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  • Massachusetts State Symbols
  • Encyclopedia of Massachusetts Days
  • Legal Holidays in Massachusetts
  • Geography
  • Miscellaneous Massachusetts Facts

Massachusetts State Symbols


Massachusetts takes its name from the Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, who lived in the Great Blue Hill region, south of Boston. The Indian term supposedly means "at or about the Great Hill".

There are, however, a number of interpretations of the exact meaning of the word. The Jesuit missionary Father Rasles thought that it came from the word Messatossec, "Great-Hills-Mouth": "mess" (mass) meaning "great"; "atsco" (as chu or wad chu) meaning "hill"; and sec (sac or saco) meaning "mouth". The Reverend John Cotton used another variation: "mos" and "wetuset", meaning "Indian arrowhead", descriptive of the Native Americans hill home. Another explanation is that the word comes from "massa" meaning "great" and "wachusett", "mountain-place".

Massachusetts, like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, is called a "Commonwealth". Commonwealths are states, but the reverse is not true. Legally, Massachusetts is a commonwealth because the term is contained in the Constitution. In the era leading to 1780, when the state Constitution was ratified, a popular term for a whole body of people constituting a nation or state was the word "Commonwealth." This term was the preferred usage of some political writers. There also may have been some anti-monarchic sentiment in using the word "Commonwealth." The name, which in the eighteenth century was used to mean "republic", can be traced to the second draft of the state Constitution, written by John Adams and accepted by the people in 1780. In this second draft, Part Two of the Constitution, under the heading "Frame of Government", states, "that the people...form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state by the name of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts." The people had overwhelmingly rejected the first draft of the Constitution in 1778, and in that draft and all acts and resolves up to the time between 1776 and 1780, the name "State of Massachusetts Bay" had been used.

John Adams utilized this term when framing the Massachusetts Constitution, therefore. In his "Life and Works", Adams, wrote: "There is, however, a peculiar sense in which the words republic, commonwealth, popular state, are used by English and French writers, who mean by them a democracy, a government in one centre, and that centre a single assembly, chosen at stated periods by the people and invested with the whole sovereignty, the whole legislative, executive and judicial power to be included in a body or by committees as they shall think proper."


The Bay State or the Old Bay State is the nickname most commonly attached to Massachusetts. She is also occasionally referred to as the Old Colony State, the Puritan State, and the Baked Bean State.

State Seal
The State Seal, adopted by Governor John Hancock and the Council on December 13, 1780 and made official by the General Court on June 4, 1885.

The seal is circular and bears a representation of the arms of the Commonwealth encircled with the words, "Sigillum Reipublicae Massachusettensis" (Seal of the Republic of Massachusetts). The final form of the seal was determined by a statewide contest. The arms, according to legislative enactment, consist of "a shield having a blue field or surface with an Indian thereon, dressed in a shirt and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and, in the upper corner of the field, above his right arm, a silver star with five points. The crest is a wreath of blue and gold, on which in gold is a right arm, bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, with the hand grasping a broadsword". The shield's shape is called "Plantagenet"; the Native American model used was of the Algonquin nation; the arrow points downward to indicate that the Indian is peaceful; and the star indicates that Massachusetts was one of the original thirteen states; it was sixth. The sword illustrates the Latin motto that is written in gold on a blue ribbon around the bottom of the shield: "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem". This is the second of two lines written about 1659 by Algernon Sydney, English soldier and politician, in the Book of Mottoes in the King's Library in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress and means, "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty".

State Flag
The State Flag is white, bearing on both sides a representation of the coat of arms (except that the five-pointed star is white instead of silver). It was adopted in its final form in 1971; before that, the obverse side depicted a pine tree.

State Citizenry'
In December 18, 1990, the Legislature decided that the people of the Commonwealth would be designated as Bay Staters.

