Massachusetts Facts and History

Abbreviated as MA on, Massachusetts is one of the thirteen original states of the North American Union, the most populous and without comparison the most important of the six that make up New England. For surface area (21,408 sq. Km.) It is just the 44th among the states of the confederation, but for the absolute number of residents the 7th, the 2nd for population density, immediately after Rhode Island. The name, which came into use in the first half of the century. XVII, is English deformation of an Indian word of unclear meaning (perhaps “great hill”, with allusion to the hills surrounding Boston).

The state territory extends between the Allegani and the Atlantic for an average length of about 200 km. from O. to E. and for less than a hundred from north to south, also including the large, prominent crescent of Cape Cod and the islands facing it on the Nantucket Sound. Only a slender strip of the western extremity can be said to be mountainous, where the upper course of the Housatonic deeply affects the relief of the Allegani, which culminates here at 1077 m. in Greylock. Further east and up to the Blackstone River a wide penepian develops, averaging 300-450 m. High, but quite rough, especially in its middle part, where Connecticut has decisively carved its valley: penepian which corresponds to the terminal phase of an erosive cycle that followed an older peneplanation and consequent uplift. The glaciation has left clear, but faint traces there; typical the emergence of numerous monadnocks and porphyritic domes, and above all the vegetal mantle, consisting of forests, in which deciduous trees prevail over conifers, with a great variety of species (beeches, oaks, walnuts, chestnuts, etc.). The eastern part of Massachusetts is almost flat, but the glacial systems (drumlins, made up of bottom moraines) are so widely developed that they set the tone on the landscape, which is also observed in the coastal area, where the alternate play of currents and waves has destroyed and rebuilt in sandy cords leaning in various ways to the same drumlins the little resistant materials they are made of. To the same Pleistocene formation is due the capricious outline of the small and large bays that affect the whole coast of the state (as portacious as ever, and therefore well suited to the development of traffic) and the characteristic profile of the Cape Cod peninsula.

The climatic conditions are marked by relatively harsh winters (January average in Boston −2 °, 8, minimum temperatures down to −30 °), but above all with sudden temperature differences (from 20 ° to 25 ° in one day) and by quite hot summers (Boston: July average 21 °, 8) and often excessive; the precipitations, concentrated in the first summer, are abundant (1100 mm. per year in Boston), but mostly fall in thunderstorms.

In 1789 there were 379,000 inhabitants in Massachusetts, or more than a third of the population of the whole of New England. Population growth was fairly rapid thereafter, but the pace slowed after 1900, compared to what happened to the western and central states of the Union. Compare the following data: 1800: ab. 422,845; 1820: ab. 523,287; 1850: ab. 994.514; 1870: ab. 1,457,351; 1900: ab. 2,805,346; 1910: ab. 3,366,410; 1920: ab. 3,852,356; 1930: ab. 4,249,614. The density of the population of Massachusetts reaches today (1930) the 198 residents per sq. km., a value more than three times that recorded overall by the states of New England. The Negroes, who numbered just 24,000 in 1890, rose to 52,365 in 1930 (1.2% of the total population); there are also 3,383 Asians and a thousand Indians and Mexicans. 24.8% of the inhabitants of Massachusetts are foreign-born: of these, more than a quarter come from Canada, and just under a seventh from Ireland. The Italians (mostly from southern Italy and the islands) are among the most numerous groups: 126,103 (12%) in 1930, almost all of them distributed in the centers of the eastern area.

The state economy is essentially centered on industry, as agricultural production is not enough even for internal consumption, although it has managed to reach a high degree of excellence, despite the low natural fertility of the land. The main crops are those of hay (40% in value of agricultural production), potatoes and wheat (25%), tobacco and fruit (12%). A little less than half of the territory is covered with woods. Breeding has a large development, especially in the central and western areas: 310 thousand head of cattle, which has now almost supplanted the sheep one, once of great importance for the production of wool. In fishing, Massachusetts is at the head of the states of the Union, as well as Boston is the first fishing port.

The industry has about 10 thousand companies (1930) with 550 thousand employees and produces for 3½ billion dollars a year: this activity was favored by the wealth of driving force allowed by the numerous waterfalls (large hydroelectric plants are on the Merrimac in Lawrence and Lowell, and Connecticut at South Hadley). Massachusetts has the primacy among the states of the union for the textile industries: the largest cotton mills, the first to be set up in the United States (1787), are those of Fall River, New Bedford, Lowell and Lawrence (about 8 million spindles) which, with those of nearby Pawtucket, RI, provide nearly half of the Confederation’s fabric production. The relationship is about the same as regards the wool industry, whose main centers are Lawrence, Lowell and Holyoke. Also flourishing are the shoe factory (Brockton, Haverhill and Lynn), the cutlery (Northampton, Chicopee and Worcester), the body shop (Springfield, Worcester), the engine factories, the paper industry (Holyoke), etc. The value of local trade reached 311 million dollars in 1929, of which 290 million dollars were imported. The state owns (1930) 6680 km. of railways and 2,850 of ordinary roads.

The population of Massachusetts is 90.2% agglomerated in urban centers: it should be taken into account, however, that as such all places with more than 2500 inhabitants are considered. (taking as base the centers over 25 thousand residents, the percentage is reduced to about 60%). However, the state, among those of the Confederation, has the largest number of cities over 100,000 residents (Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Fall River, Cambridge, New Bedford, Somerville, Lynn, Lowell); it also has 7 cities over 50,000 (Lawrence, Quincy, Newton, Brockton, Medford, Malden, Holyoke) and 10 over 35,000, mostly concentrated in the eastern half of the state (ten around Boston, where has an agglomeration of over 1 and a half million inhabitants).


