What is Massachusetts Known For? (15 Things It’s Famous For)

Massachusetts is officially known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It sits on the northeastern coast of the United States. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Massachusetts is the landing place of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower during the colonial settlement period of the 1600s. Massachusetts has a rich culture due to its history and is the heart of the Industrial Revolution of the United States. Massachusetts is regarded as the country’s most developed state, with a gross state product of $584 billion in 2020. 

Massachusetts is known as “The Bay State” due to the numerous large bays defining its eastern coast. Nearly 25% of the state is water. The state features Massachusetts Bay, Narragansett Bay, Quincy Bay, Buzzards Bay, and the well-known Cape Cod. Citizens of Massachusetts lovingly refer to themselves as “Bay Staters.”

Weather and Climate of Massachusetts

With very hot summers and very harsh winters, the climate of Massachusetts is classified as a “humid continental climate.” The state is no stranger to abundant rain, accumulating an average of 43 inches of rain annually, which is evenly distributed throughout the year. Massachusetts is also very vulnerable to extreme weather such as hurricanes due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. 

From Mountains to Lakes, to Seas

Massachusetts has a large diversity of topographical features. Massachusetts spans deep within the continent and extends towards the seas. Bordering the Appalachian mountains to the west is the Western Massachusetts region, where the Berkshire Mountains can be found. The Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts is the state’s largest inland body of water. Moving towards the coastal plains of the east, you can find the more urban region of the state, Greater Boston, that is bordered by the Massachusetts Bay to the east. This is where most of the state’s population can be found.

Early Settlement and Thanksgiving

Massachusetts borders the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, it was readily accessible by settlers during the Colonial Period. The state is known to be the landing place of the Mayflower, an English ship that transported the Pilgrims, a group of English families, from England. The colony eventually flourished with the help of the Native American people. In November 1621, the Pilgrims organized and celebrated a large feast to mark their first-ever harvest. This celebration of the early settlers of the Mayflower and Native Americans is now known as the first-ever American Thanksgiving.

The Cradle of Liberty

Massachusetts played a central role during the American Revolutionary War. Yearning for independence from Great Britain, the colonists in Massachusetts started large and open rebellions, an example of which is the well-known Boston Tea Party in 1773. The rising civil unrest in Boston eventually led to the start of the American Revolution, during which numerous battles were fought in Massachusetts. Eventually, an armed uprising led by Daniel Shays wreaked havoc throughout Massachusetts. This led to calls for a stronger national constitution, and the Americans finally drafting the United States Constitution.

Salem and Their Infamous Witch Trials

Massachusetts is known for its witch hunts in the 1600s. Between 1692 and 1693, the city of Salem held a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft. A series of alleged witchcraft cases led to the panic of the settlement’s population. This led to nearly 300 individuals being charged with witchcraft, with 19 ultimately sentenced to death. The house of Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the investigators during the Witch Trials, continues to stand today and remains a popular attraction to tourists who want to understand how the witch hunts of old.

World’s Largest Irish Flag and Saint Patrick’s Day

A large number of Irish immigrants, with 25% of citizens of the state having Irish ancestry, live in Massachusetts. Irish immigrants seeking relief from the Great Irish Famine of the 1800s arrived in Massachusetts through ships in large numbers. The world’s largest Irish Flag is hoisted at Rowe’s Wharf in Boston. Due to the large number of Irish Americans, Massachusetts is the second most Catholic state in the United States. Every March, the Bay State celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day, where the patron saint of Ireland is honored through parades, festivals, and merrymaking all over the state. 

Massachusetts and Sports

Both basketball and volleyball were born in Massachusetts, which has a very long history and tradition in sports. Boston is home to the basketball team Boston Celtics, where the team’s name is a nod to the state’s wealthy and large Irish population. Besides the Celtics, Massachusetts has four other professional sports teams: Boston Red Sox (baseball), Boston Bruins (ice hockey), New England Patriots (football), and New England Revolution (soccer). The state is decorated with numerous championships in different sports due to the tremendous support of Bay Staters.

The Boston Marathon

Since 1897, Massachusetts has regularly hosted the Boston Marathon. It is the world’s oldest and longest-running annual marathon. Running a total of 24.5 miles, participants start their course from Eastern Massachusetts, eventually reaching the finish line in Boston. While the Boston Marathon was initially a local event, it has attracted runners from all over the world and has opened its doors to international participants. Women were initially excluded from the races, but in 1967, Bobbi Gibb snuck her way into the marathon, finishing the course. As a result, she is recognized as the first-ever woman to finish the Boston Marathon.

The Top State for Education

The oldest schools in America are in Massachusetts – The Roxbury Latin School (the oldest school in existence), The Mather School (the oldest public elementary school), Boston Latin School (the oldest high school), Mount Holyoke College (the oldest women’s college), and of course, Harvard University (the oldest college). Due to its strong educational system, Massachusetts consistently ranks among the 50 U.S. states in terms of the overall educational system. Education in Massachusetts is well-regarded internationally, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranking first and Harvard University ranking fifth in the most recent QS World University Rankings.

Benjamin Franklin’s Birthplace

A famous polymath, writer, scientist, inventor, and politician, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706. While he initially attended Boston Latin School, Franklin ended up not graduating. However, he continued to study on his own, continuing his education by reading many books. While he eventually left Massachusetts to travel the world, Franklin continued to hold Massachusetts close to his heart, with the townspeople reciprocating. In fact, when a certain town in Massachusetts was to be named Exeter, the townspeople clamored and opted to name it Franklin in honor of the statesman.

The United States’ Oldest Library

The first and oldest public library in the United States is in Massachusetts. After the incorporation of the town of Franklin, Benjamin Franklin affectionately donated a total of 116 books to the town in 1790. The townspeople initially disagreed on who should be able to peruse the books. Eventually, they decided that these were to be shared publicly. After a popular vote during a town meeting, the Franklin collection of books was established as the country’s first public library.

The Old State House 

Massachusetts is previously known as the center of the royal colony of England. Needing a physical building and a seat for the Massachusetts General Court, the town built the Old State House. A National Historic Landmark, the Old State House is one of the country’s oldest buildings and currently houses a history museum that is frequently visited by tourists and residents alike.

First State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Even though it is traditionally a Catholic state, Massachusetts has been very diverse, open, and rebellious. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but the following year, it became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to perform same-sex marriages, legally unionizing a total of 262 couples during the first day of legalization.

The Birthplace of Dunkin’ Donuts

Massachusetts is also home to famous entrepreneurs such as Bill Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin Donuts. The donut and coffee restaurant started in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1948, where the restaurant was initially named Open Kettle. It was officially renamed Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950, when the restaurant continued selling coffee and donuts, very popular food items at that time. As the business was wildly successful, Bill Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, began to sell franchises to interested individuals. Dunkin’ Donuts continues to grow and expand to cities outside Massachusetts and eventually globally.

Boston Baked Beans

Massachusetts is known for its very English culinary culture. However, Boston has adapted the traditional baked beans of England and replaced the brown sugar with molasses in their recipe. This has resulted in a baked bean taste that is very distinct to Boston and is now popularly known as the Boston Baked Beans.