HISTORY: Excavations in Massachusetts reveal that the earliest human inhabitants arrived about 3,000 years ago. European explorers began roving the coast as early as the 11th century. In 1497 and 1498, John Cabot carried through the explorations upon which England based its original claim to North America. In 1620, the Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, made a brief stop in what later became Provincetown before settling in Plymouth on land belonging to Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. Massasoit ratified the first New England treaty between Europeans and Native Americans in December of 1620.
In 1629, a royal charter was granted to the Massachusetts Bay Company to promote the settlement of the territory and to govern the colonies. Various forms of increasingly repressive British rule culminated in the first battle of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the sixth state to join the new independent union in 1788. It was the first state to write and adopt a constitution (1780), which served as a model for the U.S. Constitution. The Massachusetts Constitution is the oldest still in use in the world.
NAME: The state takes its name from the Massachuset tribe of Native Americans. The name has been translated as “at or about the Great Hill,” “great mountain place,” or “large hill place,” among other translations.
CAPITAL: Boston, established in 1630, has been the capital of Massachusetts since its founding. It is the largest city in New England.
STATE HOUSE: The central portion of the State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch (a former Boston selectman) and completed in 1798 after three years of construction. The dome was covered with copper by Paul Revere & Sons in 1802, and has been covered in 23-karat gold leaf since the 1870s. A yellow brick North Annex was added to the State House in 1895, and a marble wing was added to each side in 1917. The site of the building, near the summit of Beacon Hill, Boston’s highest ground, was formerly John Hancock’s cow pasture.
LEGISLATURE: 40-member Senate and 160-member House of Representatives.
MOTTO: Ense Petit Placidam Sub Libertate Quietem. Translation: By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty. The motto was written about 1659, and is attributed to English patriot Algernon Sydney.
STATE HEROINE: Deborah Samson, who assumed a male identity in order to fight in the Revolutionary War
STATE FLAG: A white rectangular field bears on either side a representation of the arms of the Commonwealth, except that the star is white. State law also prescribes a naval and maritime flag, which bears a pine tree rather than the state seal, and a governor’s flag, which is triangular.
STATE NICKNAMES: Bay State, Old Bay State, Pilgrim State, Puritan State, Old Colony State, Baked Bean State
Song: “All Hail to Massachusetts,” by Arthur J. Marsh (1981)
Poem: “The Blue Hills of Massachusetts,” by Katherine E. Mullen (1981)
Bird: Chickadee (1941)
Flower: Mayflower (1918)
Tree: American elm (1941)
The year in parentheses is when the item was designated a state symbol.
FAMOUS FIRSTS IN MASSACHUSETTS:
1621: First Thanksgiving, Plymouth
1634: First public park in America, Boston Common
1635: First American public secondary school, Boston Latin Grammar School
1636: First American university, Harvard, Cambridge
1638: First American printing press, Cambridge
1639: First free American public school, Boston
1650: First American ironworks, Saugus
1653: First American public library, Boston
1704: First regularly issued American newspaper, The Boston News-Letter
1716: First American lighthouse, Boston Harbor, Hull
1775: First battle of American Revolution, Lexington and Concord
1775: First commissioned ship of U.S. Navy, Beverly
1789: First American novel published, William Hill Brown’s “The Power of Sympathy,” Worcester
1826: First American railroad, Quincy
1831: First abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, Boston
1876: First telephone demonstrated by Alexander Graham Bell, Boston
1891: First basketball game, Springfield
1892: First gasoline-powered automobile, Springfield
1898: First American subway system, Boston
1926: First liquid fuel rocket, launched by Dr. Robert Goddard, Auburn
1928: First computer, developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
State: 6,547,629 (2010 U.S. Census)
Population rank: 14th of the 50 states
Population growth since 2000 Census: 198,532 (3.1 percent)
Rank of population growth rate among the 50 states (2000 to 2010): 43
New Bedford: 94,929
Fall River: 88,945
Mount Washington: 166
New Ashford: 227
Area: 8,257 square miles (ranking 45th of the 50 states)
Largest body of water: Quabbin Reservoir (39 square miles)
Longest river: Charles River (80 miles)
Highest elevation: Mount Greylock (3,491 feet)
Lowest elevation: Atlantic Ocean (sea level)
Shoreline: 192 miles (not including islands)
Average community land area: 22.33 square miles
Municipalities with a city form of government: 56
Municipalities with a town form of government: 295
• State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, by Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, 1985, Greenwood Press
• “The Massachusetts State House” and “The Arms and Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” published by the Office of Secretary of State
• Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services Municipal Data Bank
• U.S. Census Bureau
• The Citizen Information Service of the Office of Secretary of State
• Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
• Municipal clerks in each community in the Commonwealth