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Court Square, Boston, Old State House in the distance

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts ( ) is a state in the New Englandmarker region of the northeastern United Statesmarker. It is bordered by Rhode Islandmarker and Connecticutmarker to the south, New Yorkmarker to the west, and Vermontmarker and New Hampshiremarker to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Oceanmarker. Most of its population of 6.4 million lives in the Boston metropolitan area. The eastern half of the state is made up of urban, suburban, and rural areas, while Western Massachusetts is mostly rural. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states. It ranks third among U.S. states in GDP per capita.

Massachusetts has been significant throughout American history. Plymouthmarker was the second permanent English settlement in North America. Many of Massachusetts's towns were founded by colonists from England in the 1620s and 1630s. During the eighteenth 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 Britainmarker. In the late eighteenth century, Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to abolish slavery. It was also a center of the temperance movement and abolitionist activity before the American Civil War. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including the Adams family and, more recently, the Kennedy family.

Originally dependent on fishing, agriculture, and trade with Europe, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the twentieth century, the state's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Today, the state is a leader in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services.


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", "by the blue hills", "at the little big hill", or "at the range of hills", referring to the Blue Hillsmarker, or in particular, Great Blue Hillmarker, located on the boundary of Miltonmarker and Cantonmarker, to the southwest of Boston. (See also the Narragansett name Massachusêuck; Ojibwe misajiwensed, "of the little big hill".) Alternatively, Massachusett has been represented as Moswetuset, from the name of the Moswetuset Hummockmarker (meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead") in Quincymarker where Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish and Squanto, a Native American, met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.

The official name of the state is the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Colloquially, it is often referred to simply as "the Commonwealth", although "state" is used interchangeably. 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 and a similar form of internal government.


Prominent roads and cities in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is bordered on the north by New Hampshiremarker and Vermontmarker; on the west by New York; on the south by Connecticutmarker and Rhode Islandmarker; and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state is uplands of resistant metamorphic rock that were scraped by Pleistocene glaciers that deposited moraines and outwash on a large, sandy, arm-shaped peninsula called Cape Codmarker and the islands Martha's Vineyardmarker and Nantucketmarker to the south of Cape Cod. Upland elevations increase to the north and west and the highest point in the state is Mount Greylockmarker at near the state's northwest corner.
The uplands are interrupted by the downfaulted Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River and further west by the Housatonic Valley separating the Berkshire Hillsmarker from the Taconic Rangemarker along the western border with New York.

Bostonmarker is located at the innermost point of Massachusetts Baymarker, at the mouth of the Charles River, the longest river entirely within Massachusetts. Most of the population of the Boston metropolitan area (approximately 4.4 million) does not live in the city proper; eastern Massachusetts on the whole is fairly densely populated and largely suburban as far west as Worcestermarker.

Central Massachusetts encompasses Worcester County, and includes the cities of Worcestermarker, Fitchburgmarker, Leominstermarker, Gardnermarker, Southbridgemarker and small upland towns, forests, and small farms. The Quabbin Reservoirmarker borders the western side of the county, and is the main water supply for the eastern part of the state.

The Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts is urbanized from the Connecticutmarker border (and greater Hartfordmarker) to north as far as Northamptonmarker, and includes Springfieldmarker, Chicopeemarker, Agawammarker, West Springfieldmarker, Westfieldmarker, and Holyokemarker. Pioneer Valley economy and population was influenced by agriculturally productive Connecticut River Valley land in the 17th and 18th century, water power for the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and expansion of higher education in the 20th century.

The remainder of the state west of Pioneer Valley is mainly uplands, a range of small mountains known as the Berkshires, and also includes parts of the Taconic and Hoosac Ranges. It is the summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Lenox), Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge), Mount Everett and Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. It largely remained in aboriginal hands until the 18th century when Scotch-Irish settlers arrived and found the more productive lands already settled. Availability of better land in western New York and then the Northwest Territory soon put the upland agricultural population into decline. Available water power led to 19th century settlement along upland rivers. Pittsfieldmarker and North Adamsmarker grew into small cities and there are a number of smaller mill towns along the Westfield River.

The geographic center of the state is in the town of Rutlandmarker, in Worcester county.The National Park Service administers a number of natural and historical sites in Massachusetts.

The fourteen counties, moving roughly from west to east, areBerkshiremarker,Franklinmarker,Hampshiremarker,Hampdenmarker,Worcestermarker,Middlesexmarker,Essexmarker,Suffolkmarker,Norfolkmarker,Bristolmarker,Plymouthmarker,Barnstablemarker,Dukesmarker, andNantucketmarker.

