Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Flag of Massachusetts State seal of Massachusetts
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Bay State
Motto(s): Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (Latin)
Map of the United States with Massachusetts highlighted
Official language(s) None
Demonym Bay Stater;[1] Massachusite (traditional)[2][3]
(and largest city)
Largest metro area Greater Boston
Area  Ranked 44th in the U.S.
 - Total 10,555[4] sq mi
(27,336 km2)
 - Width 183 miles (295 km)
 - Length 113 miles (182 km)
 - % water 25.7
 - Latitude 41° 14′ N to 42° 53′ N
 - Longitude 69° 56′ W to 73° 30′ W
Population  Ranked 14th in the U.S.
 - Total (2010) 6,547,629[5]
Density 809.8/sq mi  (312.7/km2)
Ranked 3rd in the U.S.
 - Median income  $65,401 (2008) (6th)
 - Highest point Mount Greylock[6][7][8]
3,489 ft (1063.4 m)
 - Mean 500 ft  (150 m)
 - Lowest point Atlantic Ocean[7]
sea level
Before statehood Province of Massachusetts Bay
Admission to Union  February 6, 1788 (6th)
Governor Deval Patrick (D)
Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray (D)
Legislature General Court
 - Upper house Senate
 - Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators John Kerry (D)
Scott Brown (R)
U.S. House delegation 10 Democrats (list)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Abbreviations MA Mass. US-MA
Massachusetts State symbols
Animate insignia
Bird(s) Black-capped Chickadee, Wild Turkey
Fish Cod
Flower(s) Mayflower
Insect Ladybug
Mammal(s) Right whale, Morgan horse, Tabby cat, Boston Terrier
Reptile Garter snake
Tree American Elm

Inanimate insignia
Beverage Cranberry Juice
Colors Blue, Green, Cranberry
Dance Square Dance
Food Cranberry, Corn muffin, Navy bean, Boston cream pie, Chocolate chip cookie, Boston cream donut
Fossil Mastodon
Gemstone Rhodonite
Mineral Babingtonite
Poem "Blue Hills of Massachusetts"
Rock Roxbury Puddingstone
Shell Wrinkled Whelk
Ship(s) Schooner Ernestina
Slogan(s) Make It Yours,
The Spirit of America
Soil Paxton
Song(s) All Hail to Massachusetts
Sport Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Football, Soccer

Route marker(s)
Massachusetts Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of Massachusetts
Released in 2000

Lists of United States state insignia

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Listeni/ˌmæsəˈsɨts/ is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010 Census, the population of Massachusetts was 6,547,629. The state features two separate metropolitan areas – the eastern Boston metropolitan area and the western Springfield metropolitan area. Approximately two thirds of the state's population lives in Greater Boston, most of which is either urban or suburban. Western Massachusetts features one urban area – the Knowledge Corridor along the Connecticut River – and a mix of college towns and rural areas. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states, the third most densely populated state in the United States, and also has the US's sixth highest GDP per capita.

Massachusetts played a significant historical, cultural, and commercial role in American history. Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement in North America, and Puritans settling Massachusetts in the 1630s dominated New England for many years. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. In 1692, the towns surrounding Salem experienced one of America's most infamous cases of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials. In the 18th century, the Protestant First Great Awakening, which swept the Atlantic world, originated from the pulpit of Northampton, Massachusetts preacher Jonathan Edwards. In the late 18th century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that led to the American Revolution and the independence of the United States from Great Britain. 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 by Western Massachusetts farmers, led directly to the United States Constitutional Convention. Before the American Civil War, Massachusetts was a center for the temperance, transcendentalist, and abolitionist movements. In 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the United States' first college for women, was opened in the Connecticut River Valley town of South Hadley. In the late 19th century, the (now) Olympic sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in the Western Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Holyoke, respectively. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage as a result of the decision of the state's Supreme Judicial Court. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including members of the Adams family and of the Kennedy family.

Originally dependent on fishing, agriculture, 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. In the 21st century, Massachusetts is a leader in higher education, health care technology, high technology, financial services, cannabis law reform, and universal healthcare.



The Massachusetts Bay Colony was named after the indigenous population, the Massachusett, whose name can be segmented as mass-adchu-s-et, where mass- is "large", -adchu- is "hill", -s- is a diminutive suffix meaning "small", and -et is a locative suffix, identifying a place. It has been translated as "near the great hill",[9] "by the blue hills", "at the little big hill", or "at the range of hills", referring to the Blue Hills, or in particular, Great Blue Hill, located on the boundary of Milton and Canton.[10][11] Alternatively, Massachusett has been represented as Moswetuset, from the name of the Moswetuset Hummock (meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead") in Quincy where Plymouth Colony commander Miles Standish and Squanto, a Native American, met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.[12][13]

Prominent roads and cities in Massachusetts.

The official name of the state is the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts".[14] Colloquially, it is often referred to simply as "the Commonwealth". While this designation is part of the state's official name, it has no practical implications. Massachusetts has the same position and powers within the United States as other states.[15]


Massachusetts is the 7th smallest state in the United States. It is located in the New England region of the northeastern United States, and has an area of 10,555 square miles (27,340 km2).[4] Several large bays distinctly shape its coast. Boston is the largest city, at the inmost point of Massachusetts Bay, the mouth of the Charles River, which is the longest river entirely within Massachusetts. The state extends from the mountains of the Appalachian system in the west to the sandy beaches and rocky shorelines of the Atlantic coast.

