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Massachusetts (// ⓘ MASS-ə-CHOO-sits, /-/ -zits; Massachusett: Muhsachuweesut [məhswatʃəwiːsət]), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It borders the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Maine to its east, Connecticut and Rhode Island to its south, New Hampshire and Vermont to its north, and New York to its west. Massachusetts is the sixth-smallest state by land area. With over seven million residents as of 2020, it is the most populous state in New England, the 16th-most-populous in the country, and the third-most densely populated, after New Jersey and Rhode Island.
|List of state symbols
|Blue Hills of Massachusetts
|Make It Yours,
The Spirit of America
|Black-capped chickadee, wild turkey
|Right whale, Morgan horse, Tabby cat, Boston Terrier
|Blue, green, cranberry
|Cranberry, corn muffin, navy bean, Boston cream pie, chocolate chip cookie, Boston cream doughnut
|New England Neptune, Neptunea lyrata decemcostata
|State route marker
|Lists of United States state symbols
The state's capital and most populous city, as well as its cultural and financial center, is Boston. Other major cities are Worcester, Springfield and Cambridge. Massachusetts is also home to the urban core of Greater Boston, the largest metropolitan area in New England and a region profoundly influential upon American history, academia, and the research economy. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing, and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, the state's economy shifted from manufacturing to services; and in the 21st century, Massachusetts has become the global leader in biotechnology, and also excels in artificial intelligence, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.
Massachusetts was a site of early English colonization. The Plymouth Colony was founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. In 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, taking its name from the Indigenous Massachusett people, also established settlements in Boston and Salem. In 1692, the town of Salem and surrounding areas experienced one of America's most infamous cases of mass hysteria, the Salem witch trials. In the late 18th century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that later led to the American Revolution. In 1777, General Henry Knox founded the Springfield Armory, which, during the Industrial Revolution, catalyzed numerous important technological advances, including interchangeable parts. In 1786, Shays' Rebellion, a populist revolt led by disaffected American Revolutionary War veterans, influenced the United States Constitutional Convention. In the 18th century, the Protestant First Great Awakening, which swept Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, originated from the pulpit of Northampton preacher Jonathan Edwards.
Massachusetts has played a powerful scientific, commercial, and cultural role in U.S. history. Before the American Civil War, the state was a center for the abolitionist, temperance, and transcendentalist movements. In the late 19th century, the sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in the western Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Holyoke, respectively. Massachusetts has a reputation for social and political progressivism; becoming the only U.S. state with a right to shelter law, and the first U.S. state, and one of the earliest jurisdictions in the world, to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Boston is considered a hub of LGBT culture and activism in the United States. Prominent American political dynasties have hailed from the state, including the Adams and Kennedy families.
Harvard University in Cambridge is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, with the largest financial endowment of any university in the world. The university has educated eight U.S. Presidents, while Harvard Law School has educated a contemporaneous majority of Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Kendall Square in Cambridge has been called "the most innovative square mile on the planet" for producing high concentrations of entrepreneurial start-ups and quality innovations since 2010. Both Harvard and MIT, also in Cambridge, are perennially ranked as either the most or among the most highly regarded academic institutions in the world. Massachusetts's public-school students place among the top tier in the world in academic performance.
Massachusetts is one of the most educated, most developed, and wealthiest states in the entire U.S. Per the US News and World Report, the state ranks first in the percentage of population 25 and over with either a bachelor's degree or advanced degree, first on both the American Human Development Index and standard Human Development Index, first in per capita income, and second in median household income (after Maryland). Consequently, Massachusetts ranks among the top states in the country for citizens to live in, as well as one of the most expensive in the country.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was named after the Indigenous population, the Massachusett or Muhsachuweesut, whose name likely derived from a Wôpanâak word muswachasut, segmented as mus(ây) "big" + wach "mountain" + -s "diminutive" + -ut "locative". This word has been translated as "near the great hill", "by the blue hills", "at the little big hill", or "at the range of hills", in reference to the Blue Hills—namely, the Great Blue Hill, located on the boundary of Milton and Canton. Massachusett has also been represented as Moswetuset. This comes from the name of the Moswetuset Hummock (meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead") in Quincy, where Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish (a hired English military officer) and Squanto (a member of the Patuxet band of the Wamponoag people, who have since died off due to contagious disease brought by colonizers) met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.
Although the designation "Commonwealth" forms part of the state's official name, it has no practical implications in modern times and Massachusetts has the same position and powers within the United States as other states. John Adams may have chosen the word in 1779 for the second draft of what became the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution; unlike the word "state", the word "commonwealth" had the connotation of a republic at the time. This was in contrast to the monarchy the former colonies were fighting against during the American Revolutionary War. The name "State of Massachusetts Bay" appeared in the first draft, which was ultimately rejected. It was also chosen to include the "Cape Islands" in reference to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket—from 1780 to 1844, they were seen as additional and separate entities confined within the Commonwealth.
Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian language family, including Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachusett. While cultivation of crops like squash and corn were an important part of their diet, the people of these tribes hunted, fished, and searched the forest for most of their food. Villagers lived in lodges called wigwams as well as longhouses. Tribes were led by male or female elders known as sachems.
