15 Things You Might Not Know About Massachusetts
1. The country’s first subway system was established in Boston in 1897. The route took just 3.5 minutes to travel one-way.
2. The area of the capital city of Boston, first founded in 1630, was originally called “Shawmut” by local Native Americans. It was eventually changed to Boston after the identically-named town in Lincolnshire, England, where many of the colonialists who came to the New World originated.
3. Rumors that Fig Newton cookies were named after Sir Isaac Newton are false: The Fig Newton was actually named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts. Located in Cambridge, the company that made the cookies—first called Kennedy Biscuits and later changed to Nabisco—named all of their products after nearby locales, such as the Shrewsbury, the Harvard, and the Beacon Hill. The Newton is the only one that has endured.
4. The late 1800s in Massachusetts were a hotbed of sports history. Basketball was invented by a then-31-year-old Springfield College graduate student named James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. Also, volleyball—originally called “Mintonette”—was invented by a YMCA instructor named William G. Morgan in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1895.
5. The birth control pill was developed in the 1950s at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, by Dr. Gregory Pincus.
6. The oldest public park in the U.S. is the Boston Common. Boston citizens originally purchased the area in 1634 for £30 as an area to hold military training exercises and as a place to graze cattle.
7. Whirlwind I, the world’s first digital computer that operated in real-time, was created at MIT in 1951. It was originally conceived as a way to design a flight simulator for the U.S. Navy.
8. The frozen foods industry was revolutionized in Massachusetts in the 1920s and '30s. Inventor and entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye established the General Foods Company (later the General Foods Corporation) in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1924. Birdseye had developed the first freezer for commercial purposes as a way to quick-freeze fish and other foods, like meats, fruits, and vegetables. A range of 27 frozen food products was eventually test-marketed in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1930, and was met with such acclaim that the company continued to grow from there, ushering in a whole new era of preserved food consumption.
9. The oldest school in America, called Boston Latin, was established in Boston in 1635—a year before Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher education in the U.S., was established in 1636.
10. The first transatlantic wireless message originating from the United States took place in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on January 18, 1903. Inventor Guglielmo Marconi transmitted a message from President Theodore Roosevelt to England’s King Edward VII using Morse code.
11. The first telephone call in history was made between inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, on March 10, 1876, in Boston. Bell spoke the words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” into the device and Watson heard the message from the receiver in the next room.
12. Although his deeds are most famously based in the Midwest, folk-hero Johnny Appleseed—born John Chapman—was born in Leominster, Massachusetts.
13. Known colloquially as Webster Lake, the official name for the body of water in the town of Webster, Massachusetts, is Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The name of the lake, loosely translated from an Algonquian word meaning "English knifemen and Nipmuck Indians at the boundary or neutral fishing place," is the fifth longest word in the world and the longest name of any lake in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records.
14. The state dog of Massachusetts is, appropriately enough, the Boston terrier, which in 1869 was the first purebred dog developed in the United States.
15. The chocolate chip cookie was invented in Whitman, Massachusetts, in 1938 by a woman named Ruth Wakefield. One night, at the restaurant she and her husband Kenneth owned called the Toll House Inn, Ruth threw in some semi-sweet chocolate pieces to her cookie recipe. The delectable treats—originally called “Toll House Crunch Cookies”—caught on locally, but grew in popularity once the recipe was printed in a Boston newspaper.