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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 km2
20,317 km2
7,043 km2
 - 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 Small towns
8 Massachusetts towns and counties
9 Higher Education
10 Famous Politicians and Public Figures from Massachusetts
11 Professional Sports Teams
12 State songs
13 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.

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 Revolutionary War, 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.

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

See also: Patriot's Day

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 M. Kennedy (Democrat) and John F. 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 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.


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. Its Per Capita Personal Income is $37,992 or second in the nation.

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

Massachusetts cities and towns of historical or cultural importance include Boston, Worcester, Springfield, New Bedford, Lowell, Cambridge, Lynn, Salem, Concord, Amherst, Northampton, Pittsfield, Barnstable (the major city of Cape Cod), and Provincetown.

Small towns

Massachusetts cities and towns also include Alford, Aquinnah, Gosnold, Monroe, Mount Washington, and New Ashford, each of which had a population of less than 400 in the 2000 census.

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. (The principal exceptions to this rule are the cities of Boston, Newton, and Barnstable, where residents closely identify with a particular "neighborhood" or "village", which has no legal existence in state law but is usually recognized by the Census.)

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 exception was, and remains, Barnstable County on Cape Cod, which is the focus of regional planning and environmental management on the Cape.) The government of Suffolk County was substantially integrated with the city government of Boston, to the extent that the members of the Boston city council were, ex officio, the Suffolk County Commissioners. (Thus, residents of some Suffolk County communities did not have a voice on the county commission.)

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 County has done.

Higher Education

Massachusetts is a hotbed of higher education, with many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States (see list of colleges and universities in Massachusetts for a full listing). They feed the medical and high-tech industries which drive the local economy. Metropolitan Boston has a remarkable concentration of colleges and universities (see list of colleges and universities in metropolitan Boston), which causes the city's population to surge during the school year.

The Ivy League university Harvard University is arguably the most famous university in the world; Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the top engineering and science universities; Amherst College and Williams College in western Massachusetts are top liberal arts colleges; Wellesley College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College are top women's colleges; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Berklee College of Music are but two of the specialist institutions that are at the top of their fields.

Famous Politicians and Public Figures from Massachusetts

Professional Sports Teams

State songs

Massachusetts recognizes three official state songs:

External links