25 Spirited Facts About Massachusetts

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron / Chloe Effron

As the birthplace of the Revolution and the birthplace of TV dinners, Massachusetts history is synonymous with that of America. Here are 25 New England–bred facts you may not have known about the Bay State. 

1. Somerville, Massachusetts is home to MOBA or the Museum of Bad Art, which describes itself as “the only museum dedicated to bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences.” Some notable pieces include the Mana Lisa and a Georges Seuratstyle paining of a man sitting on a chamber pot titled Sunday on the Pot With George.

2. Massachusetts has a State Polka titled “Say Hello to Someone from Massachusetts.”

3. As of last year, Massachusetts was tied with Maryland for the lowest divorce rate in the nation. 

4. Marshmallow Fluff was invented by a Somerville candy shop owner in 1917. Today, the town hosts the annual “What the Fluff?” festival in honor of their sweet legacy.

5. Central Massachusetts’s Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaoggagoggchaubunaguhgamaugg has the longest place name in the U.S. and the sixth longest in the world. The name comes from the language of the Nipmuc tribe and it was long rumored to mean "You fish on your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle." That myth has since been dispelled, with a more accurate translation thought to be, "Englishmen at Manchaug at the fishing place at the boundary although.” Though most locals simply refer to it as Webster Lake, the town is home to a sign displaying the full 45 letter of the name.

Doug Kerr, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

6. In the 1920s, Clarence Birdseye developed his revolutionary frozen food brand in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Springfield shoppers were the first to find frozen meals in their grocery stores in 1930.

7. Another staple of American suburbia, the plastic pink flamingo, was invented in 1957 in Leominster, Massachusetts.

8. In the 1972 election, even after an FBI investigation revealed his campaign had been responsible for the Watergate break-in, Richard Nixon secured the vote of every state but one: Massachusetts. 

9. Today, Fenway’s 60-by-60-foot CITGO sign is considered a Boston icon, a designation that saved it from near destruction in 1982. In light of the energy crisis of the 1970s, the neon behemoth was dimmed for years at a time. CITGO was getting ready to tear it down completely when the Boston Landmarks Commission announced it was considering making it a city landmark. The workers who were assigned to dismantle it were forced to drag down their equipment which they had already hauled up to the roof in preparation. 

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

10. Boston’s Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest in North America, reaching 90 feet below the surface. 

11. MIT’s “Project Whirlwind” resulted in the first-ever digital computer that operated in real time. It was originally developed during World War II as part of a research project to design a universal flight simulator for the Navy. 

12. Rockport, Massachusetts, is home to a cottage built with approximately 100,000 newspapers. The house was constructed over the course of 20 years using newspapers, varnish, and homemade glue. Today it’s open to the public as a museum (admission is $1.50 for adults).

DISNEY_DEN, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

13. The first Fig Newtons were baked in Cambridge in 1891. The fruity pastries got the latter half of their name from the Massachusetts town of Newton—not from the guy who discovered gravity. 

14. If one man has his way, Shrewsbury, Mass., will soon be home to Busta Rhymes Island. (The island has "rope swinging, blueberries, and … stuff Busta would enjoy," Kevin O'Brien said of his pick.) Unfortunately, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names stipulates that places may not be named after a celebrity until five years after his or her death. Not one to be deterred, O'Brien has used Google maps to geo-tag the 40-foot-by-40-foot island, and is hoping that the name will stick, at least locally.

15. Massachusetts is the birthplace of both basketball (invented in Springfield in 1891) and volleyball (invented in Holyoke in 1895).

16. The first-ever Dunkin Donuts opened in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1948. Today, there’s a Massachusetts location for every 6500 people in the state. In the state's capital of Boston, residents are never more than 1.45 miles away from a Dunkin’.

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

17. In Massachusetts, it’s technically illegal to use tomatoes in the production of clam chowder (tomatoes are a key ingredient in the Manhattan-style version, not the classic New England dish). 

18. In 1919, 26 million pounds of of molasses flooded Boston’s North End, killing 21 people and injuring another 150. Locals claimed that the scent of molasses could be smelled on warm days for decades to follow. 

19. For the first few decades of our nation’s history Maine was a part of Massachusetts. In 1820, Massachusetts became 30,000 square miles smaller when Maine finally received statehood of its own. 

20. Boston is home to America’s oldest public beach, public park, and subway system.

21. One-hundred twenty-one years after the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth, a 10-ton boulder was identified as its specific landing spot. The evidence behind the claim was questionable—there’s no written record of the pilgrims ever disembarking onto a rock—but the rock became a patriotic symbol nonetheless. Over the course of American history, the rock was relocated, accidentally broken, and cemented back together multiple times. People visited the landmark with chisels and hammers to break off pieces to take home with them. After years of being dropped and whittled away, the current rock is estimated to be about a third of its original size. On top of that, only a third of what remains today is visible above the sand, often resulting in disappointed reactions from tourists to Plymouth. 

Bill Ilot, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

22. The infamous town of Salem, Massachusetts is home to many modern-day Wiccan and Pagan organizations today including W.E.B (the Witches Education Bureau) and P.R.A.N.C.E. (the Pagan Resource and Network Council of Educators).

23. In Boston, Cheers fans can visit the real-life bar that inspired the setting of the iconic sitcom. After scouting several locations in the city, the Bull & Finch tavern in Beacon Hill was eventually chosen by the show’s producers. In 2002, the establishment officially changed its name to “Cheers.” 

24. After a petition from Massachusetts schoolchildren, the corn muffin was finally recognized as the official state muffin in 1986.

25. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, was the primary filming location for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws. The location was partly chosen was because the surrounding ocean bed had a depth of 35 feet for up to 12 miles offshore, which was ideal for rigging the mechanical shark.