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.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Perfect Gifts for The Pop Culture Connoisseur in Your Life

Funko/Pinsantiy/Lil Cinephile/Amazon
Funko/Pinsantiy/Lil Cinephile/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Over the past year, most everyone has been marinating in all kinds of pop culture. More than any other era, this moment in time has revealed how much we as a society should value our creators and artists. From cinematic comfort food to walks down nostalgia lane, the holiday season is a perfect time to celebrate the pop culture moments and icons that have kept us happy, engaged, and awed.

Here are 10 perfect gifts the pop culture connoisseur in your life is sure to love.

1. A is for Auteur; $30

Lil Cinephile/Amazon

The same team that put out the delightful, surprisingly adaptable Cinephile card game ($18) last year is out with a new book perfect for the cineastes in your life who love Agnès Varda. This alphabet book goes from A (Paul Thomas Anderson) to Z (Fred Zinnemann) and celebrates the unique elements of more than two dozen filmmakers’ careers. It’s a tongue-in-cheek delight, and if you don’t actually want your child to know about Quentin Tarantino just yet, it makes a gorgeous addition to any adult’s coffee table.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Schitt’s Creek Funkos; 4 for $77


Eww, David! This set is ideal for fans of the Rose family who’d love Moira, Johnny, David, and Alexis peering down on them as they work or sleep or fold in the cheese. If you’re going the extra mile, grab the Amish David edition with hoodie, sunglasses, and rake. Individual figures run from $9-$30, and they all pair perfectly with a banana rosé.

Buy Them: Amazon

3. The Bruce Lee Criterion Collection; $68

Criterion Collection/Amazon

This is a stunning collection showcasing the best of the best of a true master alongside Criterion’s usual insightful commentary. Enter the Dragon has never been released as part of a collection before, and it stands as the crown jewel among The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, and the infamous Game of Death—all digitally restored in either 2K or 4K. The collection also features documentaries about Lee; an interview with his widow, Linda Lee Caldwell; and a conversation about the “Bruceploitation” subgenre that blossomed following Lee's untimely death.

Buy It: Amazon

4. NES Cartridge Coasters; $11

Paladone Products Ltd./Amazon

For the entertainer happy to have guests place their IPAs on SM3. These stylish coasters will protect your tables from coffee rings, wine stains, and barrels thrown by kidnapping apes. Plus, you won’t have to blow into these if they’re not loading correctly.

Buy Them: Amazon

5. Van Buren Boys Tee; $16

Underground Printing/Amazon

Deep into its eighth season, Seinfeld was still making iconic, quote-worthy moments. With this pre-shrunk, 100 percent cotton T, your favorite fan of the show about nothing can celebrate the comical street gang named for the 8th president (and the first president hailing from New York). It’s a handsome, comfortable shirt that comes in four colors and goes great with a Lorenzo’s pizza.

Buy It: Amazon

6. This Television History Puzzle; $49

White Mountain Puzzle/Amazon

This pop collage of more than 250 stars and scenes from TV’s past is a 1000-piece puzzle from acclaimed artist James Mellett. It’s probably the only image in existence where Kunta Kinte is between Superman, Gumby, and Norm and Cliff from Cheers. A gorgeous walk down memory lane, it’s also a healthy challenge that, at 24x30, would make a fine wall hanging if you don’t want to toss it back into the box.

Buy It: Amazon

7. Pictures at a Revolution; $17

Penguin Books/Amazon

Entertainment Weekly veteran Mark Harris is one of the most respected film historians of this generation, and this book, which goes deep on five pivotal films, is a must-have for serious cinephiles. Exploring Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, and the surprise box office bomb Doctor Doolittle, Harris explores how 1967 marked a tectonic shift in American cultural preferences. Pair it with Five Came Back for bonus gifting points (and a book you can watch together on Netflix).

Buy It: Amazon

8. The Art of Mondo; $44

Insight Editions/Amazon

This is high on the list of gifts you’ll end up keeping for yourself. This sublime book boasts 356 pages of gorgeous prints from everyone’s favorite films. Cult, classics, blockbusters, and buried gems, the Austin-based Mondo is world-renowned for limited release posters from the best artists on the planet. One sheets typically sell for hundreds of dollars, so this book is the cheapest way to get them all. For your friend, of course. Right?

Buy It: Amazon

9. A Princess Bride Enamel Pin; $10


I do not think this pin means what you think it means. This playful piece features Vizzini’s shouting face above a stately “Inconceivable!” banner. It’s made of quality metal with vibrant enamel colors, and buying it should also send you down a rabbit hole looking for dozens of other pop culture pins.

Buy It: Amazon

10. Marvel’s Greatest Comics; $23


Someone in your life is bound to want three pounds of Marvel comics. This definitive tome showcases 100 issues that changed the world and built a powerhouse pop culture company, from Marvel #1 in 1939 to Avengers #6 in 2018. The eye-popping artwork is accompanied by smart commentary from industry trailblazers and experts, which makes it as informative as it is entertaining. Just remember to say “Pow!” when you gift it.

Buy Them: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!