The National Park Service administers a number of natural and historical sites in Massachusetts.[16] Along with twelve national historic sites, areas, and corridors, the National Park Service also manages the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.[16] In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains a number of parks, trails, and beaches throughout the commonwealth.[17][18][19]


The primary biome of inland Massachusetts is temperate deciduous forest.[20] Although much of the state had been cleared for agriculture, leaving only traces of old growth forest in isolated pockets, secondary growth has regenerated in many rural areas as farms have been abandoned.[21] Currently, forests cover around 62% of Massachusetts.[22][23] The areas most affected by human development include the Greater Boston area in the east, the smaller Springfield metropolitan area in the west, and the largely agricultural Pioneer Valley.[24] Animals that have become locally extinct over the past few centuries include gray wolves, elk, wolverines, and mountain lions.[25]

Many coastal areas in Massachusetts provide breeding areas for species such as the Piping Plover.

A number of species are doing well despite (and in some cases because of) the increased urbanization of the commonwealth. Peregrine falcons utilize office towers in larger cities as nesting areas,[26] and the population of coyotes, whose diet may include garbage and roadkill, has been increasing in recent decades.[27] White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys and eastern gray squirrels are also found throughout Massachusetts.[25][28] In more rural areas in the western part of the state, larger mammals such as moose and black bears have returned, largely due to reforestation following the regional decline in agriculture.[29][30]

Massachusetts is located along the Atlantic Flyway, a major route for migratory waterfowl along the Atlantic coast.[31] Lakes in central Massachusetts provide habitat for the common loon,[32] while a significant population of long-tailed ducks winter off Nantucket.[33] Small offshore islands and beaches are home to roseate terns and are important breeding areas for the locally threatened piping plover.[34][35] Protected areas such as the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge provide critical breeding habitat for shorebirds and a variety of marine wildlife including a large population of gray seals.[36]

Freshwater fish species in the commonwealth include bass, carp, catfish, and trout,[37] while saltwater species such as Atlantic cod, haddock and American lobster populate offshore waters.[38] Other marine species include Harbor seals, the endangered North Atlantic right whales, as well as humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphins.[25]


Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882) The Pilgrims were a group of Puritans who founded Plymouth in 1620.


Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian language family such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachusett.[39][40] While cultivation of crops like squash and corn supplemented their diets, these tribes were generally dependent on hunting, gathering and fishing for most of their food supply.[39] Villages consisted of lodges called wigwams as well as long houses,[40] and tribes were led by male or female elders known as sachems.[41]

Colonial period

In the early 1600s (after contact had been made with Europeans, but before permanent settlements were established), large numbers of the indigenous people in the northeast of what is now the United States were killed by virgin soil epidemics such as smallpox, measles, influenza, and perhaps leptospirosis.[42] In 1617–1619, smallpox reportedly killed 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.[43]

The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampanoag.[44] This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony. The Pilgrims were soon followed by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630.[45] The Puritans, who believed the Church of England was too hierarchical (among other disagreements) came to Massachusetts for religious freedom,[46] although, unlike the Plymouth colony, the bay colony was founded under a royal charter. Both religious dissent and expansionism resulted in several new colonies being founded shortly after Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay elsewhere in New England. Dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished due to religious disagreements; (Hutchinson held meetings in her home discussing flaws in the Puritan beliefs, while Williams believed that the Puritan beliefs were wrong, and the Indians must be respected.) In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and Hutchinson joined him there several years later.[47]

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.[48] Shortly after the arrival of the new province's first governor, Sir William Phips, the Salem witch trials took place, in which a number of men and women were hanged.[49]

The most destructive earthquake yet known in New England occurred in 1755, causing considerable damage across the commonwealth.[50]

Percy's Rescue at Lexington by Ralph Earl and Amos Doolittle from 1775, an illustration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britain; colonists here had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s.[48] 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 to the breaking point.[51] 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.[52] The Battles of Lexington and Concord initiated the American Revolutionary War and were fought in the Massachusetts towns of Concord and Lexington.[53] Future President George Washington took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the Siege of Boston in the winter of 1775–6, after which the British were forced to evacuate the city.[54] The event is still celebrated in Suffolk County as Evacuation Day.[55]

Federal period

Bostonian John Adams, known as the "Atlas of Independence", was an important figure in both the struggle for independence as well as the formation of the new United States.[56] Adams was highly involved in the push for separation from Britain and the writing of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 (which, in the Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker cases, effectively made Massachusetts the first state to have a constitution that declared universal rights and, as interpreted by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing, abolished slavery).[56][57] Later, Adams was active in early American foreign affairs and succeeded Washington as US President.[56] His son, John Quincy Adams, would go on to become the sixth US President.[56]

After independence and during the formative years of independent American government, Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in the western half of the state from 1786 to 1787. The rebels were mostly small farmers angered by crushing war debt and taxes. The rebellion was one of the major factors in the decision to draft a stronger national constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.[58] On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.[59]

19th century

In 1820, Maine separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been first a contiguous and then a non-contiguous part, and entered the Union as the 23rd state as a result of the ratification of the Missouri Compromise.[60]

Textile mills such as the Boott Mills in Lowell made Massachusetts a leader in the US industrial revolution.