State Heroine
Deborah Samson (note: while "Sampson" is the generally used spelling, "Samson" has also been said to be correct and is the spelling used in the statute) fought in the War of Independence under the name of Robert Shurtleff (also spelled "Shurtliff" and "Shurtlieff") with courage, determination, and outstanding service, and rendered a unique contribution as a woman to American independence. Her masquerade remained undiscovered until she was wounded in battle. In later years, she travelled extensively, lecturing about her experiences, and a grateful nation gave her the first military pension ever awarded to a woman. The Governor annually issues a proclamation setting apart May 23 as an anniversary day to appropriately observe her enlistment in the Continental Army. The Legislature recognized her heroism on July 22, 1983.

State Folk Hero
Johnny Appleseed was designated the official folk hero of the Commonwealth on August 2, 1996. Appleseed was born John Chapman and lived from 1775(?)-1845. An American pioneer and hero of folklore, his planting of apple trees from New England to the Ohio River valley earned him his more popular name.

State Dog or Dog Emblem
The Boston Terrier (Canis familiaris bostenensis), first purebred dog developed in America (1869); a cross between an English bulldog and an English terrier. It was recognized by the Legislature in 1979.

State Cat or Cat Emblem
The Tabby Cat (Felis familiaris) was made the official state cat in 1988, in response to the wishes of the schoolchildren of Massachusetts.

State Horse or Horse Emblem
The Morgan Horse (Equus cabullus morganensis), descended from a little bay stallion born in West Springfield, MA, in 1789, who could outrun and outwork any horse brought against him. Named "Figure" by his owner, schoolteacher and singing master Justin Morgan, in later years he was known by his master's own name, "Justin Morgan". The gallant little horse died in Vermont in 1821 at the age of 32; the sturdy breed bearing his name was adopted as the state horse in 1970.

State Marine Mammal or Marine Mammal Emblem
The Right Whale (Eubabalena Glacialis) was so called because the flourishing whaling industry in Massachusetts found the cetacean the "right" whale to hunt, especially before 1750. Unfortunately, the large, slow-moving mammal, which is found nearer shore than many other whales, was hunted nearly to extinction and is only now rebuilding its population. The Legislature adopted the whale in March 1980.

State Bird or Bird Emblem
The Black-Capped Chickadee (Penthestes atricapillus) was adopted as the official State Bird by the Massachusetts Legislature on March 21, 1941. It is also known as the titmouse, tomtit, and the dickybird, and it is one of the most familiar of the North American birds. It is from four to five inches in size, its tail accounting for nearly half its length. The general coloring is ashy-grey, the back having a brownish tinge; the crown, nape, chin, and throat are black, and the cheeks white. It nests in a stump, tree, or fence post close to the ground, and broods twice a year. It is a cheerful bird and has a pleasing call: "Chick-adee-dee-dee".

State Game Bird or Game Bird Emblem
The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), which was eaten at the first Thanksgiving, was designated the state game bird on December 23, 1991.

State Fish or Fish Emblem
The Cod (Gadus morrhua). A soft-finned fish, usually 10-20 lbs. General coloring is olive grey with lateral lines paler than rest of body tint. Indians and Pilgrims used them as common food and fertilizer. A sculpture of a cod hangs in the House of Representatives as a tribute to this useful aquatic creature. For over 200 years, the emblem of the cod has remained a symbol of the Commonwealth's economic beginnings, as the fishing industry provided the Puritans with food, fertilizer, and revenue for trade.

State Insect or Insect Emblem
The Ladybug; also lady beetle, ladybird, ladyfly, etc. Most common in the state is the Two-Spotted Lady Beetle (Adalia bipunctata). Its head is black with pale yellowish margins; elytra reddish, with two black spots. Idea originated in 1974 with a second-grade class in the Town of Franklin.

State Fossil or Fossil Emblem
The Dinosaur Tracks in Massachusetts, which were made over 200 million years ago. In Granby, the prints of a theropod dinosaur fifty feet in length from head to tail (the first record of a theropod of such magnitude), were found. They were made the official fossil in 1980.