Flora and fauna

The primary biome of inland Massachusetts is temperate deciduous forest. Although muchof 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. Currently, forests cover around 62% of Massachusetts. 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. Animals that have become locally extinct over the past few centuries include gray wolves, elk, wolverines, and mountain lions.

Wildlife species that are doing well are adapting to a changing setting. Coyote, White-tailed Deer, Raccoon, and Wild Turkey are now found in suburbs of major cities and are increasing in population. Black Bear and moose have made comebacks in western and central Massachusetts, and are slowly expanding their range. Gray squirrels are numerous in all areas. Peregrine Falcon can be found nesting on artificial platforms on many of the state's tallest buildings in larger cities such as Bostonmarker, Worcestermarker and Springfieldmarker.

The Atlantic Flyway is the primary migration route for North American bird species. Common Loon are a relatively recent addition to the breeding bird list, their nests at the Wachusett Reservoirmarker are considered the most southerly in the world population of this species. A significant portion of the eastern population of Long-tailed Duck winter off Nantucketmarker. Small offshore islands are home to a significant population of breeding Roseate Terns, and some beaches are important breeding areas to the endangered Piping Plover.

Massachusetts has an extensive coastline and has a declining commercial fishery out to the continental shelf. Atlantic cod, haddock and American lobster are species harvested here. Gray Seal have a large nursery near Monomoy Islandmarker and other islands in Nantucket Soundmarker. Harbor seals are commonly seen feeding and playing just offshore year round. Finally, a significant number of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales summer on feeding grounds in Cape Cod Baymarker, so many that the state has recently unveiled a special license plate depicting a right whale with the slogan, "Preserve The Trust". It is an attempt to raise public awareness that these animals are in fact endangered. Whale watching is a popular summer activity off the coast of Massachusetts. Boats regularly sail to Stellwagen Bank to view species such as Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale and Atlantic White-sided Dolphin.



Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian linguistic family such as the Wampanoag, Nauset, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachuset. 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. Villages consisted of lodges called wigwams as well as long houses, and tribes were led by male elders known as sachems. Large numbers of the indigenous people of the northeast of what is now the United States were killed by waves of smallpox, measles and influenza in the early seventeenth century. In 1617–1619, smallpox reportedly killed 90% of the Massachusetts Baymarker Native Americans.

Colonial period

The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouthmarker in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampanoag. This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony; both were preceded by temporary camps, the unsuccessful Roanoke Colony, and Spanish settlements in Florida in the 1500s. Most early settlers came from within of Haverhill, Englandmarker. The Pilgrims were soon followed by more Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Bostonmarker in 1630. The Puritans, whose beliefs included exclusive understanding of the literal truth of the Bible, came to Massachusetts for religious freedom. Dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts because of the Puritan society's lack of religious tolerance. In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Islandmarker, and Hooker founded Connecticutmarker.

By 1636, the colonists had also begun to settle the inland Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River, where the state's best agricultural land is concentrated.

Native American - European racial tensions led to King Philip's War of the years 1675–76. Mendonmarker was involved in an early battle in July 1675 and settlers were killed in the Blackstone Valley. There were major campaigns in this war in the Pioneer Valley and Plymouth Colony. In 1690 there was an unsuccessful expedition against French Quebec under William Phips. Massachusetts became a single colony in 1692, the largest in New Englandmarker, and one where many American institutions and traditions were formed. The colony fought alongside British regulars in a series of French and Indian Wars that were characterized by brutal border raids and successful attacks on British forces in New France (present-day Canada).

With its important sea ports and its attention as a Colonial British political hot spot, Massachusetts offered a major front against the growing pirate onslaughts in the New World during what is called the Golden Age of Piracy, from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. In fact, Boston's vigorous persecution of piracy actually heightened the violent attacks by pirates against New England ships, with the moment of this increase being pinpointed to the execution of six of the nine survivors of The Whydah Galley, the flag ship of the pirate "Black Sam" Bellamy, and his consort ship The Marianne, both of which went down in a storm with five tons of silver and gold on the coast of Wellfleet, on the outer banks of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in April 1717. One of the survivors was the Native American named John Julian, who, rather than being tried and executed, was sold into slavery to none other than the grandfather of anti-slavery U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, son of president John Adams. Though from time to time there was always an odd, ultra-violent and merciless pirate captain, during that period it was not the general policy of Golden Age pirates to kill prisoners, and ships were usually returned to their captains after they were looted. But after the execution of Bellamy's men, many notorious contemporary pirates such as Edward "Blackbeard" Teach [sometimes spelled Thatch] and others, who held Bellamy in unusually high esteem, began terrorizing New England crews, burning their ships, and even inflicting tortures and mutilations on defenseless captains; after which, some of the victims would be given a boat and sent to the governor Samuel Shute of Massachusetts (who had presided over the trial of Bellamy's men) with the message that thus would be the fate of all New England ships for what was done to Bellamy's men. In 1984, Bellamy's Whydah Galley, with its treasures, became the first authenticated pirate ship ever recovered in the world when it was discovered by famed explorer Barry Clifford - the artifacts of which are displayed at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britainmarker, earning it the nickname, the "Cradle of Liberty". Colonists here had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s.