During the 19th century, Massachusetts became a national leader in the American Industrial Revolution, with factories around Boston producing textiles and shoes, and factories around Springfield producing precision manufacturing tools and paper.[61][62] The economy transformed from one based primarily on agriculture to an industrial one, initially making use of waterpower and later the steam engine to power factories, and canals and later railroads for transporting goods and materials.[63] At first, the new industries drew labor from Yankees on nearby subsistence farms, and later relied upon immigrant labor from Europe and Canada.[64][65]

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Massachusetts was a center of social progressivism, Transcendentalism, and abolitionist activity. Horace Mann made the state system of schools the national model.[66] Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson made major contributions to American thought.[67] Members of the Transcendentalism movement, they emphasized the importance of the natural world and emotion to humanity.[67] Although significant opposition to abolitionism existed early on in Massachusetts, resulting in anti-abolitionist riots between 1835 and 1837,[68] opposition to slavery gradually increased in the next few decades.[69][70] The works of abolitionists contributed to subsequent actions of the state during the Civil War. Massachusetts was the first state to recruit, train, and arm a Black regiment with White officers, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.[71] The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common contains a relief depicting the 54th regiment.[72]

20th century

Part of the "Big Dig" construction project; this portion is over the Charles River.

The industrial economy began a decline in the early 20th century with the exodus of many manufacturing companies. By the 1920s competition from the South and Midwest, followed by the Great Depression, led to the collapse of the three main industries in Massachusetts: textiles, shoemaking, and mechanized transportation.[73] This decline would continue into the latter half of the century; between 1950 and 1979, the number of Bay Staters involved in textile manufacturing declined from 264,000 to 63,000.[74] This spurred an exodus of high-paying jobs from Western Massachusetts, which suffered greatly as it de-industrialized during the last 40 years of the 20th century.[75] In Eastern Massachusetts, following World War II, the economy was transformed from one based on heavy industry into a service and high-tech based economy.[76] 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 corridor was dotted with high-technology companies who recruited graduates of the area's many elite institutions of higher education.[77]

The Kennedy family was prominent in Massachusetts politics in the 20th century. Children of businessman and ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. included John F. Kennedy, who was a senator and US president before his assassination in 1963, Robert F. Kennedy, who was a senator, US attorney general and presidential candidate before his assassination in 1968, Ted Kennedy, a senator from 1962 until his death in 2009,[78] and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a co-founder of the Special Olympics.[79] The famous Kennedy Compound is located at Hyannisport on Cape Cod.[80]

Recent history

In 1987, the state received federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Known as "the Big Dig", it was at the time the biggest federal highway project ever approved.[81] The project included making the Central Artery a tunnel under downtown Boston, in addition to the re-routing of several other major highways.[82] 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, the Big Dig has nonetheless changed the face of Downtown Boston.[81] It has connected areas that were once divided by elevated highway, (much of the raised old Central Artery was replaced with the Rose Kennedy Greenway) and improved traffic conditions along a number of routes.[81][82]


Massachusetts population density map
Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 378,787
1800 422,845 11.6%
1810 472,040 11.6%
1820 523,287 10.9%
1830 610,408 16.6%
1840 737,699 20.9%
1850 994,514 34.8%
1860 1,231,066 23.8%
1870 1,457,351 18.4%
1880 1,783,085 22.4%
1890 2,238,947 25.6%
1900 2,805,346 25.3%
1910 3,366,416 20.0%
1920 3,852,356 14.4%
1930 4,249,614 10.3%
1940 4,316,721 1.6%
1950 4,690,514 8.7%
1960 5,148,578 9.8%
1970 5,689,170 10.5%
1980 5,737,037 0.8%
1990 6,016,425 4.9%
2000 6,349,097 5.5%
2010 6,547,629 3.1%

Massachusetts had an estimated 2009 population of 6,593,587.[83] As of 2000, Massachusetts was estimated to be the third most densely populated U.S. state, with 809.8 per square mile, behind New Jersey and Rhode Island.[4] Massachusetts in 2008 included 919,771 foreign-born residents.[87] Most Bay Staters live within the Boston Metropolitan Area, also known as Greater Boston. The state's only other metropolitan area is the Springfield Metropolitan Area, also known as Greater Springfield. Centered in the Connecticut River Valley, Greater Springfield includes the revitalizing city of Springfield, and an eclectic array of college towns, (e.g. Amherst and Northampton,) and rural areas to the north and west. Geographically, the center of population of Massachusetts is located in Middlesex County, in the town of Natick.[88]

Like the rest of the northeastern United States, the population of Massachusetts has continued to grow in the past few decades, although at a slower pace than states in the South or West.[89] The latest census estimates show that the commonwealth's population grew by 3.9% since 2000, compared with nearly 10% nationwide. In their decisions to leave Massachusetts, most former residents cited high housing costs and a high cost of living.[90] Another factor has been the transformation from a manufacturing economy into one based on high technology, leaving limited employment options for lower-skilled workers, particularly males.[91] Foreign immigration is more than making up for these losses, causing the state's population to continue to grow as of the 2010 Census (particularly in Massachusetts gateway cities where costs of living are lower).[89][92] 40% of foreign immigrants were from Central or South America, according to a 2005 Census Bureau study. Many residents who have settled in Greater Springfield claim Puerto Rican descent.[89] Many areas of the commonwealth showed relatively stable population trends between 2000 and 2010.[92] Exurban Boston and coastal areas grew the most rapidly, while Berkshire County in far Western Massachusetts and Barnstable County on Cape Cod were the only counties to lose population as of the 2010 Census.[92] Both of these counties feature many "second homes," and constitute major centers of Massachusetts tourism.

