The State of Massachusetts
AT A GLANCE
Name: Massachusetts was named for the Massachusett, a Native American tribe whose name means “at or about the great hill.”
Nicknames: Bay State, Old Colony State
Size: 8,262 sq. mi. (21,398 sq km)
Population: 6,794,422 (2015 est)
Statehood: Massachusetts became the sixth state on February 6, 1788.
Electoral votes: 12 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 10 (until 2016)
State tree: American elm
State flower: mayflower
State fish: cod
Highest point: Mount Greylock, 3,491 ft. (1,064 m)
Massachusetts is one of the six New England states. Although Massachusetts is the sixth-smallest state in the country, it is the third most densely populated. It has a long coastline, which includes the Cape Cod peninsula. Land along this shore is low and dotted with glacial deposits from the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago.
Most of Massachusetts is hilly or mountainous. The Berkshire Hills, in the western part of the state, are an extension of the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Taconic Mountains, which form the western edge of Massachusetts, continue into Vermont. The Connecticut River flows through Massachusetts and divides the state almost in half. Along the banks of the river is some of the richest soil in the state. Mineral deposits found in the state include marble and granite.
Massachusetts has cool weather in the winter and warm weather in the summer. The western part of the state is much cooler than the eastern, and the coastal region enjoys the mildest weather. The western mountains can receive up to 75 inches of snowfall annually.
Facts and Firsts
- Pilgrims in Plymouth first celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621.
- Boston Common, the first public park in America, was established in 1634 as a military training field and a cattle pasture.
- Harvard University, the first college in North America, was founded in 1636 at Newtowne, which was later renamed Cambridge.
- In 1780, Massachusetts drafted its first state constitution. Today, that constitution is the oldest still in use in the nation.
- The first game of basketball was played in Springfield in 1891.
- In 1895, William M. Morgan, a director of the YMCA in Holyoke, invented the game of volleyball.
- In 1897, Boston became the first U.S. city to build a subway system.
- The Fig Newton cookie was named after the town of Newton.
- The Cape Cod National Seashore was the first land purchased by the federal government to be made into a national park.
- Four U.S. presidents were born in Norfolk County: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and George Herbert Walker Bush.
Although Massachusetts is a small state, it occupies a key place in American history. The area was once home to several Algonquian tribes. Historians believe that Leif Eriksson and other Vikings explored the area around A.D. 1000. On September 16, 1620, the first group of Pilgrims sailed to America from Plymouth, England, and established a settlement. More settlers followed, and Massachusetts became one of the most powerful of all the British colonies in the New World.
During colonial times, Boston was a busy seaport. Rebellious acts by Massachusetts residents, such as the Boston Tea Party, were instrumental in starting the American Revolution, and much of the early fighting took place on Massachusetts soil. On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts ratified the Constitution and became the sixth state in the Union.
During the War of 1812, textile mills opened throughout the state. The whaling industry, which produced oil for many different household uses, also expanded. During the Civil War, Massachusetts residents had strong antislavery feelings and helped the Union cause by sending troops and building ships. After the war, the state's industries continued to expand, and immigrants from all over the world poured into Massachusetts to work in its mills and factories.
Massachusetts suffered along with the rest of the nation during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Its economy recovered during World War II, when its factories and shipyards built boats and produced supplies for the war effort. After the war, space and rocket research and the production of electronics equipment replaced traditional industries such as textiles and shoemaking.
Boston is a center of trade and finance, with several banks and insurance companies headquartered there. The city remains a leading New England port, and shipping contributes significantly to Boston's economy. Massachusetts companies manufacture products such as scientific instruments, electronic equipment, computers, and military communications systems.
Massachusetts maintains a strong sense of history. More than 25 million tourists visit the state each year. Some of the most popular attractions include the Freedom Trail in Boston and the historic sites of Lexington and Concord. Old Sturbridge Village is a historic attraction that depicts life in the first half of the 19th century using period houses, stores, and schools. Cape Cod and the Berkshires are popular vacation spots and attract visitors from all over the country.
Born in Massachusetts
- John Adams and John Quincy Adams, U.S. presidents
- Samuel Adams, patriot
- Horatio Alger, author
- Susan B. Anthony, women's suffragist
- Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross
- Leonard Bernstein, conductor
- George H.W. Bush, U.S. president
- John Singleton Copley, painter
- e.e. cummings, poet
- Bette Davis, actress
- Cecil B. DeMille, film director
- Emily Dickinson, poet
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher and poet
- Benjamin Franklin, statesman and scientist
- Robert Goddard, creator of modern rocketry
- John Hancock, statesman
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, novelist
- Oliver Wendell Homes, jurist
- Winslow Homer, painter
- Elias Howe, inventor
- John F. Kennedy, U.S. president
- Amy Lowell, poet
- James Russell Lowell, poet
- Horace Mann, educator
- Cotton Mather, clergyman
- Edgar Allan Poe, author
- Samuel F.B. Morse, painter and inventor
- Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), author and illustrator
- Henry David Thoreau, author
- Barbara Walters, television commentator
- James McNeill Whistler, painter
- John Greenleaf Whittier, poet