State Flower or Floral Emblem
The Mayflower (Epigaea regens), also commonly known as the ground laurel or trailing arbutus, has ovate hairy leaves and fragrant, pink or white, spring-blooming flowers with five petals. It grows in woods, preferring sandy or rocky soil, under or near evergreens. It was adopted as the official flower of the Commonwealth by the General Court on May 1, 1918. Unfortunately, since 1925 it has been on the endangered list.

State Tree or Tree Emblem
The American Elm (Ulmus Americana) was adopted as the official tree March 21, 1941, to commemorate the fact that General George Washington took command of the Continental Army beneath one on Cambridge Common in 1775. It is a large tree, with gray flaky bark. When growing in the forest it often attains a height of 120 feet, but in the open it is wide-spreading and of lesser height. The leaves are oval, and dark green, turning to a clear yellow in the autumn. The American Elm, like most elms, has been severely afflicted by Elm Disease.

State Beverage
Cranberry Juice was named the beverage of the Commonwealth on May 4, 1970. This was a tribute to the great Massachusetts cranberry industry, which grows the largest crop in the world.

State Berry or Berry Emblem
A fifth-grade class on the North Shore adopted the cause of making the Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) the official berry of the state. Their two years of lobbying, petitions, and hearings were finally rewarded in July of 1994.

State Bean or Bean Emblem
Cultivated plants and the colloquial names for them change over the centuries, but in 1993 the legislature finally determined that the Navy Bean had been the original bean in the famous and venerable Boston Baked Bean recipe.

State Muffin
The schoolchildren of Massachusetts petitioned for the Corn Muffin, a staple of New England cooking, and the Legislature made it official in 1986.

State Dessert
The Boston Cream Pie, created in the 19th century, was chosen as the official state dessert on December 12, 1996. A civics class from Norton High School sponsored the bill. The pie beat out other candidates, including the toll house cookie and Indian pudding.

State Donut

In 2003 the Boston Creme doughnut was officially made the state donut.

State Cookie
The Chocolate Chip Cookie was designated the official cookie of the Commonwealth on July 9, 1997. A third grade class from Somerset proposed the bill to honor the cookie invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman.

State Shell
The New England Neptune (Neptuna lyrata decemcostata) was made the state shell in 1987.

State Gem or Gem Emblem
Rhodonite is the most beautiful gem material found in the state. It varies in hue from a light pink to a deep rose or reddish pink and is associated with black manganese. It was adopted in 1979.

State Mineral or Mineral Emblem
The finest quality Babingtonite in America has come from this state. Although the Commonwealth is not overly blessed with mineral resources, it is one of the few locations in the world where this usually jet black material with a brilliant submetallic luster is found. The Legislature adopted it in April of 1971.

State Rock or Rock Emblem
The Roxbury Puddingstone, sometimes called Roxbury Conglomerate, became the state rock in 1983.

State Historical Rock

Plymouth Rock. Although the Pilgrims did not actually land on it, its historical significance led the Legislature to commemorate it in 1983.

State Explorer Rock
Dighton Rock was made the explorer rock of the state in 1983.

State Building Rock and Monument Stone
Granite was made the building rock of the State in 1983. The last Ice Age did leave Massachusetts with exceptionally fine samples of this rock; granite from Quincy was used to build the Bunker Hill Monument, and the Washington Monument.

Soil of the Commonwealth
The Paxton Soil Series was adopted by the Legislature on July 10, 1990.

State Poem
In 1981, the General Court designated "Blue Hills of Massachusetts" by Katherine E. Mullen of Barre as the official state poem.

Song of the Commonwealth
"All Hail to Massachusetts", words and music by Arthur Marsh, was designated by an act of the Legislature in July of 1981 (informally "official song" since September 1966.) Click here to play a MIDI version of "All Hail to Massachusetts".

State Ceremonial March
The song "The Road to Boston", whose composer is unknown, has been the official ceremonial march of the Commonwealth since 1985.

Folk Song of the Commonwealth
"Massachusetts," words and music by Arlo Guthrie, was adopted by the Legislature in July 1981.  Click here to view the lyrics.