In 2005, 79% of the state population spoke English, 7% spoke Spanish, 3.5% spoke Portuguese, and 1% spoke either French or Chinese.[93]

Race and ancestry

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 6,547,629, of which 3,166,628 (48.4%) were male and 3,381,001 (51.6%) were female. In terms of age, 78.3% were over 18 years old and 13.8% were over 65 years old; the median age is 39.1 years. The median age for males is 37.7 years and 40.3 years for females.

In terms of race and ethnicity, Massachusetts was 80.4% White (76.1% Non-Hispanic Whites), 6.6% Black or African American, 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native, 5.3% Asian (1.9% Chinese, 1.2% Asian Indian, and 0.7% Vietnamese), <0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 4.7% from Some Other Race, and 2.6% from Two or More Races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 9.6% of the population (4.1% Puerto Rican). [94]

As late as 1795, the population of Massachusetts was nearly 95% of British ancestry.[95] During the early and mid 19th century, immigrant groups began arriving to the commonwealth in large numbers; first from Ireland in the 1840s,[96] and later from Quebec as well as places in Europe such as Italy and Poland.[97] In the early 20th century, a number of African Americans immigrated to Massachusetts, although in somewhat fewer numbers than many other Northern states.[98] Later in the 20th century, immigration from Latin America, Africa, and East Asia increased considerably. Massachusetts has the third largest population of Haitians in the United States.[99] Massachusetts also has a relatively large population of Portuguese descent. Many of the earliest Portuguese-speaking immigrants came from the Azores in the 19th century to work in the whaling industry in cities like New Bedford.[100][101] Later, further waves of Portuguese arrived, this time often finding work in the textile mills.[101] Lowell is home to the second largest Cambodian (Khmer) community in the nation.[102] The Wampanoag tribe maintains reservations at Aquinnah, at Grafton, on Martha's Vineyard, and at Mashpee on Cape Cod,[103][104] while the Nipmuck maintain two state-recognized reservations in the central part of the state. While Massachusetts had avoided many of the more violent forms of racial strife seen elsewhere in the US, examples such as the successful electoral showings of the nativist (mainly anti-Catholic) Know Nothings in the 1850s,[105] the controversial Sacco and Vanzetti executions in the 1920s,[106] and Boston's opposition to desegregation busing in the 1970s[107] show that the ethnic history of the commonwealth was not completely harmonious.


Massachusetts was founded and settled by the Puritans in 1620. The descendants of the Puritans belong to many different churches; in the direct line of inheritance are the Congregational/United Church of Christ, and congregations of Unitarian Universalist Association. Most people in Massachusetts were Christians. Some also believed in predestination. The headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association is located on Beacon Hill in Boston.[108] Today Protestants make up less than 1/4 of the state's population. Roman Catholics now predominate because of massive immigration from primarily Ireland, followed by Italy, Portugal, Quebec, and Latin America. A large Jewish population came to the Boston and Springfield areas 1880–1920. Mary Baker Eddy made the Boston Mother Church of Christian Science the world headquarters. Buddhists, Pagans, Hindus, Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims, and Mormons also can be found. Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, the Shambala Center in Northampton, and the Insight Meditation Center in Barre are examples of non-western religious centers in Massachusetts. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives the largest single denominations are the Roman Catholic Church with 3,092,296; the United Church of Christ with 121,826; and the Episcopal Church with 98,963 adherents. Jewish congregations had about 275,000 members.[109]

The religious affiliations of the people of Massachusetts, according to a 2001 survey, are shown below:[110]

Built in 1681, the Old Ship Church in Hingham is the oldest church in America in continuous ecclesiastical use.[111]
  • Christian – 69%
  • Jewish – 2%
  • Muslim – 1%
  • Other – 7%
  • No Religion – 16%
  • Refused to answer – 7%


The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the Massachusetts gross state product in 2008 was US$365 billion.[112] The per capita personal income in 2008 was $50,735, making it the third highest state in the nation.[113] 13 Fortune 500 companies are located in the commonwealth, the largest of which are the Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and MassMutual Financial Services.[114] CNBC's list of "Top States for Business for 2010" has recognized Massachusetts as the fifth best state in the nation.[115] Sectors vital to the Massachusetts economy include higher education, biotechnology, finance, health care, and tourism. Route 128 was a major center for the development of minicomputers and electronics.[77] High technology remains an important sector, though few of the largest technology companies are based there. In recent years tourism has played an ever-important role in the state's economy, with Boston and Cape Cod being the leading destinations. Other popular tourist destinations include Salem, Plymouth and the Berkshires. As of September 2011, the state's unemployment rate was 7.4%,[116] well below the national level.

Cape Cod Bay, a leading tourist destination in Massachusetts. Tourism is of growing importance to the state's economy.