In the early 1600s, European colonizers caused virgin soil epidemics such as smallpox, measles, influenza, and perhaps leptospirosis in what is now known as the northeastern region of the United States. Between 1617 and 1619, what was most likely smallpox killed approximately 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.
The first English colonizers in Massachusetts, the Puritans, arrived at Plymouth in 1620. This was the second permanent English colony in the part of North America that later became the United States, after the Jamestown Colony. The "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Puritans after their first harvest in the "New World" and lasted for three days. They were soon followed by other Puritans, who colonized the Massachusetts Bay Colony—now known as Boston—in 1630.
The Puritans believed the Church of England needed to be further reformed along Protestant Calvinist lines, and experienced harassment due to the religious policies of King Charles I and high-ranking churchmen such as William Laud, who would become Charles's Archbishop of Canterbury, whom they feared were re-introducing "Romish" elements to the national church. They decided to colonize to Massachusetts, intending to establish what they considered an "ideal" religious society. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was colonized under a royal charter, unlike the Plymouth colony, in 1629. Both religious dissent and expansionism resulted in several new colonies being founded, shortly after Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, elsewhere in New England. The Massachusetts Bay banished dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams due to religious and political conflict. In 1636, Williams colonized what is now known as Rhode Island, and Hutchinson joined him there several years later. Religious intolerance continued, and among those who objected to this later that century were the English Quaker preachers Alice and Thomas Curwen, who were publicly flogged and imprisoned in Boston in 1676.
In 1641, Massachusetts expanded inland significantly. The Commonwealth acquired the Connecticut River Valley settlement of Springfield, which had recently disputed with—and defected from—its original administrators, the Connecticut Colony. This established Massachusetts's southern border in the west. However, this became disputed territory until 1803–04 due to surveying problems, leading to the modern Southwick Jog.
In 1652 the Massachusetts General Court authorized Boston silversmith John Hull to produce local coinage in shilling, sixpence and threepence denominations to address a coin shortage in the colony. Before that point, the colony's economy had been entirely dependent on barter and foreign currency, including English, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and counterfeit coins. In 1661, shortly after the restoration of the British monarchy, the British government considered the Boston mint to be treasonous. However, the colony ignored the English demands to cease operations until at least 1682, when Hull's contract as mintmaster expired, and the colony did not move to renew his contract or appoint a new mintmaster. The coinage was a contributing factor to the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter in 1684.
In 1691, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth were united (along with present-day Maine, which had previously been divided between Massachusetts and New York) into the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Shortly after, the new province's first governor, William Phips, arrived. The Salem witch trials also took place, where a number of men and women were hanged for alleged witchcraft.
The Revolutionary War
Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britain. Colonists in Massachusetts had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s. Protests against British attempts to tax the colonies after the French and Indian War ended in 1763 led to the Boston Massacre in 1770, and the 1773 Boston Tea Party escalated tensions. In 1774, the Intolerable Acts targeted Massachusetts with punishments for the Boston Tea Party and further decreased local autonomy, increasing local dissent. Anti-Parliamentary activity by men such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock, followed by reprisals by the British government, were a primary reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord, fought in Massachusetts in 1775, initiated the American Revolutionary War. George Washington, later the first president of the future country, took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the siege of Boston in the winter of 1775–76, after which the British were forced to evacuate the city. The event is still celebrated in Suffolk County only every March 17 as Evacuation Day.
On the coast, Salem became a center for privateering. Although the documentation is incomplete, about 1,700 letters of marque, issued on a per-voyage basis, were granted during the American Revolution. Nearly 800 vessels were commissioned as privateers, which were credited with capturing or destroying about 600 British ships.
Bostonian John Adams, known as the "Atlas of Independence", was highly involved in both separation from Britain and the Constitution of Massachusetts, which effectively (the Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker cases as interpreted by William Cushing) made Massachusetts the first state to abolish slavery. David McCullough points out that an equally important feature was its placing for the first time the courts as a co-equal branch separate from the executive. (The Constitution of Vermont, adopted in 1777, represented the first partial ban on slavery among the states. Vermont became a state in 1791 but did not fully ban slavery until 1858 with the Vermont Personal Liberty Law. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 made Pennsylvania the first state to abolish slavery by statute - the second English colony to do so; the first having been the Colony of Georgia in 1735.) Later, Adams was active in early American foreign affairs and succeeded Washington as the second president of the United States. His son, John Quincy Adams, also from Massachusetts, would go on to become the nation's sixth president.
From 1786 to 1787, an armed uprising led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays, now known as Shays' Rebellion, wrought havoc throughout Massachusetts and ultimately attempted to seize the federal Springfield Armory. The rebellion was one of the major factors in the decision to draft a stronger national constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the United States Constitution.
