42 Interesting Facts About Massachusetts

Last updated on April 30th, 2023

Massachusetts is the 16th most populous and the 44th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies in the New England region of the northeastern United States. The state attained statehood on February 6, 1788, becoming the 6th state to join the union. Its five bordering states are Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and VermontMassachusetts (nicknamed: Bay State, Colony State, Old Colony, Taxachusetts, The Spirit of America) has 14 counties. The state’s capital is Boston. The postal abbreviation for Massachusetts is MA. With these facts about Massachusetts, let us learn more about its history, geography, economy, people, culture and more.

1. Did you know that the first post office in America opened in Boston in 1639?[2]

Image from page 23 of "The Bell System technical journal" (1922).
Image from page 23 of “The Bell System technical journal” (1922).

2. On March 10, 1876, it was here in Boston that the first telephone call was made when Alexander Graham Bell summoned his lab assistant, Thomas A. Watson. On the phone, he said, “Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.” Watson was in the next room where he heard the message from the receiver. In a letter to his father, he wrote: “The day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water or gas — and friends will converse with each other without leaving home.”[1]

Massachusetts on the map
Massachusetts (in red) on the map with bordering states.

3. Did you know that the postmaster general gets a base salary of $276,840 which is more than the salary of the vice-president of the U.S.? Megan Brennan, the first woman in history to hold the job, as a result, earns more than the salary of the vice-president of the United States ($243,500). Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general of the United States of America.

4. Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates among the US states. Nevada has the highest divorce rate of any state.[15]

An illustrative image of a subway station.
Facts about Massachusetts: an illustrative image of a subway station.

5. Did you know that the first subway in America was built in Boston, Massachusetts in 1897? Known as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subway, it currently runs 78 miles long and has over 130 stations in the metro area. Thanks in large part to the robust subway system in the city, Boston has more pedestrian commuters than any other major city in the United States.

6. Massachusetts and Missouri were the first states to require a driver’s license in 1903. The very first license plate issued by a state government (Number 1) was issued on September 1, 1903, to Frederick Tudor of Brookline.[3,24]

Harvard University Historic Building
Massachusetts facts: Harvard University Historic Building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

7. The first college for higher education was Harvard University, founded in Massachusetts in 1636. Also, the oldest school in America, called Boston Latin, was established in Boston in 1635—a year before Harvard University.[4]

8. Did you know that the first lighthouse built in the United States was “Boston Light” located on Little Brewster Island in Boston, Massachusetts?[5]

Flag of Massachusetts

Massachusetts state flag

9. Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States of America. Officially opening in 1634, the 50 acres of land is a common gathering place throughout the year. Due to its history, it has been home to a British camp before the American Revolutionary War, and a modern gathering place for speeches, protests, outdoor concerts and more.

Dunkin Donuts store front

10. Did you know that James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts? Naismith was a physical education teacher and wanted to engage his students in some physical activity while being indoors during the cold winter months. The game was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets nailed to railings 10 feet above the floor. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are some of the world-famous basket ballplayers of all times.[7]

11. Dunkin Donuts opened its first franchise restaurant in Dedham, Massachusetts, and sold 52 varieties of donuts. The popularity of the donuts grew so much that the company by the year 1963 had opened its 100th restaurant.[6]

Basketball court

12. Furthermore, the game of volleyball finds its roots in Massachusetts as well. The game of volleyball, originally called “mintonette,” was invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan.[8]

13. Plymouth, located just south of modern-day Boston, was one of the first permanent English settlements in North America.[9]

14. The state was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States of America.

Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Facts about Massachusetts: Chocolate Chip Cookies.

15. The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband in 1930 in the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts.[10]

16. The Fig Newton cookies were named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts.

17. Massachusetts, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania are the four US states whose legal names include the term Commonwealth. However, these states function just like the other 46 states.[11]

18. According to a survey, Massachusetts is the most educated state in the country, because the state has a number of high – ranking state colleges and universities.[12]

19. In 2003, by court orders, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage. Connecticut followed suit but in 2008.[13]

20. The state was named by an English explorer and colonist John Smith, after the Massachuset tribe, whose name meant “near the great hill.”[14]

Massachusetts on the map

21. There is a lake in Massachusetts named “Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.” 

22. Did you know that a beach near Boston is popularly called “Singing beach?” Do not get too carried away with the fact. The sound comes when a visitor shuffles their feet on its dry sand. 

23. It is illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to scare a pigeon.

24. Did you know that celebrating Christmas was banned in Massachusetts? In 1659 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made it a criminal offense to publicly celebrate the holiday. In 1856, however, Christmas finally became a public holiday in the state.[16] 

A traffic signal

25. Stopping for red lights is not required by law unless they are flashing.[17]

26. As of 1st January 2019, the minimum wage per hour in Massachusetts is $12.[18]

27. The Ted Williams Tunnel interface in East Boston between the land-based approach and the underwater section is 90 feet below the surface of Boston Harbor, the deepest such connection in North America. Engineers were forced to make this tunnel so deep because of the depth of the Boston Harbor. They used the cut-and-cover method to construct it. The tunnel is a 1.6-mile long and dips to close to 100 feet below sea level. First opening for public use in 2003, it was one of the first major links constructed as part of the Big Dig. A toll is charged when entering the tunnel from either side.[19]

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