As of 2005, there were 7,700 farms in Massachusetts encompassing a total of 520,000 acres (2,100 km2), averaging 68 acres (0.28 km2) apiece.[117] Almost 2,300 of the state's 6,100 farms grossed under $2,500 in 2007.[117] Particular agricultural products of note include tobacco, livestock, and fruits, tree nuts, and berries, for which the state is nationally ranked 11th, 17th, and 16th, respectively.[117] Massachusetts is the second largest cranberry producing state in the union (after Wisconsin).[118]

The overall state and local tax burden in Massachusetts ranks 23rd highest in the United States.[119] Massachusetts has a flat-rate personal income tax of 5.3%,[119] with an exemption for income below a threshold that varies from year to year. The corporate income tax rate is 8.8%,[119] and the capital gains tax rate was 12%.[120] The state imposes a 6.25% sales tax[119] on retail sales of tangible personal property—except for groceries, clothing (up to $175.00), and periodicals.[121] The sales tax is charged on clothing that costs more than $175.00.[121] All real and tangible personal property located within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taxable unless specifically exempted by statute. Property taxes in the state were the eighth highest in the nation.[119] There is no inheritance tax and limited Massachusetts estate tax related to federal estate tax collection.[120]


The state's electricity generation market was made competitive in 1998, enabling retail customers to change suppliers without changing utility companies.[122] Though most residential customers remain with incumbent generators, most of the 4.3 billion kilowatt-hours consumed in the state in July 2011 were generated competitively.[123] In 2011, Massachusetts was ranked as the most energy efficient state in America. [124]


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, serving Greater Boston.

Massachusetts has 10 regional metropolitan planning organizations and three non-metropolitan planning organizations covering the remainder of the state; statewide planning is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Rail service

Amtrak operates inter-city rail, including the high-speed Acela service to cities such as Providence, New Haven, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, NC.[125]

Regional services

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates public transportation in the form of subway,[126] bus[127] and ferry[128] systems in the Metro Boston area. It also operates longer distance commuter rail services throughout the larger Greater Boston area, including service to Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island.[129]

Fifteen other regional transit authorities provide public transportation in the form of bus services in their local communities.[130] Two heritage railways are in operation: the Cape Cod Central Railroad and the Berkshire Scenic Railway.[131][132]

As of 2006, a number of freight railroads were operating in Massachusetts, with CSX being the largest carrier. Massachusetts has a total of 1,079 miles (1,736 km) of freight trackage in operation.[133] The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority regulates freight and passenger ferry service to the islands and operates some of those lines.[134]

Air service

The major airport in the state is Logan International Airport. The airport served over 28 million passengers in 2007 and is used by around 50 airlines.[135] Logan, Hanscom Field in Bedford, and Worcester Regional Airport are operated by Massport, an independent state transportation agency.[135] Massachusetts has approximately 42 public-use airfields, and over 200 private landing spots.[136] Some airports receive funding from the Aeronautics Division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration; FAA is also the primary regulator.


There are a total of 31,300 miles (50,400 km) of interstates and highways in Massachusetts.[137] Interstate 90, also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike, is the longest interstate in the commonwealth. The route runs 136 mi (219 km) generally west to east from the New York state line near the town of West Stockbridge and passes just north of Springfield, just south of Worcester and through Framingham before terminating near Logan International Airport in Boston. Other major interstates include Interstate 91, which runs generally north and south along the Connecticut River, Interstate 93, which runs north and south through central Boston, then passes Methuen and Lawrence before entering New Hampshire. Interstate 95, which follows most of the US Atlantic coastline, connects Providence, Rhode Island with Greater Boston, forming a loop around the more urbanized areas (for some distance cosigned with Route 128) before continuing north along the coast. Interstate 495 forms a wide loop around the outer edge of Greater Boston. Other major interstates in the commonwealth include I-291, I-391, I-84, I-195, I-395, I-290, and I-190. Major non-interstate highways in Massachusetts include U.S. Routes 1, 3, 6, and 20, and state routes 2, 3, 24 and 128. A great majority of interstates in Massachusetts were constructed during the mid 20th century, and at times were controversial, particularly the routing of I-95 through central Boston. Opposition to continued construction grew, and in 1970 Governor Francis W. Sargent issued a general prohibition on most further freeway construction within the I-95/Route 128 loop in the Boston area.[138] A massive undertaking to depress I-93 in downtown Boston, called the Big Dig, has brought the city's highway system under public scrutiny over the last decade.[81]

Government and politics

The government of Massachusetts is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The commonwealth has a long political history; earlier political structures included the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the separate Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies, and the combined colonial Province of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780 while the Revolutionary War was in progress, four years after the Articles of Confederation was drafted, and eight years before the present United States Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788. Drafted by John Adams, the Commonwealth's constitution is one of the oldest functioning written constitutions in continuous effect in the world.[139] In recent decades, Massachusetts politics have been generally dominated by the Democratic Party, and the state has a reputation for being one of the most liberal in the country.