The Boston Tea Partymarker is an example of the protest spirit of the later pre-revolutionary period in the 1770s, and the Boston Massacre is a famous incident which escalated the conflict. Actions by patriots such as Sam Adams and John Hancock followed by counter-actions by the Crown were a main reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution. The Battles of Lexington and Concordmarker initiated the American Revolutionary War and were fought in the Massachusetts towns of Concordmarker and Lexingtonmarker.

Future President George Washington took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the 11 month Siege of Bostonmarker in early 1776, where his successful fortification of Dorchester Heightsmarker forced the British to withdraw from Boston on March 17. This day is celebrated in Massachusetts as Evacuation Day.

Federal period

The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780.

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.

19th century

On March 15, 1820, Mainemarker 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.

During the 19th century, Massachusetts and the New Englandmarker region became a national and world leader in the Industrial Revolution, with the development of machine tools and textiles. The economy transformed from primarily agricultural to industrial, initially making use of its many rivers, and later the steam engine to power factories for textiles, shoes, furniture, and machinery that drew labor from Yankees on subsistence farms at first, and later drew upon immigrant labor from Canada and Europe.

Horace Mann made the state system of schools the national model. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson made major contributions to American thought. Members of the Transcendentalism movement, they emphasized the importance of the natural world to humanity.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Massachusetts was a center of social progressivism, the temperance movement, and abolitionist activity within the United States. Antagonism to these views resulted in anti-abolitionist riots in Massachusetts between 1835 and 1837. The works of abolitionists contributed to subsequent actions of the state during the Civil War. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to abolish slavery, in a 1783 judicial interpretation of its 1780 constitution, and was the first state to recruit, train, and arm a Black regiment with White officers, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Commonmarker contains a relief depicting the 54th regiment.

Massachusetts would establish itself as a leader in education and innovation during this time. Alexander Graham Bell invented his telephone in Boston in 1876.

20th century

The industrial economy began a decline in the early twentieth century with the exodus of many manufacturing companies. By the 1920s competition from the South, followed by the Great Depression, led to the collapse of Massachusetts' two main industries, textiles and shoes, although a few companies would survive into the 1950s. In the years following World War II, Massachusetts was transformed from a factory system to a largely service and high-tech based economy. Some manufacturing does exist in the State today, generally in specialized markets.

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.

In 1987, the state received federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Known as the "the Big Digmarker," it was at the time the biggest federal highway project ever approved. Often controversial, with its estimated $14.6 billion price tag, and claims of mismanagement, the Big Dig has changed the face of Downtown Bostonmarker, connecting areas that were once divided by elevated highway, and improving traffic conditions (although traffic problems still exist).

The Kennedy family was prominent in Massachusetts politics in the 20th century, especially with President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. The famous Kennedy Compound is located at Hyannisport on Cape Codmarker.

21st century

In recent years tourism has played an ever-important role in the state's economy, with Bostonmarker and Cape Codmarker being the leading destinations. Other popular tourist destinations include Salemmarker, Plymouthmarker and the Berkshires.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the sixth jurisdiction in the world (after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontariomarker, British Columbiamarker, and Quebecmarker) to do so.

On November 4, 2008, citizens of the state voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Effective January 2, 2009, a person, 18 years of age or older, caught with an ounce or less of marijuana may be charged with a $100 fine as well as face confiscation of any marijuana on their person. The violation will only be considered a civil violation (rather than criminal). Also on that ballot, the citizens voted to ban greyhound racing in the state.



