What Should I Know About Massachusetts?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Massachusetts is one of the fifty states that make up the United States of America and one of the six New England states in the northeast section of the country, along with Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It is bordered to the west by New York, to the north by Vermont and New Hampshire, to the south by Connecticut and Rhode Island, and to the southeast and east by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Maine. Boston is the capital and largest city. Other important cities in Massachusetts are Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, and Cambridge.

Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.
Chocolate chip cookies, the state cookie of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is the 45th of the 50 states by size with an area of 7,840.02 square miles (20,305.56 sq km), but ranks 13th in population with 6,349,097 in the 2000 census. It is fourth among states in population density. The correct name for a resident of Massachusetts is a Massachusettsan.

A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.
A Boston terrier, the state dog of Massachusetts.

The state’s earliest inhabitants were, first, Paleo-Indians, followed by Native Americans of the Algonquian language group. These included the Massachusett community, from which the state takes its name. It is said to mean “at or about the Great Hill,” referring to the Great Blue Hill region where they dwelt.

Cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts.
Cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts.

The Plymouth colony was established by the Pilgrims in what is now Massachusetts in 1621, with the government organized by the famous “Mayflower Compact.” The created ties to the local Wampanoag community, and celebrated the first Thanksgiving with them. More colonies were set up, including the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strict colonial policy by England brought about defiance, resulting in the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770, and resulted in acts such as the including the famous Boston Tea Party of 16 December 1773. On 19 April 1775, Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn the colonists, and the battles of Lexington and Concord began, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.

Navy beans, the state bean of Massachusetts.
Navy beans, the state bean of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts joined the Union on 6 February 1788, the sixth of the original thirteen states to do so. Elements of its history are recalled in some of its state emblems. For example, the state seal features a Native American from the Algonquin nation, holding a bow and arrow in a gesture indicating peaceful intentions, surmounted by a golden right arm holding a broadsword and with the motto, Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem, which means, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.” The state flower is, aptly, the Mayflower. And the state is one of the few to have a “state historical rock” — Plymouth Rock.

Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachuse, became the first institute of higher learning in the United States in 1636.
Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachuse, became the first institute of higher learning in the United States in 1636.

Other state emblems of Massachusetts feature items currently associate with the state:

David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
  • State dog: Boston Terrier
  • State doughnut: Boston Crème
  • State Beverage: Cranberry Juice
  • State Muffin: Corn Muffin
  • State Bean: Navy Bean — chosen because of its features role in Boston Baked Beans
  • State Dessert: Boston Crème Pie
  • State Cookie: Chocolate Chip Cookie — the Toll House Restaurant cookie, developed in Whitman, Massachusetts in 1930.
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts.
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts.
Lowell, Massachusetts, still has buildings from its days as a textiles producer.
Lowell, Massachusetts, still has buildings from its days as a textiles producer.
As one of the nation's oldest cities, Boston is home to many historic buildings, including the Old State House, which dates back to the early 1700s.
As one of the nation's oldest cities, Boston is home to many historic buildings, including the Old State House, which dates back to the early 1700s.
Massachusetts was the location of several incidents that spurred colonists to fight the British during the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre.
Massachusetts was the location of several incidents that spurred colonists to fight the British during the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

What you should know about Massachusetts is that the residents of the state are big sports fans and many of them are zealots in their support of local teams such as the Boston Celtics basketball team, Boston Red Sox baseball team, New England Patriots football team and Boston Bruins hockey team.

Sporkasia

No conversation about the state of Massachusetts would be complete without mentioning Cape Cod. If you look at a Massachusetts map the cape will be the body of land jutting out from the state and into the Atlantic Ocean. This portion of land is sometimes called the arm of Massachusetts because of its resemblance to a human arm.

The villages of Cape Cod put you mind of European towns. With so much water around, the cape is a major tourist attraction, particularly during the warm months. Because this area is so popular, you should be prepared for a large volume of traffic and slow moving during the summer, but if you can get pass the congestion then you are sure to have a memorable experience.

Animandel

My family and I have visited the Pilgrim settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Much of the colony has not changed. The buildings look as they did in the 1600's, or so we were told; and they do look like pictures I have seen in History books.

The state is filled with interesting historical sites. We contacted one of the agencies that promotes Massachusetts tourism and received information on more places than we will ever have a chance to visit.

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