The Government of Massachusetts is divided into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The governor of Massachusetts heads the executive branch; duties of the governor include signing or vetoing legislation, filling judicial and agency appointments, granting pardons, preparing an annual budget, and commanding the Massachusetts National Guard.[140] Massachusetts governors, unlike those of most other states, are addressed as His/Her Excellency.[140] The current governor is Deval Patrick, a Democrat from Milton. The executive branch also includes the Executive Council, which is made up of eight elected councilors and the Lieutenant Governor.[140] Abilities of the Council include confirming gubanatorial appointments and certifying elections.[140] The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Massachusetts Senate comprise the legislature of the commonwealth, known as the Massachusetts General Court.[140] The House consists of 160 members while the Senate has 40 members.[140] Leaders of the House and Senate are chosen by the members of those bodies; the leader of the House is known as the Speaker while the leader of the Senate is known as the President.[140] Each branch consists of several committees.[140] Members of both bodies are elected to two-year terms. The Judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Judicial Court, which serves over a number of lower courts.[140] The Supreme Judicial Court is made up of a chief justice and six associate justices.[140] Judicial appointments are made by the governor and confirmed by the executive council.[140]

The Congressional delegation from Massachusetts is almost entirely Democratic.[141][142] Currently, the U.S. senators are Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown. The ten members of the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives (all Democrats) are John Olver, Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, Niki Tsongas, John F. Tierney, Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and Bill Keating.[142] Federal court cases are heard in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and appeals are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.[143] In US presidential elections, Massachusetts is allotted 12 votes in the electoral college, out of a total of 538.[144] Like most states, the commonwealth's electoral votes are granted in a winner-take-all system.[145]


Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2008 36.20% 1,105,908 62.01% 1,894,067
2004 36.83% 1,070,109 61.92% 1,803,801
2000 32.51% 878,502 59.93% 1,616,487
1996 28.11% 718,107 61.52% 1,571,763
1992 29.04% 805,049 47.51% 1,318,662
1988 45.42% 1,194,635 53.23% 1,401,416

Throughout the mid 20th century, Massachusetts has gradually shifted from a Republican-leaning state to one largely dominated by Democrats; the 1952 victory of John F. Kennedy over incumbent Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. is seen as a watershed moment in this transformation. His younger brother Edward M. Kennedy held that seat until his death from a brain tumor in 2009.[146] Massachusetts has since gained a reputation as being a politically liberal state and is often used as an archetype of modern liberalism, hence the usage of the phrase "Massachusetts liberal".[147] Eastern Massachusetts routinely votes for the Democratic Party in federal elections while the western half tends to vote Republican.[citation needed] As of the 2006 election, the Republican party holds less than 13% of the seats in both legislative houses of the General Court: in the House, the balance is 141 Democratic to 19 Republican, and in the Senate, 35–5.[148] Although Republicans held the governor's office continuously from 1991 to 2007, they have been among the more socially liberal Republican leaders in the nation.[149][150] In the 2004 election, Massachusetts gave native son John Kerry 61.9% of the vote, his best showing in any state.[151] In 2008, President Barack Obama carried the state with 61.8% of the vote.[152] In a recent statewide election, a special election in 2010 for the U.S. Senate, saw Republican Scott Brown defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in an upset, by a 52% to 47% margin.[153]

A number of contemporary national political issues have been influenced by events in the commonwealth, such as the 2003 state Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage[154] and a 2006 bill which mandated health insurance for all Bay Staters.[155] In 2008, Massachusetts voters passed an initiative decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.[156]

Cities, towns, and counties

Boston, the capital and largest city of Massachusetts.

There are 50 cities and 301 towns in Massachusetts, grouped into 14 counties.[157] The fourteen counties, moving roughly from west to east, are Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Worcester, Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket. Eleven communities which call themselves "towns" are, by law, cities since they have traded the town meeting form of government for a mayor-council or manager-council form.[158]

Boston is the state capital and largest city in Massachusetts. The population of the city proper is 609,023,[159] and Greater Boston, with a population of 4,522,858, is the 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation.[160] Other cities with a population over 100,000 include Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, and Cambridge.[161] Plymouth is the largest municipality in the state by land area.[157]

Massachusetts, along with the five other New England states, features the local governmental structure known as the New England town.[162] In this structure, incorporated towns—as opposed to townships or counties—hold many of the responsibilities and powers of local government.[162] Some of the county governments were abolished by the commonwealth in 1997, and elect only a sheriff and registrar of deed who are part of the state government.[163] Others have been reorganized, and a few still retain county councils.[163]


The Widener Library at Harvard University. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and has the largest academic library in the world.[164]

Massachusetts was the first state to require municipalities to appoint a teacher or establish a grammar school with the passage of the Massachusetts Education Law of 1647,[165] and 19th century reforms pushed by Horace Mann, founder of Westfield State University, laid much of the groundwork for contemporary universal public education.[166][167] Massachusetts is home to the country's oldest public elementary school (The Mather School, founded in 1639), oldest high school (Boston Latin School, founded in 1635),[168] oldest boarding school (The Governor's Academy, founded in 1763), oldest college (Harvard University, founded in 1636)[169] and oldest women's college (Mount Holyoke College, founded in 1837).[170] In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory school attendance laws.[171] The per-student public expenditure for elementary and secondary schools (kindergarten through grade 12) was fifth in the nation in 2004, at $11,681.[172] In 2007, Massachusetts scored highest of all the states in math on the National Assessments of Educational Progress.[173]

Massachusetts is home to 121 institutions of higher education.[174] Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both located in Cambridge, consistently rank among the world's best universities.[175][176][177] The University of Massachusetts (nicknamed UMass) features five campuses in the state, with its flagship campus in Amherst that enrolls over 25,000 students.[178][179]

Arts and culture

Site of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond near Concord

Massachusetts has contributed much to American arts and culture. Drawing from its Native American and Yankee roots, along with later immigrant groups, the commonwealth has produced a number of writers, artists, and musicians. A number of major museums and important historical sites are also located there, and events and festivals throughout the year celebrate the state's history and heritage.