Massachusetts had an estimated 2006 population of 6,437,193. An estimated increase of 3,826, or 0.1%, from the prior year and an increase of 88,088, or 1.4%, since the year 2000. This includes an increase since the last census of 149,992 people (499,440 births minus 349,448 deaths) and a decrease from net migration of 89,812 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 200,155 people, and net migration within the country resulted in a loss of 289,967 people. As of 2000, Massachusetts is the third most densely populated U.S. state, with 809.8 per square mile (312.68 per square kilometer), after New Jerseymarker and Rhode Islandmarker, and ahead of Connecticutmarker and Marylandmarker.

Massachusetts has seen both population increases and decreases in recent years. For example, while some Bay Staters are leaving, others including Asian, Hispanic and African immigrants, arrive to replace them. Massachusetts in 2004 included 881,400 foreign-born residents.

Most Bay Staters live within a 60 mile radius of the State Housemarker on Beacon Hill, often called Greater Boston: the City of Boston, neighboring cities and towns, the North Shoremarker, South Shoremarker, the northern, western, and southern suburbs, and most of southeastern and central Massachusetts. Eastern Massachusetts is more urban than Western Massachusetts, which is primarily rural, save for the cities of Springfieldmarker, Chicopeemarker, and Northamptonmarker, which serve as centers of population density in the Pioneer Valley of the Connecticut River. The center of population of Massachusetts is located in Middlesex Countymarker, in the town of Natickmarker.

Race, ancestry, and language

Massachusetts Population Density Map
The five largest reported ancestries in Massachusetts are: Irish (23.5%), Italian (13.5%), French/French Canadian (or Franco-American) (12.9%), English (11.4%), German (5.9%).

Massachusetts is the most Irish state in the country in terms of percentage of total population. Massachusetts also has large communities of people of Finnish and Swedish descent; Armenian, Lebanese descent; and Italian descent. Other influential ethnicities are Greek Americans, Lithuanian Americans and Polish Americans. Massachusetts "Yankees," of colonial English ancestry, still have a strong presence. French Americans are the largest group in parts of western and central Massachusetts. Boston's largest immigrant group is the Haitians. Fall Rivermarker and New Bedfordmarker on the south coast have large populations of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean heritage, all of which are also prevalent in the Brocktonmarker area. There is a growing Brazilian population in the Boston area (especially in Framinghammarker) and also an abundant population of Brazilians thrive in Cape Codmarker especially in Barnstablemarker, Falmouthmarker, and Yarmouthmarker. Lowellmarker, in the northeast of the state, is home to a large Cambodian community, second in the country to the concentration of Cambodians in Long Beachmarker, Californiamarker. Although many of the Native Americans have intermarried with other ethnic groups (or died in King Philip's War of 1675) , the Wampanoag tribe maintains reservations at Aquinnahmarker, at Grafton, on Martha's Vineyard, and at Mashpeemarker on Cape Cod. The Nipmuck maintain two state-recognized reservations in the central part of the state. Many Wampanoags and other native people live outside of reservations.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 6.21% of the population aged five and over speak Spanish at home, while 2.68% speak Portuguese, 1.44% French, and 1.00% Italian.


St. Paul's Catholic Church, Hingham
Massachusetts was founded and settled by Puritans in the 17th century. The descendants of the Puritans belong to many different churches; in the direct line of inheritance are the Congregational/United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist churches. Both of these denominations are noted for their strong support of social justice, civil rights, and moral issues, including strong and early advocacy of abolition of slavery, women's rights, and (after 2000) legal recognition of same-sex marriage. The world headquarters of the Unitarian-Universalist Church is located on Beacon Hill in Bostonmarker. Today Protestants make up less than 1/4 of the state's population. Roman Catholics now predominate because of massive immigration from Irelandmarker, Quebecmarker, Italymarker, Polandmarker, Portugalmarker, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republicmarker. A large Jewish population came to the Boston area 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 and the Insight Meditation Center (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.

The religious affiliations of the people of Massachusetts, according to a 2001 survey, are shown in the table below:
Religion or Denomination % of Population
Catholic 44
Baptist 4
No Religion 16
Christian (no denomination specified) 3
Methodist 2
Lutheran 1
Presbyterian 1
Protestant 4
Pentecostal 2
Episcopal 3
Jewish 2
Church of Christ 1
Congregational/United Church of Christ 3
Jehovah's Witness 1
Buddhist 1
Other 5
Refused to Answer 7

Emigration and immigration

The latest (2008) estimated Census population figures show that Massachusetts has grown by slightly over 2 percent, to 6,497,967, since 2000. This slow growth is likely attributable to the fact that Massachusetts continues to attract top scholars and researchers from across the United States as well as large numbers of immigrants, combined with steady emigration away from the state towards New Hampshiremarker and southern and western regions of the U.S. because of high housing costs, weather, and traffic.

Recent census data shows that the number of immigrants living in Massachusetts has increased over 15% from 2000–2005. The biggest influxes are Latin Americans. According to the census, the population of Central Americans rose by 67.7 percent between 2000 and 2005, and the number of South Americans rose by 107.5 percent. And among South Americans, the largest group to increase appeared to be Brazilians, whose numbers rose by 131.4 percent, to 84,836. This surge of immigrants tends to offset emigration, and, of course, given the 350,000 increase in population in the Commonwealth between 1990 and 2000, many immigrants to Massachusetts come from elsewhere in the USA.

Following the shift to a high-tech economy and the numerous factory closures, few jobs remain for low skilled male workers, who are dropping out of the workforce in large numbers. The percentage of men in the labor force fell from 77.7% in 1989 to 72.8% in 2005. This national trend is most pronounced in Massachusetts. In the case of men without high school diplomas, 10% have left the labor force between 1990 and 2000.


The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Massachusetts's gross state product in 2007 was US $351 billion. The Per capita personal income in 2006 was US$47,702, making it the 4th highest in the nation. Gross state product increased 2.6% from 2004 to 2005, below the national average of 3.5%.

Sectors vital to the Massachusetts economy include higher education, biotechnology, finance, health care, and tourism. Route 128 was a main center for the development of minicomputers. Massachusetts was the home of many of the largest computer companies such as Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General, and Wang Laboratories situated around Route 128 and Route 495 (another beltway approximately farther away from Boston). Most of the larger companies fell into decline after the rise of the personal computer, which was based in large part on software such as Visicalc and Lotus 1-2-3 and hardware technology such as memory and operating systems developed by many of these companies. High technology remains an important sector, though few of the largest technology companies are based there.

Its agricultural outputs are seafood, nursery stock, dairy products, cranberries, tobacco and vegetables. Its industrial outputs are machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, scientific instruments, printing, and publishing. Thanks largely to the Ocean Spray cooperative, Massachusetts is the second largest cranberry producing state in the union (after Wisconsinmarker).

As of 2005, there were 6,100 farms in Massachusetts encompassing a total of , averaging 85 acres apiece. Almost 2,300 of Massachusetts' 6,100 farms grossed under $2,500 in 2007. This very low mode income shows that most farms in Massachusetts are not the primary sources of income for their owners. Particular agricultural products of note include tobacco; animals and animal products; and fruits, tree nuts, and berries, for which the state is nationally ranked 11th, 17th, and 16th, respectively.

Massachusetts has a flat-rate personal income tax of 5.3%, with an exemption for income below a threshold that varies from year to year. The state imposes a 6.25% sales tax on retail sales of tangible personal property—except for groceries, clothing, and periodicals—in Massachusetts by any vendor. The sales tax rate has been changed as of August 1, 2009 from 5%. The sales tax is charged on clothing that costs more than $175.00. Only the amount over $175.00 is taxed. All real and tangible personal property located within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taxable unless specifically exempted by statute. The administration of the assessment and collection of all real and tangible personal property taxes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is handled by the city and town assessor and collected in the jurisdiction where the property is located. Massachusetts imposes a tax on any gains from the sale or exchange of capital assets held for more than one year. The state also collects a 12% tax on the sale or exchange of capital assets held for one year or less (short-term capital gains). Interest from non-Massachusetts banks is no longer taxed at 12%, but the first $100 of interest from Massachusetts banks is tax exempt from even the 5.3% tax. There is no inheritance tax and limited Massachusetts estate tax related to federal estate tax collection.

A recent review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found 13 states, including several of the nation's largest, face budget shortfalls for FY2009. Massachusetts faces a deficit that could be as large as $1.2 billion.


Air service

The major airport in the state is Logan International Airportmarker. The airport serves as a focus city for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, and JetBlue Airways.

Bradley International Airportmarker in Windsor Locks, Connecticutmarker, TF Green Airportmarker in Warwick, Rhode Islandmarker, and Manchester-Boston Regional Airportmarker in Manchester, New Hampshiremarker also serve as airports to the state as all three are located near the border.

Massachusetts has approximately 42 public-use airfields, and over 200 private landing spots. 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. Logan, Hanscom Fieldmarker, and Worcester Regional Airportmarker (as of 2009-10) are operated by Massport, an independent state transportation agency.