Patriotic Song of the Commonwealth
"Massachusetts (Because of You Our Land is Free)", words and music by Bernard Davidson, was made official on October 23, 1989, and effective January 21, 1990.

Folk Dance of the Commonwealth
Square Dancing became the official folk dance on April 8, 1990.

State Glee Club Song
The song "The Great State of Massachusetts", words by George A. Wells, and music by J. Earl Bley, was designated the state Glee Club Song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on November 24, 1997.

State Polka Song
On October 1, 1998, "Say Hello to Someone From Massachusetts" by Lenny Gomulka was approved as the official polka of the Commonwealth.

Ode of the Commonwealth
On November 16, 2000 the words and music of "Ode to Massachusetts" by Joseph Falzone was approved as the official ode of the Commonwealth. Click here to download the song (MP3, 2.4M).

State Vessel

In 1994, the Schooner Ernestina was designated the official vessel of the Commonwealth, with New Bedford as its official homeport.


Children's Book

"Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey was designated the official children's book of the Commonwealth on 1/1/03. The third grade class at the Dean S. Luce Elementary School in Canton sponsored the legislation.


Children's Author and Illustrator

On 1/1/03, author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was made the official children's author and illustrator of the Commonwealth.


Bay State Tartan

Bay State TartanOn August 14, 2003, the Bay State Tartan became the official District Tartan of the Commonwealth. Registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority, and may be viewed at



On February 21, 2005 blue, green and cranberry became the official colors of the Commonwealth.


Blues Artist

On February 8, 2006, musician Henry St. Clair Fredericks, better known as Taj Mahal, was approved as the Official Blues Artist of the Commonwealth.


State Sport

On August 8th, 2006, basketball became the official state sport. Invented in 1891 by a Springfield, Massachusetts teacher Dr. James Naismith.


Peace Statue

Approved on February 25, 2000, a memorial statue was built in the town of Orange in recognition of veterans who served in World War I and designated as the Orange Peace Statue shall be the official peace statue of the commonwealth.


Korean War Memorial

Located in the Shipyard Park of the Charlestown Navy Yard and was approved on April 7, 2000.


Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial was approved on December 11, 1990 and is locaed in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts.


Southwest Asia War Memorial

The Southwest Asia War Memorial was approved on June 2, 1993.


MIA/POW Memorial

The state MIA/POW memorial is located in the town of Bourne at the Massachusetts National Cemetary and was approved on July 3, 2002.


Encyclopedia of Massachusetts Days

Liberty Tree Day, August 14. Commemorates the anniversary of the placing of two effigies in an elm tree, later the "Liberty Tree", in Boston in 1765.

Bunker Hill Day, June 17. Celebrated in Boston and Suffolk County. Commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill on its anniversary. Actually, the 1775 battle took place on a nearby hill.

Evacuation Day, March 17. Celebrated in Boston and Suffolk County. Anniversary of the withdrawal of British troops from Boston in 1776. A legal holiday in Suffolk County since 1941.

Massachusetts Ratification Day, February 6. The anniversary of becomming the sixth state on February 6, 1788.

Lafayette Day, May 20. Memorializes the anniversary of the death of the Marquis de Lafayette (d.1834), a French general who aided the colonists in the American Revolution.

Spanish-American War Memorial Day, February 15. Commemorates the Spanish-American War, and observed with Maine Memorial Day. See Battleship Day.

Susan B. Anthony Day, August 26. This is on the anniversary in 1920 of the certification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution giving women the right to vote.

John F. Kennedy Day, last Sunday in November (Nov 26, 2006). A memorial to John F. Kennedy, thirty-fifth president of the United States, and Massachusetts native.

Student Government Day, first Friday of April (Apr 6, 2007).

Teacher's Day, first Sunday of June (Jun 3, 2007).

Children's Day, second Sunday of June (Jun 10, 2007).


Forefathers' Day, December 21. Commemorates the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 on Plymouth Rock. Observed in New England. This day was first observed in 1769.



Legal Holidays in Massachusetts

Note: Whenever a holiday falls on a Sunday it is observed on the following Monday.

  • January 1: New Year's Day

  • 3rd Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

  • 3rd Monday in February: Washington's Birthday

  • March 17: Evacuation Day*

  • 3rd Monday in April: Patriot's Day

  • Last Monday in May: Memorial Day

  • June 17: Bunker Hill Day*

  • July 4: Independence Day

  • 1st Monday in September: Labor Day

  • 2nd Monday in October: Columbus Day

  • November 11: Veteran's Day

  • 4th Thursday in November: Thanksgiving Day

  • December 25: Christmas

    * Celebrated only in Suffolk County (Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop)




Population and Area

Massachusetts, according to the 2000 United States census, has a population of 6,349,097. It has a gross area of 8,257 square miles and a net land area of 7,838, and ranks 13th in population and 45th in area among the states of the nation. It is divided into 14 counties, varying in size and population from Nantucket (area 50.34 sq. mi., pop. 9,520) to Worcester (area 1575.95 sq. mi., pop. 750, 963) and Middlesex (area 844.21 sq. mi., pop. 1,465,396). The counties are made up of 49 cities and 302 towns, of which Boston with a population of 589,141 is the largest and Gosnold with a population of 86 is the smallest. More than half of Massachusett's total population lives in the Greater Boston area. Other Massachusetts cities over or approximating 100,000 population are:

  • Boston: 589,141
  • Worcester: 172,648
  • Springfield: 152,082
  • Lowell: 105,167
  • Cambridge: 101,355
  • New Bedford: 93,768
  • Brockton: 94,304
  • Fall River: 91,938
  • Lynn: 89,050
  • Quincy: 88,025

A third of the population is of foreign stock. Of the total 1980 population, 55.2% identified with a single ancestry group, 33% with the multi-ancestry group, and 11.7% were not specified. Of the single ancestry groups, the six leading groups were: Irish (21%), English (14.5%), Italian (13.6%), French (9.9%), Portuguese (6%) and Polish (5.1%). In 2000, African-Americans comprised 5.4%, Hispanics 6.8%, Native Americans .2%, and Asians 3.8% of the State.


Massachusetts lies between the parallels of 41 degrees 10' and 42 degrees 53' north latitude and between 69 degrees 57' and 73 degrees 30' west longitude. It has a shoreline of approximately 1,980 miles on the Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts Bay, and Buzzards Bay. The state is 190 miles, east-west, and 110 miles, north- south, at its widest parts. The northern, or New Hampshire-Vermont border, runs almost due east and west for 135 miles; the western, or New York boundary, is 49 miles long. On the south, Massachusetts borders Connecticut for 91 miles and Rhode Island for 65 miles.


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is on United States Eastern Standard Time, and by law employs the Daylight Saving Plan, advancing the clock one hour at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in April, and retarding it one hour at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.


The prevailing wind is from the west, with an average velocity of 10 to 13 miles per hour. Average monthly temperatures in Boston range from 28.2 degrees in January to 72.0 degrees in July. The lowest temperature recorded by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Gloucester since its establishment (October 1870) was -18 degrees in February 1934; the highest, 104 degrees in July 1911. The last killing frost generally occurs before May 10, and the earliest fall frost usually comes in late September or early October. The normal annual precipitation is 44.23 inches.



Massachusetts topography varies greatly; from the rocky shores, sandy beaches and salt marshes of the coast; through rolling hills, and fertile valley to lofty wooded hills in the western part of the state.



Although valuable mineral resources are not usually credited to Massachusetts, the mining of non-metallic minerals is a considerable industry within the state. Clay, lime, marble, sand and gravel, silica, quartz, granite, limestone, sandstone, slate, and traprock are all mined to a varying extent. From time to time small deposits of alum, asbestos, barite, feldspar, graphite, mica, peat, and semi-precious stones, such as the beryl, aquamarine, and tourmaline have been worked. Test borings in the Narragansett Basin (southeastern Massachusetts) indicate the possibility of fairly substantial coal deposits. There is no metal mining in Massachusetts, but ores of copper, gold, iron, lead, silver, zinc, and other metallic minerals have at times been discovered. Dolomitic marbles are found in Ashley Falls, West Stockbridge, and Lee, all in Berkshire County. Verd antique is quarried near Westfield, in Hampden County. The Quincy quarries produce monumental granite (including that used for the Washington Monument), while building granites come chiefly from Milford, West Chelmsford, Becket, and Fall River. In South Framingham isfound diatomite, a hydrous or opaline form of silica. Mineral production within the state was valued at $101,100,000 in 1984. The valuation was based on returns from clay, lime, sand, and stone (mostly granite and basalt).



Massachusetts soils vary widely in color and in character. Broadly speaking, the uplands contain an abundance of mineral matter, while more or less organic matter is present in the lowlands. The western region is hilly and is separated by the Connecticut River Valley from a central upland plateau region which slopes to the Atlantic coast. Except on Cape Cod where there are long stretches of sandy, treeless flats, almost all of the land was originally covered with dense forests. Even after the forests were cleared or thinned, however, the soil did not yield readily to cultivation by the early farmers, and their skill and patience were taxed heavily before it became productive. The most arable soil is found in the broad Connecticut Valley in the west-central part of Massachusetts. Rich alluvial deposits are found in the fertile river valleys. On the whole, Massachusetts soils yield profitably when production is carried on under modern procedures. Even the sandy soils on Cape Cod have been made extremely fruitful when farmed by skillful agriculturists. In fact, Cape Cod and the South Shore produce the biggest cranberry crop in the world.



Major farm products, on the basis of income, are milk, nursery and greenhouse, eggs, vegetables, cattle, hogs, sheep, cranberries, and fruit. Total cash receipts from farm marketings in 1987 were $393,000,000 of which milk and livestock accounted for $124 million and crops $268 million.



A listing of our eight major manufactured products, in order of largest amounts of value added by manufacture, shows non-computer electronic machinery first, followed by computer and electronic equipment, instruments, chemicals, transportation, fabricated metal products, paper printing and publishing, and rubber plastics. Of the fifty states, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ranks 6th in value by manufacture.



There are 4,230 miles of rivers within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The largest is the Connecticut, which flows from north to south. Its tributaries are the Deerfield, Westfield, Chicopee, and Miller's rivers. In the far western part of the state the Housatonic River flows south and the Hoosic River flows north between the Hoosac and Taconic mountain ranges. The Merrimack River, in the northeast, rises in New Hampshire and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. It is navigable for shipping up to a distance of about 15 miles from its mouth. The Nashua and Concord rivers are tributaries of the Merrimack. The Blackstone River flows south from the center of Massachusetts. The Mystic and Charles rivers flow into Boston Harbor, and the Taunton River enters Mount Hope Bay at Fall River.



Massachusetts has more than 1,100 lakes and ponds. The largest of these, Quabbin Reservoir (24,704 acres) and Wachusett Reservoir (4,160 acres) are manmade. These two reservoirs will provide Metropolitan Boston with most of its water for many years to come. Among those of natural origin, the largest are Assawompsett Pond (2,656 acres) in Lakeville and Middleborough, drained by the Taunton River; North Watuppa Pond (1,805 acres) and South Watuppa Pond (1,551 acres) in Fall River and Westport, drained by the Quequechan River; Long Pond (1,361 acres) in Lakeville and Freetown, drained by the Taunton River; Lake Chargoggagogmanchaugagochaubunagungamaug - usually and mercifully called Lake Webster (1,188 acres) - in Webster, drained by the French River; Herring Pond (1,157 acres) in Edgartown on the island of Martha's Vineyard; Great Quittacas Pond (1,128 acres) in Lakeville, Rochester and Middleborough, drained by the Taunton River; Lake Quinsigamond (1,051 acres) in Worcester, Shrewsbury, and Grafton; and Monponsett Pond (756 acres) in Halifax and Hanson, drained by the Taunton River.



