Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Boston, Massachusetts

Alternate meanings: Boston (disambiguation)

The Old State House

Boston City Seal

Boston is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the USA. It is also the business and cultural center of the entire New England region, and was founded in 1630. As of the 2000 census, its population is 589,141. The Greater Boston metropolitan area, including nearby cities like Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, has about 3.5 million residents. Boston is the county seat of Suffolk County. It is located at 42°20'N, 71°W.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Geography
3 Law and Government
4 Mayors of Boston, Past and Present
5 Demographics
6 Colleges and Universities
7 Economy
8 Newspapers and Media
9 Professional Sports Franchises
10 Sites of Interest
11 Annual Events
12 Airports
13 External Links


Founded in 1630, Boston is named for Boston, England, the town in Lincolnshire from which the Pilgrim Fathers originated. Boston grew rapidly and became wealthy as the primary port for ships bound to Great Britain and the West Indies from the colonies. During the first 200 years, the city was primarily composed of English Puritans.

On March 20, 1760 the "Great Fire" of Boston destroyed 349 buildings.

Boston played a key role in the American Revolutionary War. The Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and several of the early battles of the revolutionary war (such as the Battle of Lexington and Concord) occurred near the city. During this period, Paul Revere made his famous ride. As a result Boston is known as the Cradle of Liberty and historic sites remain a popular tourist draw to this day.

After the revolutionary war, the city continued to develop as an international trading port, exporting products such as rum, fish, salt and tobacco. It was chartered as a city in 1822, and by the mid-1800s it was one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation noted for its garment, leather goods, and machinery industries.

While wealthy families able to trace their roots back to the Puritans continue to be powerful in the city (some called the Boston Brahmins), by the 1840s waves of new immigrants began to arrive from Europe. These included large numbers of Irish, and Italians giving the city a large Roman Catholic population. It is currently the third largest Catholic community in the United States (after Chicago and Los Angeles).

The first medical school for women, The Boston Female Medical School (which later merged with the Boston University School of Medicine), opened in Boston on November 1, 1848.

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 started on Lincoln Street on November 9 and in two days destroyed about 65 acres of city, 776 buildings, much of the financial district and caused US$60 million in damage.

On September 1, 1897 the Boston subway opened as the first underground metro in North America.

The first vaudeville theater opened on February 28, 1883 in Boston.

In 1950, Boston was slumping. Few major buildings were being built anywhere in the city. Factories were closing up, and moving their operations south, where labor was cheaper. The assets Boston had -- excellent banks, hospitals, universities and technical knowhow -- were minimal parts of the U.S. economy.

But all that changed in the next 50 years and Boston boomed. Financial institutions got far more latitude, many more people began to play the market, and Boston became a leader in the mutual fund industry. Health care became far more extensive and expensive, and hospitals such as Massachusetts General became major profit centers in the city. Universities, such as Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University and Tufts University brought thousands of bright students to the area; many stayed and became taxpayers.

Finally, MIT and other universities became a source of high-tech talent. Many MIT graduates, in particular, founded successful high-tech companies in the Boston area. Powerful politicians such as John and Teddy Kennedy and Tip O'Neill made sure Boston got plenty of federal investment.

High tech, education, finance and medical research, and health care are key industries and Boston has world-renowned cultural attractions (including the Museum of Fine Arts and two famous orchestras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra).

The largest art theft in US history occurred in Boston on March 18, 1990 when 12 paintings, collectively worth $100 million, were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by two thieves posing as police officers . As of 2003 these paintings had not been recovered.

Boston enjoys an intense rivalry with New York City, New York. This rivalry is considered to be the most infamous in the United States.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 232.1 km² (89.6 mi²). 125.4 km² (48.4 mi²) of it is land and 106.7 km² (41.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 45.98% water.

The city is divided into many [[1], including: Allston/Brighton, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Dorcester, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, the North End, Roslindale, Roxbury, South Boston, the South End, and West Roxbury. Each of the neighborhoods has its distinct character. Allston/Brighton, for example, is mostly populated by students from nearby Boston University and recent graduates, with both groups of individuals often sharing their apartments with roommates. The Back Bay, close to the beautiful skyscrapers like the Prudential and the John Hancock Building and adjacent to the shops and the restaurants on Newbury street, is a spot of luxury housing for the better-off. Roxbury and Dorchester, located in the southernmost part of Boston, are home to the African American and Hispanic communities.

Boston is bordered by the cities of Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Watertown, Newton, and Quincy, and the towns of Winthrop, Brookline, Needham, Dedham, and Milton.

Law and Government

Boston has a "strong mayor" system in which the mayor is the dominant force in city government. The mayor is elected to a four-year term by plurality voting. The City Council is elected every two years. There are nine ward, or neighborhood, seats, each elected by plurality voting by the residents of that ward. There are four at-large seats. Each voter casts up to four votes for at-large councillors, no more than one vote per candidate. The top four vote-getters are elected. The President of the City Council is elected by the Councillors from within themselves. The School Committee is appointed by the mayor, as are city department heads.

In addition to city government, numerous state authorities and commissions play a role in the life of Bostonians, including the Metropolitan Water Resources Authority (water and sewer) and the Metropolitan District Commission (parks). The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is responsible for Boston Transportation.

Mayors of Boston, Past and Present


As of the
census of 2000, there are 589,141 people, 239,528 households, and 115,212 families residing in the city. The population density is 4,696.9/km² (12,165.8/mi²). There are 251,935 housing units at an average density of 2,008.5/km² (5,202.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 54.48% White, 25.33% African American, 0.40% Native American, 7.52% Asian American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 7.83% from other races, and 4.39% from two or more races. 14.44% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 239,528 households out of which 22.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.4% are married couples living together, 16.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 51.9% are non-families. 37.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.31 and the average family size is 3.17.

In the city the population is spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 16.2% from 18 to 24, 35.8% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $39,629, and the median income for a family is $44,151. Males have a median income of $37,435 versus $32,421 for females. The per capita income for the city is $23,353. 19.5% of the population and 15.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 25.6% are under the age of 18 and 18.2% are 65 or older.

Colleges and Universities

See also the list of colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

The Boston area is well-known for its many prestigious colleges and universities. In addition to the schools in Boston proper, surrounding cities host famous schools like Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts University.


The many prestigious colleges and universities have drawn high-tech industries to Boston, including computer hardware and software companies like EMC Corporation (headquartered in Hopkinton) and Akamai (headquartered in nearby Cambridge), as well as biotechnology companies like Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec. Other important industries include financial services (especially mutual funds) and insurance.

Shoe and athletic apparel-maker Reebok is headquartered in nearby Canton. Raytheon is based in nearby Lexington. Gillette and Fleet bank are also important companies in the Boston area.

Newspapers and Media

The Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times Company, and The Boston Herald are Boston's two major daily newspapers. The Boston Phoenix and the Weekly Dig are weekly newspapers.

Professional Sports Franchises

Nearby Foxboro has the New England Patriots (National Football League and the New England Revolution (Major League Soccer). The Boston Cannons (Major League Lacrosse) are in nearby Lowell.

Sites of Interest

Annual Events


External Links

See also: Mandela, Boston Molasses Disaster