Interstate highways crossing the state include: I-91, I-291, I-391, I-84, I-93, I-95, I-495, I-195, I-395, I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), I-290, and I-190. Other major thoroughfares are U.S. 1, Route 2, Route 3, U.S. Route 3, U.S. Route 6, U.S. Route 20, Route 24, and Route 128. A massive undertaking to depress I-93 in the Bostonmarker downtown area called the Big Digmarker has brought the city's highway system under public scrutiny over the last decade.


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates public transportation in the form of subway, bus and ferry systems in the Metro Boston area. It also operates longer distance commuter rail services throughout the larger Greater Boston area, including service to Worcestermarker and Providencemarker, Rhode Islandmarker. Amtrak operates inter-city rail, including the high-speed Acela service to cities such as Providence, New Havenmarker, New York Citymarker, and Washington, D.C.marker Two heritage railways are in operation: the Cape Cod Central Railroad and the Berkshire Scenic Railway.

Sixteen other regional transit authorities provide public transportation in the form of bus services in their local communities. The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority regulates and operates ferry service to the islands.


As of 2009, 13 common carrier railways still haul freight in Massachusetts. A much larger number are defunct.

Planning and funding

Massachusetts has 10 regional metropolitan planning organizations and 3 non-metropolitan planning organizations covering the remainder of the state; statewide planning is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Law, government, and politics


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 the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world.

Following a November 2003 decision of the state's Supreme Court, Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Massachusetts was also the first state to mandate health insurance for all its citizens.In 2008, Massachusetts voters passed an initiative decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.


The governor of Massachusetts is head of the executive branch and serves as chief administrative officer of the state and as commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts National Guard. The current governor is Deval Patrick, a Democrat. All governors of Massachusetts are given the official style His/Her Excellency, a carry-over from the Commonwealth's British past, despite such styles being uncommon in American political traditions. The title is actually used only on the most formal occasions, such as when the governor addresses the two houses of the General Court sitting in joint convention. Responsibilities of the governor include preparation of the annual budget, nomination of all judicial officers, the granting of pardons (with the approval of the [[Colonial government in the Thirteen Colonies#The Council|Governor's Council]]), appointments of the heads of most major state departments, and the acceptance or veto of each bill passed by the Legislature. Several executive offices have also been established, each headed by a secretary appointed by the governor, much like the President's cabinet.

The Governor's Council, also called the Executive Council, is a vestige of British colonial government. It is composed of the Lieutenant Governor and eight councilors elected from councilor districts for a two-year term. It has the constitutional power to approve judicial appointments and pardons, to authorize expenditures from the Treasury, to approve the appointment of constitutional officers if a vacancy occurs when the legislature is not in session, and to compile and certify the results of statewide elections. It also approves the appointments of notaries public and justices of the peace.

The Massachusetts state legislature is formally styled the "General Court" (see Massachusetts General Court). Elected every two years, the General Court is made up of a Senate of 40 members and a House of Representatives of 160 members. The Massachusetts Senate is said to be the second oldest democratic deliberative body in the world. Each branch elects its own leader from its membership. The Senate elects its president; the House its speaker. These officers exercise power through their appointments of majority floor leaders and whips (the minority party elects its leaders in a party caucus), their selection of chairs and all members of joint committees, and in their rulings as presiding officers. Joint committees of the General Court are made up of 6 senators and 15 representatives, with a Senate and House chair for each committee. These committees must hold hearings on all bills filed. Their report usually determines whether or not a bill will pass. Each chamber has its own Rules Committee and Ways and Means Committee and these are among the most important committee assignments.

Judicial appointments are held to the age of seventy. The Supreme Judicial Courtmarker, consisting of a chief justice and six associate justices, is the highest court in the Commonwealth; it is empowered to give advisory opinions to the governor and the legislature on questions of law. All trials are held in departments and divisions of a unified Trial Court, headed by a Chief Justice for Administrative and Management, assisted by an administrator of courts. It hears civil and criminal cases. Cases may be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court or the Appeals Courtmarker for review of law, but findings of fact made by the Trial Court are final. The Superior Court, consisting of a chief justice and 66 associate justices, is the highest department of the Trial Court. Other departments are the Boston Municipal, District, Housing, Juvenile, Land, and Probate Courts.

Massachusetts's Congressional delegation is entirely Democratic. Currently, the U.S. senators are John Kerry and Paul G. Kirk. The ten members of the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are John Olver, Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, Niki Tsongas, John F. Tierney, Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and Bill Delahunt. 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.


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
During the first half of the 1900s, Boston was socially conservative and strongly under the influence of Methodist minister J. Frank Chase and his New England Watch and Ward Society, founded in 1878. In modern times, few such puritanical social mores persist. Massachusetts has since gained a reputation as being a politically liberal state and is often used as an archetype of liberalism, hence the usage of the phrase "Massachusetts liberal".

Massachusetts is the home of the Kennedy family, and routinely votes for the Democratic Party in federal elections: it is the most populous state to have an all-Democratic Congressional delegation (ten representatives and two senators); this also makes Massachusetts the largest state to have a solid delegation of either party. Democrats hold all of the state's other state-wide elected offices as well, making Massachusetts the only state where all congressional seats and all statewide-elected offices are held by a single party. 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.

Although Republican held the governor's office continuously from 1991 to 2007, they have mostly been among the most liberal Republican leaders in the nation, especially William Weld (the first of four recent Republican governors). In presidential elections, Massachusetts supported Republicans through 1924, and was considered a swing state until the 1980s. More recently, it has gradually shifted to the Democratic Party since 1988. In the 2004 election giving native son John Kerry 61.9% of the vote and his largest margin of victory in any state. In 2008, President Barack Obama carried the state with 61.8% of the vote.

Cities, towns, and counties

There are 53 cities and 298 towns in Massachusetts, grouped into 14 counties. 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. Bostonmarker is the state capital and largest city. The population of the city proper is 609,023,and Greater Boston, with a population of 4,522,858, is the 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation. Other cities with a population over 100,000 include Worcestermarker, Springfieldmarker, Lowellmarker, and Cambridgemarker.

Massachusetts, along with the five other New Englandmarker states, features the local governmental structure known as the New England town. In this structure, incorporated towns hold many of the responsibilities and powers of local government, as opposed to townships or counties. 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. Others have been reorganized, and a few still retain county councils.


Massachusetts has historically had a strong commitment to education. It was the first state to require municipalities to appoint a teacher or establish a grammar school (albeit paid by the parents of the pupils) with the passage of the Massachusetts Education Law of 1647; this mandate was later made a part of the state constitution in 1789. The town of Franklinmarker has been noted to be the birthplace of public education in North America, due to the fact that education pioneer Horace Mann was born in the town, and The Public Library is the first public library in America. Massachusetts is home to the country's oldest high school, Boston Latin Schoolmarker (founded 1635), America's first publicly funded high school, Dedhammarker, (founded 1643), oldest college, now called Harvard Universitymarker (founded 1636), oldest incorporated preparatory school, Phillips Academymarker (founded 1778), first racially integrated high school Lowellmarker, and oldest municipally supported free library, Boston Public Librarymarker (founded 1848). In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory school attendance laws. The per-student public expenditure for elementary and secondary schools (kindergarten through grade 12) was fifth in the nation in 2004, at $11,681. Massachusetts has scored highest of all the states in math on the National Assessments of Educational Progress.

Massachusetts is home to many well-known preparatory school, colleges, and universities. There are more than 40 colleges located in the greater Boston area alone. Ten colleges and universities are located in the greater Worcester area. The University of Massachusetts (nicknamed UMass) is the five-campus public university system of the Commonwealth. The population of metropolitan Boston and Worcester, and of the Five Colleges area in Western Massachusetts, in particular, surges during the school year.


There are two major television media markets located in Massachusetts. The Boston/Worcester market is the 7th largest in the United States. All major networks are represented. The other market surrounds the Springfield area. Some communities in Berkshire county are serviced by the Albanymarker, New York market, and some southeastern Massachusetts communities are serviced by the Providencemarker, Rhode Islandmarker market. The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Springfield Republican are the Commonwealth's largest daily newspapers. In addition, there are many community dailies and weeklies. There are a number of major radio stations (AM stations with up to 50,000 watts of effective radiated power, FM stations with more than 20,000 watts) which serve Massachusetts, 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.

Sports and recreation

Organized sports

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 five Stanley Cups (Boston Bruins), seventeen NBA Championships (Boston Celtics), three Super Bowls (New England Patriots), and eight World Series (seven for the Boston Red Sox, one for the Boston Braves). The state is also the home to the Basketball Hall of Famemarker (Springfieldmarker) and the Volleyball Hall of Fame (Holyokemarker); those sports were invented in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is also the home of the Cape Cod Baseball League and prestigious sporting events such as the Boston Marathon, the Eastern Sprints (rowing) on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, and the Head of the Charles Regatta (also a rowing event). The Falmouth Road Race (running) and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic (bicycle racing) are also very popular events with long and distinguished histories.