Lying off Cape Cod are Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Island group. Martha's Vineyard, triangular in shape, is about 19 miles long and less than 10 miles in width. It contains the towns of Edgartown, Chilmark, Tisbury, West Tisbury, Gay Head, and Oak Bluffs. Nantucket, also roughly triangular, about 15 miles long and from three to four miles wide, was once famed for its whaling industry. Both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are now popular summer resorts. The Elizabeth Islands are a group of about 22 small islands lying between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. On one of those, Cuttyhunk, Bartholemew Gosnold established a colony in 1602, abandoning it the same year. The Boston Harbor Island group includes The Four Brewsters, Bumpkin, Calf, Deer, Gallop's, George's (used for thousands of Confederate prisoners of war during the Civil War), Grape, The Graves, Green, Hangman, Long, Lovell's, Nixes Mate, Paddock's, Raccoon, Rainsford, Sheep, Slate, Spectacle and Thompson. Some islands have been made part of the mainland by the great amount of landfill that has gone on over the years. Governor's Island, where the first apple and pear trees in America were planted, is now a part of Boston's Logan International Airport. Most of the islands have been used for farming, resort-recreation areas, public facilities, or fortifications.



Massachusetts landscape was extensively re-formed during the last Ice Age; the only substantial ranges left are the Berkshire Hills and the Blue Hills. Mount Greylock, altitude 3,491 feet, in Berkshire County, is the highest mountain in Massachusetts. Other important mountains are Mount Williams (2,951 feet) in North Adams; East Mountain (2,660 feet) in Hancock; Mount Everett (2,602 feet) in Mt. Washington; Spruce Hill (2,588 feet) in Adams; Mount Frissel (2,453 feet) in Mt. Washington; Potter Mountain (2,391 feet) in Lanesboro; French Hill (2,214 feet) in Peru; and Mount Wachusett (2,006 feet) in Princeton.


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Miscellaneous Massachusetts Facts

  • 1621 The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth.
  • 1629 The first tannery in the U.S. began operations in Lynn.
  • 1633  The first official notice of a postal service in the colonies appeared. The General Court of Massachusetts designated Richard Fairbanks' tavern in Boston as the official repository of mail brought from or sent overseas, in line with the practice in England and other nations to use coffee houses and taverns as mail drops.
  • 1634 Boston Common became the first public park in America.
  • 1635 The first American public secondary school, Boston Latin Grammar School, was founded in Boston.
  • 1636 Harvard, the first American university, was founded in Newtowne (now Cambridge).
  • 1638 The first American printing press was set up in Cambridge by Stephen Daye.
  • 1639 The first free American public school, the Mather school, was founded in Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston. 
  • 1640  The first book published in the American colonies, the Bay Psalm Book, by Stephen Daye.
  • 1643 Massachusetts Puritan colonies form New England Confederation to oppose Dutch and Indian attacks. 
  • 1653 The first American public library was founded in Boston.
  • 1654 The first fire engine made in America was built by Joseph Jencks, an iron-maker in Lynn.  He called it "an Ingine to carry water in case of fire." (One source has 1659 documented)
  • 1686 Oxford became the first non-Puritan town.
  • 1704 The first regularly issued American newspaper, The Boston News-Letter, was published in Boston.
  • 1716 The first American lighthouse, "The Boston Light", was built in Boston Harbor.
  • 1763 End of Indian Wars in 1763 allows expansion in Western Massachusetts to a total of 184 towns.
  • 1773 Boston Tea Party dumps tea into bay - Colonists at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, oppose taxes

