Under the leadership of John Winthrop, English Puritans moved from overcrowded Charlestown and colonized the Shawmut Peninsula. Permission was granted from its sole English inhabitant, Anglican cleric William Blaxton. Their city on the hill was named Boston in honor of the native English town of their leaders.
Boston’s Puritan leaders established a college at Newtowne (later Cambridge) to educate future generations of clergy. When young Charlestown minister John Harvard died two years later and left his books and half his money to the college, it was renamed Harvard in his memory (see John Harvard Statue).
Friction between colonists and the British Crown had been building for more than a decade when British troops marched on Lexington to confiscate rebel weapons. Fore-warned by Paul Revere, local militia, known as the Minute Men, skirmished with British regulars on Lexington Green. During the second confrontation at Concord, “the shot heard round the world” marked the beginning of the Revo lution, which ended in American independence with the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Irish citizens, fleeing the devastating potato famine in their country, arrived in Boston in tens of thous ands, many eventually settling in the south of the city. By 1900, the Irish were the dominant ethnic group in Boston. They flexed their political muscle accordingly, culminating in the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960.
The Boston Public Library was established as the first publicly supported municipal library in the US. In 1895 the lib rary moved into the Italia nate “palace of the people” on Copley Square (see Boston Public Library).
Following decades of agitation to abolish slavery, the city sent the country’s first African-American regiment to join Union forces in the Civil War. The regiment was honored by the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common.
The Tremont Street subway, the first underground in the US, was opened on September 1 to ease road congestion. It cost $4.4 million to construct and the initial fare was five cents. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) now transports 1.2 million people daily.
This historical walking tour connects the city’s sights. It was based on a 1951 Boston Herald Traveler column by William Scofield, and was the first of its kind in the US (see The Freedom Trail).
The $15 billion highway project to alleviate traffic congestion was completed in 2007, leaving in its place the Rose Kennedy Greenway Park and the soaring Zakim Bridge, the world’s widest cable-stayed bridge.
On April 15, 2013, two terrorist bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 264. Following the attack, one bomber was killed in an encounter with the police; the other was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015.
Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in Cambridge in 1845, but spent decades securing patent rights.
Ether was first used to anesthetize patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in his Boston laboratory in 1876.
Bostonian King Camp Gillette invented the safety razor with disposable blades in 1901.
Massachusetts Investors Trust opened in 1924 as the first modern mutual fund that pooled investors’ money to purchase portfolio stocks.
A Harvard team built the first programmable digital com puter, Mark 1, in 1946. Its 750,000 components weighed about 10,000 lb (454 kg).
A Raytheon company engineer placed popcorn in front of a radar tube in 1946 and discovered the principle behind the microwave oven.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, inventor Edwin Land devised the Polaroid camera, launched in 1948.
Ray Tomlinson, an engineer at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman in Cambridge, sent the first email message in 1971.
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg posted the first message to Facemash (social network site Facebook’s predecessor) in 2003.