A number of major golf events have taken place in Massachusetts, including nine U.S. Opens and two Ryder Cups, among others. The New England Revolution is the Major League Soccer team in Massachusetts, and the Boston Cannons are the Major League Lacrosse team.

Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts are active in college athletics. There are a number of NCAA Division I teams in the state involved in multiple sports: Harvard Universitymarker, Boston Collegemarker, Boston Universitymarker, Northeastern Universitymarker, College of the Holy Crossmarker in Worcester, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Outdoor recreation

Hingham Town Landing, Hingham harbor
Sailing and yachting are popular along the Massachusetts coast and the offshore islands. Hiking and cross-country skiing are also popular activities in many of the state's undeveloped lands. The Appalachian Trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the Midstate Trail, and the Bay Circuit Trail are all long-distance hiking trails. The Tully Trail, a loop near the northern end of the huge Quabbin reservoirmarker (through the towns of Athol, Orange, Warwick, and Royalston) incorporates waterfalls and stunning vistas. A handful of downhill skiing operators still maintain slopes in Massachusetts, although many skiers prefer to drive to major resorts in Vermontmarker, New Hampshiremarker and Mainemarker.

Sport fishing has a strong following. Spincasting during the warmer months and ice fishing during the winter on inland lakes and ponds, fly fishing inland rivers for trout, surf casting for striped bass and bluefish, and deep-sea fishing for cod and haddock also remain popular. Hunting, primarily for whitetail deer and waterfowl, continues to attract a number of residents.

See also



  1. William Wallace Tooker. Algonquian Names of some Mountains and Hills. 1904.
  2. This derivation is located in C. Lawrence Bond, Native Names of New England Towns and Villages, privately published, Topsfield, Massachusetts, 1991. The pamphlet was never mass produced but it is probably obtainable through the library or bookstores in Topsfield.
  3. Salwen, Bert, 1978. Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Early Period. In "Northeast", ed. Bruce G. Trigger. Vol. 15 of "Handbook of North American Indians", ed. William C. Sturtevant, pp. 160–176. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Quoted in: Campbell, Lyle. 1997. American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pg. 401
  4. Bright, William (2004). Native American Place Names of the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pg. 270
  5. The North Quabbin Woods:
  6. (map; see text on map). Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  7. Stocker, Carol. Old growth, grand specimens drive big-tree hunters [1] The Boston Globe. November 17, 2005. (accessed 2009-10-17)
  8. Brown and Tager, pp. 6-7.
  9. Brown and Tager, p. 7.
  10. David A. Koplow, Smallpox: The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scourge
  11. "Emily J. LaGrassa, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the ballot question takes effect 30 days after the officials results are presented to the Governor's Council. In an e-mail on Wednesday, she said Jan. 2 is the date the law takes effect. "
  12. Population and Population Centers by State: 2000. United States Census Bureau, United States Deparatment of Commerce. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  13. Associated Press. Wampanoag Tribe Receives Federal Recognition WBZ-TV, Boston Massachusetts. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  14. Weber, David. Mashpee Wampanoag Indians receive federal recognition The Boston Globe February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  15. Most spoken languages in Massachusetts MLA Language Map Data Center. Modern Language Association. Retrieved February 23, 2007.
  17. Article Boston Globe December 10, 2006, "Bay State's labor force diminishing"
  19., accessed 18 September 2006
  20., Massachusetts Tax Rates
  21. Budget Monitor: House 2: Governor's FY 2009 Budget Proposal, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
  22. 13 States Face Total Budget Shortfall of at Least $23 Billion in 2009; 11 Others Expect Budget Problems, 12/18/07, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  24. Massachusetts Facts, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth
  25. "State Vote 2006: Election Profile, Massachusetts" State Legislatures Magazine, National Conference of State Legislatures; retrieved November 17, 2007
  26. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth: A Listing of Counties and the Cities and Towns Within
  27. See Administrative divisions of Massachusetts#The city/town distinction.
  28. Sokolow, pp. 293-6
  29. Compulsory Education National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved December 28, 2006.
  30. Table 5. Current Expenditures ($) per Student in Public K-12 Schools, 2004-05 Source footnote: "Rankings & Estimates 2005-2006, Rankings, Table H-11." ( NEA Research, Estimates Database (2006). K–12 = "Elementary and Secondary".) National Education Association Retrieved January 12, 2007.


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
  • 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

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