Massachusetts was an early center of the Trancendentalist movement, which emphasized intuition, emotion, human individuality and a deeper connection with nature.[67] Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was from Boston but spent much of his later life in Concord, largely created the philosophy with his 1836 work Nature, and continued to be a key figure in the movement for the remainder of his life. Emerson's friend, Henry David Thoreau, who was also involved in Trancendentalism, recorded his year spent alone in a small cabin at nearby Walden Pond in the 1854 work Walden; or, Life in the Woods.[180] Other famous authors and poets born or strongly associated with Massachusetts include Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as "Dr. Seuss".[181][182][183] Famous painters from Massachusetts include Winslow Homer and Norman Rockwell;[183] many of the latter's works are on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.[184]

An outdoor dance performance at Jacob's Pillow in Becket

The commonwealth is also an important center for the performing arts. Both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Orchestra are based in Massachusetts.[185] Other orchestras in the commonwealth include the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra in Barnstable and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.[186][187] Tanglewood, in western Massachusetts, is a music venue that is home to both the Tanglewood Music Festival and Tanglewood Jazz Festival, as well as the summer host for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[188][189] Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires hosts a number of traditional and contemporary musical and dance events.[190] Other performing arts and theater organizations in Massachusetts include the Boston Ballet,[191] the Boston Lyric Opera,[185] and the Lenox-based Shakespeare & Company.[192] In addition to classical and folk music, Massachusetts has produced musicians and bands spanning a number of contemporary genres, such as the classic rock band Aerosmith, the New Wave band The Cars, and the alternative rock band Pixies.[193] Film events in the state include the Boston Film Festival, the Boston International Film Festival, and a number of smaller film festivals in various cities throughout the commonwealth.[194]

USS Constitution fires a salute during its annual Fourth of July turnaround cruise

Massachusetts is home to a large number of museums and historical sites. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the DeCordova contemporary art and sculpture museum in Lincoln are all located within the commonwealth,[195][196] and the Maria Mitchell Association in Nantucket includes several observatories, museums, and an aquarium.[197] Historically themed museums and sites such as the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in Springfield,[16] Boston's Freedom Trail and nearby Minute Man National Historical Park, both of which preserve a number of sites important during the American Revolution,[16][198] the Lowell National Historical Park, which focuses on some of the earliest mills and canals of the industrial revolution in the US,[16] the Black Heritage Trail in Boston, which includes important African-American and abolitionist sites in Boston,[199] and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park[16] all showcase various periods of the commonwealth's history. Plimoth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village are two open-air or "living" museums in Massachusetts, recreating life as it was in the 17th and early 19th centuries, respectively.[200][201] Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day parade and "Harborfest", a week-long Fourth of July celebration featuring a fireworks display and concert by the Boston Pops as well as a turnaround cruise in Boston Harbor by USS Constitution,[202] are popular events. The New England Summer Nationals, an auto show in Worcester, draws tens of thousands of attendees every year.[203]


There are two major television media markets located in Massachusetts. The Boston/Manchester market is the fifth largest in the United States.[204] All major networks are represented. The other market surrounds the Springfield area. WGBH-TV in Boston is a major public television station and produces national programs such as Nova, Frontline, and American Experience.[205][206] The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Springfield Republican and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette are the commonwealth's largest daily newspapers.[207] In addition, there are many community dailies and weeklies. There are a number of major AM and FM stations which serve Massachusetts,[208] along with many more regional and community-based stations. Some colleges and universities also operate campus television and radio stations, and print their own newspapers.[209][210][211][212][213]


Massachusetts generally ranks highly among states in most health and disease prevention categories. In 2009, the United Health Foundation ranked the state as third healthiest overall.[214] However, the study also pointed to several areas in which Massachusetts ranked below average, such as the state's rate of binge drinking, which was the 11th highest in the country.[214] Massachusetts has the most doctors per 100,000 residents,[215] the second lowest infant mortality rate,[216] and the lowest percentage of uninsured residents (for both children as well as the total population).[217] According to Businessweek, commonwealth residents have an average life expectancy of 78.4 years, the fifth longest in the country.[218] 37.2% of the population is overweight and 21.7% is obese,[219] and Massachusetts ranks sixth highest in the percentage of residents who are considered neither obese nor overweight (41.1%).[219]

The nation's first Marine Hospital was erected by federal order in Boston in 1799.[220][221] The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine lists a total of 132 hospitals in the state.[222] According to rankings by US News & World Report, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is the third best overall hospital in the nation;[223] the hospital also ranked first in psychiatry.[224] Massachusetts General was founded in 1811 and serves as the largest teaching hospital for nearby Harvard University.[225] Other teaching and medical institutions affiliated with Harvard include Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, among others.[226] Boston is also the location of New England Baptist Hospital, Tufts Medical Center and Boston Medical Center, the latter of which is the primary teaching hospital for Boston University.[227] The University of Massachusetts Medical School is located in Worcester.[228] The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has campuses in both Boston and Worcester.[229]

Sports and recreation

Organized sports

TD Garden in Boston is home to the Boston Celtics of the NBA.

