Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Commonwealth of Massachusetts
(In Detail) (Full size)
State nickname: Bay State

Other U.S. States
Capital Boston
Largest City Boston
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water
 - % water
Ranked 44th
27,360 kmē
20,317 kmē
7,043 kmē
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 13th
Admittance into Union
 - Order
 - Date

February 6, 1788
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
41°10'N to 42°53'N
68°57'W to 73°30'W
80 km
305 km
1,063 meters
150 meters
0 meters
ISO 3166-2:US-MA

Massachusetts is a state of the United States of America, part of the New England region. Its U.S. postal abbreviation is MA. It is properly called the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, although there is no legal distinction between states and commonwealths.

Several ships have been named USS Massachusetts in honor of this state.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Law and Government
3 Geography
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Important cities and towns
7 Massachusetts towns and counties
8 Higher education and research
9 Famous politicians and public figures from Massachusetts
10 Professional sports teams
11 State songs
12 External links


The colony was named after a local Indian tribe whose name means "a large hill place". The Pilgrims established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, arriving on the Mayflower. They were soon followed by the Puritans, who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Massachusetts was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. Although the Puritans came to Massachusetts for religious freedom, they were not tolerant of any other religion than theirs. People such as Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts and went South because of the Puritans' lack of religious tolerance. Williams ended up founding the colony of Rhode Island and Hooker founded Connecticut.

On February 9, 1775 the British Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in rebellion and sent additional troops to restore order.

An African-American named Crispus Attucks was one of the first Americans killed during the American Revolution, in Boston on March 5, 1770, at an event that has come to be called the Boston Massacre.

On February 6, 1788 Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the United States Constitution.

On March 15, 1820 the area of Maine was separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been a non-contiguous part, and entered the Union as a State in its own right.

Massachusetts contains many historic houses (See Historic houses in Massachusetts for more details).

See also: Patriot's Day, Shays' Rebellion

Law and Government

See: Massachusetts Constitution See: List of Massachusetts Governors

The capital of Massachusetts is Boston and the governor of the state is Mitt Romney. The state does not maintain an official governor's residence. Massachusetts' two U.S. senators are Edward Kennedy (Democrat) and John Kerry (Democrat); as of the 2001 redistricting, Massachusetts has ten seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The state legislature is formally styled the "Great and General Court of the Commonwealth"; the highest court is the "Supreme Judicial Court".

Massachusetts law maintains a distinction between "cities" and "towns"; the largest town in population is Framingham. Politically, the only difference between a town and a city is that a town is governed under the Town Meeting or Representative Town Meeting form of government, whereas a city has a city council (and may or may not have a mayor, a city manager, or both). This distinction dates to the 1820s; prior to that, all municipalities were governed by Town Meeting. There are now a number of municipalities which are legally cities and thus have city councils, but retained the word "town" in their names, including Agawam, Methuen, Watertown, Weymouth, and Westfield. These cities are legally styled "the city called the Town of X". Massachusetts has a very limited home rule mechanism; in order to exercise jurisdiction outside of these bounds, a municipality must petition the General Court for special legislation giving it that authority.

Massachusetts municipalities are subject to a budgetary law known as "Proposition 2½", by which they may not increase expenditures by more than 2½% per annum without the approval of the voters in a plebiscite.

Following a November 2003 decision of the state's Supreme Court, Massachusetts became on May 17, 2004, the first state to issue same-sex marriage licences. See the articles on same-sex marriage in the United States and same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.


See: List of Massachusetts counties

Massachusetts is bordered on the north by New Hampshire and Vermont, on the west by New York, on the south by Connecticut and Rhode Island, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket lie off the southeast coast. Boston is the largest city; however, most of the population of the Boston metropolitan area (approximately 4,000,000) does not live in the city.


Massachusetts total gross state product for 1999 was $262 billion, placing it 11th in the nation. As of 2002, its Per Capita Personal Income was $39,244 or third in the nation. [1]

Its agricultural outputs are seafood, nursery stock, dairy products, cranberries, and vegetables. Its industrial outputs are machinery, electric equipment, scientific instruments, printing and publishing, and tourism. Other sectors vital to the Massachusetts economy include higher education, health care, and financial services.


All numbers from the 2000 census

Population: 6,349,097
White: 84.5%
Black or African American: 5.4%
Asian: 3.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native: 0.2%
Other Race: 3.8%
Two or more races: 3.7%

Important cities and towns

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a total of 50 cities and 301 towns, grouped into 14 counties. Massachusetts cities and towns of historical or cultural importance include

Massachusetts towns and counties

Massachusetts shares with the six New England states and New York a governmental structure known as the "New England town."

In most states, a town is a compact incorporated area. Between the towns are unincorporated areas, usually quite large, which do not belong to any town. In contrast, the state is completely apportioned into counties: every square inch of land belongs to some county. County governments have significant importance, particularly to those living outside towns, and often perform major functions such as operating airports.

In contrast, the cities and towns of Massachusetts divide up all of the land between them; every square inch of Massachusetts belongs to some "town" (or city) and there are no "unincorporated" areas or population centers. This complicates comparisons with other states, as most residents identify strongly with the town or city in which they reside, and not with the "populated places" as defined and used in the U.S. Census Bureau, which in most data products considers towns to be equivalent to (much weaker) townships in other states. However, many residents also identify with neighborhoods, villages, or other districts of their towns.

By the 1990s, most functions of county governments (including operation of courts and road maintenance) had been taken over by the state, and most county governments were seen as inefficient and outmoded. The government of Suffolk County was substantially integrated with the city government of Boston more than one hundred years ago, to the extent that the members of the Boston city council are ex officio the Suffolk County Commissioners, and Boston's treasurer and auditor fulfill the same offices for the county. Thus, residents of the other three Suffolk County communities do not have a voice on the county commission, but all the county expenses are paid by the city of Boston.

The government of Nantucket County, which is geographically coterminous with the Town of Nantucket, is operated along similar lines- the town selectman (executive branch) act as the county commissioners.

Mismanagement of Middlesex County's public hospital in the mid 1990s left that county on the brink of insolvency, and in 1997 the legislature stepped in by assuming all assets and obligations of the county. The government of Middlesex County was officially abolished on July 11, 1997. Later that year, the Franklin County Commission voted itself out of existence. The law abolishing Middlesex County also provided for the elimination of Hampden County and Worcester County on July 1, 1998. This law was later amended to abolish Hampshire County on January 1, 1999; Essex County on July 1 of that same year; and Berkshire County on July 1, 2000. Chapter 34B of the Massachusetts General Laws provides that other counties may also vote to abolish themselves, or to reorganize as a "regional council of governments", as Hampshire and Franklin Counties have done. The governments of Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk Counties remain substantially unchanged. Barnstable and Dukes Counties have adopted modern county charters, enabling them to act as efficient regional governments.

Higher education and research

Massachusetts contains only 2.5% of the U.S. population, but 4.5% of its four-year colleges and universities (see full list of colleges and universities in Massachusetts). Eight Boston-area institutions (Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Tufts, and UMass/Boston) call themselves "research universities;" they became, according to them, "engines of economic growth" following World War II, and currently contribute $7 billion annually to the local economy. " class="external">http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/2003/econimpact.html--> The population of metropolitan Boston surges noticeably during the school year due to the concentration of colleges and universities in the area (see list of colleges and universities in metropolitan Boston).

Massachusetts is home to one Ivy League university, Harvard; and three of the Seven Sisters: Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley. Technology-oriented universities include MIT, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and University of Massachusetts Lowell, which includes the former Lowell Institute of Technology ("Lowell Tech"). Notable Massachusetts colleges that are outside the eastern Massachusetts area include the Five Colleges of the Pioneer Valley (Mount Holyoke, Smith, Amherst, Hampshire and the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts) and Williams, along with Worcester State College. Music schools include Berklee and the New England Conservatory. Massachusetts also is home to well-known independent research institutions, including Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Famous politicians and public figures from Massachusetts

Professional sports teams

Boston Red Sox
New England Patriots
Boston Bruins
Worcester IceCats
Boston Celtics
New England Revolution
Boston Cannons
Lowell Spinners
North Shore Spirit

State songs

Massachusetts recognizes three official state songs:

External links

[ Edit {}] Political divisions of the United States
States Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming
Federal district; District of Columbia
Insular areas; American Samoa | Baker Island | Guam | Howland Island | Jarvis Island | Johnston Atoll | Kingman Reef | Midway Atoll | Navassa Island | Northern Mariana Islands | Palmyra Atoll | Puerto Rico | Virgin Islands | Wake Island