  • 1775 The first battle of the Revolution was fought in Lexington and Concord, and the first ship of the U.S. Navy, the schooner “Hannah”, was commissioned in Beverly.
  • 1776 Colonial troops force British to evacuate Boston.
  • 1780  The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth. It was written by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin. The constitution was adopted in 1780 and is the oldest functioning written constitution in the world. It's structure was replicated by the U.S. Constitution. It also had substantial influence on the subsequent revisions of many of the other state constitutions. John Hancock becomes first elected governor.
  • 1784 Hingham's Derby Academy is the oldest co-educational school in the US.
  • 1786  The Commonwealth created the Massachusetts Humane Society, the first shore-based rescue service in the country. 
  • 1788 Massachusetts is sixth state to ratify the United States Constitution on Feb. 6, 1788.
  • 1789 The first American novel, William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy, was published in Worcester.
  • 1795 Massachusetts State House built in Boston.
  • 1796 John Adams, born 1735 in Quincy, elected 2nd president of United States
  • 1803 The Middlesex Canal, the first canal built for commercial use in the United States, was completed.
  • 1806 The first church built by free blacks in America, the African Meeting House, opened on Joy Street in Boston.
  • 1826 The first commercial American railroad, Granite Railway, was built in Quincy.
  • 1827 Francis Leiber opened the first swim school in America. Among the first to enroll was John Quincy Adams.
  • 1831 The first abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, was published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.
  • 1837 Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph based on Morse Code, a simple pattern of “dots” and dashes.
  • 1839 Rubber was first vulcanized by Charles Goodyear in Woburn. 
  • 1846 The first public demonstration of ether anesthetic was given in Boston.
  • 1848  The first publicly supported municipal library in the United States and the first public library to allow people to borrow books and other materials was the Boston Public Library. / Lewis Temple, a New Bedford blacksmith, revolutionized the whaling industry with his introduction of the "toggle harpoon".
  • 1850 The first National Women’s Right Convention convenes in Worcester.
  • 1865 Robert Ware of M.I.T. began the first professional training program for architects. Prior to this, architects trained in Europe or learned through apprenticeship.
  • 1866 The first African-American legislators in New England were elected to the General Court.
  • 1875 The first American Christmas card was printed by Louis Prang in Boston.
  • 1877 Helen Magill White becomes the first woman to earn a Ph.D in the U.S. at Boston University.
  • 1881 The Country Club in Brookline became the first dedicated to “outdoor pursuits.” 
  • 1888 The first electric trolley in the state runs from Lynn.
  • 1891 The first basketball game was played in Springfield. /  The Fig Newton was created by the Kennedy Biscuit Company.
  • 1895 The first volleyball game was played in Holyoke. Invented by William G. Morgan.
  • 1896 Landscape architect Charles Eliot developed Revere Beach as the first public beach in America.
  • 1897 April 19,1897 was the first Boston Marathon. The race was run from Boston to Ashland and the starting field was 15 runners. John J. McDermott was the winner. / The first successful American subway system opened in Boston. 
  • 1925 The first Howard Johnson's founded in Wollaston. 
  • 1926 The first successful liquid fuel rocket was launched by Dr. Robert Goddard in Auburn.
  • 1928 The first computer, a non-electronic “differential analyzer,” was developed by Dr. Vannevar Bush of M.I.T. in Cambridge.
  • 1944 And, not to be outdone by M.I.T., Howard Aiken of Harvard developed the first automatic digital computer.
  • 1950 The first Dunkin' Donuts founded in Quincy.
  • 1961 The first nuclear-powered surfaceship, USS Long Beach, was launched in Quincy.
  • 1976  Boston was the first city in America to celebrate New Year's Eve with a "First Night" event.
  • 2003  Massachusetts is the only state in the union to legalize marriage of gay and lesbian couples.
  • 2006  Massachusetts is the first state in the union to mandate health insurance for all its citizens.
  • Lowell was America's first planned industrial city.  
  • The Boston University Bridge on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train driving under a car driving under an airplane. 
  • Seven ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Massachusetts in honor of this state.

  • When the Governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the office of Governor remains vacant for the rest of the 4 year term. The Lieutenant Governor does not succeed but only discharges powers and duties as Acting Governor.

  • Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade is the second-largest in the country, annually attracting more than 850,000 spectators.

  • The country's first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby, made his fortune in Salem. 

  •              By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.