If for no other reason than because of the location of Massachusetts vis-a-vis Europe, the state has played a significant role in American history. Plymouth, Massachusetts was the location of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, and thus the site of the first “Thanksgiving” holiday. The political protest that came to be known as “The Boston Tea Party” of course took place in Boston, in 1773. In 1775, it was in Massachusetts where the first shots were fired “heard round the world” at the onset of the American Revolution. Shays’ Rebellion, an armed uprising that started in Massachusetts in 1786 is thought by some historians to have been the deciding factor for the United States Constitutional Convention. Four U.S. Presidents were born in Massachusetts – John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush.
Massachusetts has been at the forefront of intellectual as well as political movements, including the Protestant First Great Awakening, the temperance, transcendentalist, and abolitionist movements and the recognition of same-sex marriage. In 1636, Harvard University was founded (for men), and in 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the United States’ first college for women, was opened.
Massachusetts is also a place for sports innovations. In 1891, the director of the Springfield YMCA invented basketball. (The Basketball Hall Of Fame is now located in Springfield.) Four years later, William Morgan, the director of the Holyoke, Massachusetts YMCA came up with volleyball as a slower alternative for middle-aged men. (Morgan named the new sport “mintonette” because he based the game on badminton, which everyone thinks is actually “badmitten” but of course it is not.) In any event, a year later, Morgan accepted a suggestion to change the name of the game to “volley ball” (two words until 1952, when it was officially changed to one word).
The official name of Massachusetts is the “Commonwealth of Massachusetts” although this designation has no practical implications. Massachusetts has the same position and powers within the United States as other states. The state takes its name from the Massachusett tribe of the Algonquin family of Native Americans. Massachusett translates roughly as “The people who live near the great hill.”
Although Massachusetts is the 7th smallest state in area, it is the 14th most populous and the 3rd most densely populated of the 50 United States. Approximately two-thirds of Massachusetts’ population lives in the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area.
There is much more that could be said about this noteworthy state, such as the fact that the State Cat is the Tabby (as of July 11, 1988), or that the Official Dessert is the Boston Cream Pie, designated as such on December 12, 1996. The only thing is, a Boston cream pie is actually a cake, filled with a custard or cream filling and frosted with chocolate. It was created by a chef at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856. Presumably to avoid confusion, there is not as of yet an official state pie, although there is a state muffin (corn), a state donut (Boston creme) and of course a state cookie (the chocolate chip cookie, invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts).