblower.
Several factors led to the demise of Stoddard's glass industry in the early 1870s. Other manufacturers had mastered the chemistry needed to create clear glass in quantity; gas and coal were now viable fuels for glassworks, eliminating the need for nearby forests; and improvements in mechanical manufacturing techniques made hand-blown glass economically unviable. The silica in Stoddard's sand prevented its use in making clear glass, which was in high demand after it became viable for bottles and glassware following the Civil War.