The history of Massachusetts begins properly only in 1620 (a previous colonization attempt in 1602 had failed), when on 21 December a handful of 102 Puritans (the Pilgrim Fathers) landed from the Mayflower on the coast of present-day Massachusetts. There, formed into a political body by means of a pact (covenant), gave rise to the colony of New Plymouth. A few years later, in 1629, 800 new emigrants arrived on this inhospitable land, also puritans, led by John Winthrop who had obtained from the king a charter that guaranteed the colonists of the “Massachusetts Bay Company” almost absolute freedom: Boston it was the center of the colony: Winthrop, for fifty years, its leader. And it was a period characterized not only by the struggle against the non-fertile soil, by the disputes with the Indians to widen the limits of the colony, but also by the characteristic tone of the internal life of this: a tone frankly and uncompromisingly puritan, dictated by the shepherds who dominated the entire early period of the history of Massachusetts and impressed indelible characters in the colonists,

Freedom: but for those who thought like Calvinist pastors; the others, either outside the colony or at the stake (the persecutions against the Baptists were fierce, in 1664-1678, and against the Quakers, especially in 1656-1662). Democracy: but under the apparent democratic egalitarianism, which made the colonists all equal in law, there was the rule of an aristocracy, made up of the wealthiest and best-versed in the Bible pastors and citizens. But it was precisely the rigidity and hardness of their moral and spiritual life that made the colonists magnificent pioneers, hard people at work and struggle; and precisely for this reason Massachusetts was then and in the period of the struggle for independence the strongest fortress and the moral center of the North American colonies; it was, as it was called, the mother state (The Mother State).

Joining in confederation, in 1643, with the other Nordic, Puritan and “paper” colonies of Connecticut, Plymouth and New Haven – and was the so-called New England – Massachusetts, also for this fact, assumed increasing importance and autonomy in the face of the English crown, which bordered on real independence. This gave rise in the last decades of the century. XVIII to a series of conflicts between the crown and the colonists. In 1684 the charter of 1629 was canceled by King James II; in 1686 Edmund Andros came to Boston as New England solicitor, pursuing the policy of supplanting local governments with the direct government of the king. But, precisely in Boston, the Andros found fierce opposition, fomented by the able Increase Mather; and when the first news of the English Revolution of 1688 reached Boston, the population rebelled, imprisoning Andros. A compromise with the crown was reached in 1691: Massachusetts obtained a new charter, but accepted a royal governor.

The following period, up to the middle of the century. XVIII, is characterized above all by a loosening of the rigidly puritan tone: partly because the ancient theocracy of the Calvinist pastors had been hit hard by the new political condition of the country (among other things, Andros had also decreed religious freedom, allowing the return to Massachusetts of the various sects, Quakers, etc.), also starts because the transformation of the families of the old pioneers into a more refined aristocracy, but also more softened, more yielding – as evidenced also by the more loyal, more submissive attitude, which this aristocracy now assumes in front of the crown. It was the moment of passing away, in which the new more purely American spirit emerged from the primitive Puritan spirit, in which some of the most marked characteristics of the primitive religious mentality were transferred to a purely human sphere – p. eg, in the field of business – where the rationality and strength of the ancient Puritanism become rationality and strength of conduct of business, that is, they become capitalist spirit.

Outside, the colony grew – despite some unfortunate expeditions against Canada at the beginning of the century – in 1745, snatching Louisbourg from the French.

Then begins the heroic period of Massachusetts and its capital, Boston: the period of the struggle for independence, in which the history of the colony is one with the history of American independence (see united states). From 1761 the opposition to the English parliament for the question of taxes begins; in 1770 the first bloody event takes place (the Boston massacre); in 1773, in Boston, a group of citizens threw the cargo of tea from three ships overboard; in 1775 on the territory of Massachusetts, in Lexington and Bunker Hill, the first fighting took place between English and colonial troops.

Organized as a state since 1776, soon after the British evacuated it, Massachusetts entered the federation; accepted, in 1787, the so-called constitution of Philadelphia, and until 1815 it was the stronghold of the federalists, to whose party he gave two of the leaders, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, whose aristocratic and capitalist policies were in perfect unison with the tendencies of wealthy and socially well differentiated industrial and commercial aristocracy of Massachusetts. Instead, opposition to the Republican Party and Th. Jefferson’s agrarian democracy program was open.

The importance of Massachusetts in the history of the Union was not only political and economic, but also cultural, thanks to its capital, Boston, which was then and remained throughout the first half of the century. XIX the Athens of North America, the center of the studies and of the artistic-literary life of the nation.

From the second half of the century. XIX instead the influence of Massachusetts on the life of the Union has been decreasing with the very rapid prosperity of the central and western states.

Massachusetts Facts and History


According to, Boston is a city of the United States, capital of Massachusetts. Founded in 1630 by the English Puritans led by J. Winthrop, it slowly passed under the control of the crown. It gained its autonomy in the twenty years of the revolution (1761-84). Later he enriched himself with maritime traffic. It gave rise to a wealthy class of refined culture and became a cultural center, full of museums and universities still of great prestige today. Later it expanded for new immigration, mainly Irish (➔ Kennedy).


City of the USA (101,388 residents In 2007), in Massachusetts northeastern; it is part of the Boston conurbation. It is perhaps the largest cultural center in the USA: home to notable university institutes (Harvard University, 1636; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1859; Radcliffe College, 1879) and cultural institutes, on which the highly active publishing industry depends. Industrial activities (paper, inks, glassware, electrical equipment).

Founded in 1630 by Governor Winthrop as a fortified place to defend against the Indians, it was called Newe Towne until 1636; He changed its name in 1638 after the founding of Harvard.

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