During the 19th century, Massachusetts became a national leader in the American Industrial Revolution, with factories around cities such as Lowell and Boston producing textiles and shoes, and factories around Springfield producing tools, paper, and textiles. The state's economy transformed from one based primarily on agriculture to an industrial one, initially making use of water-power and later the steam engine to power factories. Canals and railroads were being used in the state for transporting raw materials and finished goods. At first, the new industries drew labor from Yankees on nearby subsistence farms, though they later relied upon immigrant labor from Europe and Canada.
Although Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony with slavery dating back to the early 1600s, the state became a center of progressivist and abolitionist (anti-slavery) activity in the years leading up to the American Civil War. Horace Mann made the state's school system a national model. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, both philosophers and writers from the state, also made major contributions to American philosophy. Furthermore, members of the transcendentalist movement within the state emphasized the importance of the natural world and emotion to humanity.
Although significant opposition to abolitionism existed early on in Massachusetts, resulting in anti-abolitionist riots between 1835 and 1837, abolitionist views there gradually increased throughout the next few decades. Abolitionists John Brown and Sojourner Truth lived in Springfield and Northampton, respectively, while Frederick Douglass lived in Boston and Susan B. Anthony in Adams. The works of such abolitionists contributed to Massachusetts's actions during the Civil War. Massachusetts was the first state to recruit, train, and arm a Black regiment with White officers, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory education laws.
Although the American stock market had sustained steep losses the last week in October 1929, Tuesday, October 29 is remembered as the beginning of the Great Depression. The Boston Stock Exchange, drawn into the whirlpool of panic selling that beset the New York Stock Exchange, lost over 25 percent of its value in two days of frenzied trading. The BSE, nearly 100 years old at the time, had helped raise the capital that had funded many of the Commonwealth's factories, railroads, and businesses. " Governor of Massachusetts Frank G. Allen appointed John C. Hull the first Securities Director of Massachusetts. Hull would assume office in January 1930, and his term would end in 1936.
With the departure of several manufacturing companies, the state's industrial economy began to decline during the early 20th century. By the 1920s, competition from the American South and Midwest, followed by the Great Depression, led to the collapse of the three main industries in Massachusetts: textiles, shoemaking, and precision mechanics. This decline would continue into the latter half of the 20th century. Between 1950 and 1979, the number of Massachusetts residents involved in textile manufacturing declined from 264,000 to 63,000. The 1969 closure of the Springfield Armory, in particular, spurred an exodus of high-paying jobs from Western Massachusetts, which suffered greatly as it de-industrialized during the century's last 40 years.
Massachusetts manufactured 3.4 percent of total United States military armaments produced during World War II, ranking tenth among the 48 states. After the world war, the economy of eastern Massachusetts transformed from one based on heavy industry into a service-based economy. Government contracts, private investment, and research facilities led to a new and improved industrial climate, with reduced unemployment and increased per capita income. Suburbanization flourished, and by the 1970s, the Route 128/Interstate 95 corridor was dotted with high-tech companies who recruited graduates of the area's many elite institutions of higher education.
In 1987, the state received federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Commonly known as "the Big Dig", it was, at the time, the biggest federal highway project ever approved. The project included making the Central Artery, part of Interstate 93, into a tunnel under downtown Boston, in addition to the re-routing of several other major highways.[failed verification] The project was often controversial, with numerous claims of graft and mismanagement, and with its initial price tag of $2.5 billion increasing to a final tally of over $15 billion. Nonetheless, the Big Dig nonetheless changed the face of Downtown Boston and connected areas that were once divided by elevated highway. Much of the raised old Central Artery was replaced with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The project also improved traffic conditions along several routes.
Notable 20th century politicians
The Kennedy family was prominent in 20th-century Massachusetts politics. The children of businessman and ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. included John F. Kennedy, who was a senator and U.S. president before his assassination in 1963; Ted Kennedy, a senator from 1962 until his death in 2009; and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a co-founder of the Special Olympics. In 1966, Massachusetts became the first state to directly elect an African American to the U.S. senate with Edward Brooke. George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989–1993) was born in Milton in 1924.
Other notable Massachusetts politicians on the national level included Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House (from 1947 to 1949 and then again from 1953 to 1955) and leader of House Republicans from 1939 until 1959 (where he was the only Republican to serve as Speaker between 1931 and 1995), John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House in the 1960s, and Tip O'Neill, whose service as Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1987 was the longest continuous tenure in United States history.
On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. This followed the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in November 2003, which determined that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the right to a civil marriage was unconstitutional.
In 2004, Massachusetts senator John Kerry, who won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, lost to incumbent George W. Bush. Eight years later, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (the Republican nominee) lost to incumbent Barack Obama in 2012. Another eight years later, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren became a frontrunner in the Democratic primaries for the 2020 presidential election. However, she later suspended her campaign and endorsed presumptive nominee Joe Biden.
Two pressure cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, at around 2:49 pm local time (EDT). The explosions killed three people and injured an estimated 264 others. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later identified the suspects as brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The ensuing manhunt ended on April 19 when thousands of law enforcement officers searched a 20-block area of nearby Watertown. Dzhokhar later said he was motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs and learned to build explosive devices from Inspire, the online magazine of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
On November 8, 2016, Massachusetts voted in favor of the Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Question 4.