The Olympic sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in Western Massachusetts, (in Springfield and Holyoke, respectively.) The Basketball Hall of Fame, a shrine to the sport's history, is a major tourist destination in the City of Springfield. The Volleyball Hall of Fame is located in Holyoke.[230]

Massachusetts has a long history with amateur athletics and professional teams. Most of the major professional teams have won multiple championships in their respective leagues. Massachusetts teams have won six Stanley Cups (Boston Bruins),[231] seventeen NBA Championships (Boston Celtics),[232] three Super Bowls (New England Patriots),[233] and eight World Series (seven for the Boston Red Sox, one for the Boston Braves).[234] The American Hockey League, (AHL,) the NHL's development league, is headquartered in Springfield. Other professional sports teams in Massachusetts include the Springfield Falcons AHL team, the Worcester Sharks AHL team, and the Springfield Armor NBA Development League team.

Massachusetts is also the home of the Cape Cod Baseball League, rowing events such as the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester and the Head of the Charles Regatta,[235][236] and the Boston Marathon.[237] A number of major golf events have taken place in Massachusetts, including nine U.S. Opens and two Ryder Cups, among others.[238][239][240] The New England Revolution is the Major League Soccer team in Massachusetts,[241] and the Boston Cannons are the Major League Lacrosse team.[242] The Boston Breakers are the Women's Professional Soccer in Massachusetts.

Many universities in Massachusetts are active in college athletics. There are a number of NCAA Division I teams in the state involved in multiple sports: Boston University, Harvard University, Boston College, Northeastern University, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.[243][244][245]

Outdoor recreation

Long-distance hiking trails in Massachusetts include the Appalachian Trail, the New England National Scenic Trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the Midstate Trail, and the Bay Circuit Trail.[246][247] Other outdoor recreational activities in the commonwealth include sailing and yachting, freshwater and deep-sea fishing,[248] whale watching,[249] downhill and cross-country skiing,[250] and hunting.

See also



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  • Brebner, John Bartlet (1927). New England's outpost : Acadia before the conquest of Canada. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0781263670. 
  • Brettell, Caroline (2003). Anthropology and Migration:Essays on Transnational Ethnicity and Identity. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0759103208. 
  • Brown, Richard D.; Tager, Jack (2000). Massachusetts: A Concise History. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1558492488. 
  • Dejnozka, Edward L.; Gifford, Charles S.; Kapel, David E.; Kapel, Marilyn B.; (1982). American Educators' Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313209545. 
  • Goldfield, David; Abbott, Carl; Anderson, Virginia DeJohn; Argersinger, Jo Ann E.; Argersinger, Peter H; Barney, William L.; & Weir, Robert M. (1998). The American Journey – A History of the United States. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 013656562X. 
  • Koplow, David A. (2004). Smallpox:The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scurge. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0520242203. 
  • Sokolow, Alvin D. (1997). "Town and Township Government: Serving Rural and Suburban Communities". Handbook of Local Government Administration. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker Inc.. ISBN 0824797825. 

Further reading

Overviews and surveys

Secondary sources

  • Abrams, Richard M. Conservatism in a Progressive Era: Massachusetts Politics, 1900–1912 (1964)
  • Adams, James Truslow. Revolutionary New England, 1691–1776 (1923)
  • Adams, James Truslow. New England in the Republic, 1776–1850 (1926)
  • Andrews, Charles M. The Fathers of New England: A Chronicle of the Puritan Commonwealths (1919), short survey
  • Conforti, Joseph A. Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century (2001)
  • Cumbler, John T. Reasonable Use: The People, the Environment, and the State, New England, 1790–1930 (1930), environmental history
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Paul Revere's Ride (1994), 1775 in depth
  • Flagg, Charles Allcott, A Guide to Massachusetts local history, Salem : Salem Press Company, 1907.
  • Green, James R., William F. Hartford, and Tom Juravich. Commonwealth of Toil: Chapters in the History of Massachusetts Workers and Their Unions (1996)
  • Huthmacher, J. Joseph. Massachusetts People and Politics, 1919–1933 (1958)
  • Labaree, Benjamin Woods. Colonial Massachusetts: A History (1979)
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783–1860 (1921)
  • Peirce, Neal R. The New England States: People, Politics, and Power in the Six New England States (1976), 1960–75 era
  • Porter, Susan L. Women of the Commonwealth: Work, Family, and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts (1996)
  • Sletcher, Michael. New England (2004).
  • Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts (1949), Salem witches
  • Tager, Jack, and John W. Ifkovic, eds. Massachusetts in the Gilded Age: Selected Essays (1985), ethnic groups
  • Zimmerman, Joseph F. The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action (1999)

External links

Related information

Preceded by
List of U.S. states by constitutional ratification date
Ratified Constitution on February 6, 1788 (6th)
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 42°18′N 71°48′W / 42.3°N 71.8°W / 42.3; -71.8

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