The first English immigrant to settle in Boston was the Reverend William
Blackstone. He came by himself in 1629, to a peninsula by a stream, called by
the local Algonquin inhabitants, Shawmet. A year later, John Winthrop and
his Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, arrived to the north
in Salem. Finding Salem less than desirable for a settlement, Blackstone invited
Winthrop to visit Shawmut.
On September 17, 1630, Winthrop decided to make Shawmut a permanent
settlement and renamed it Boston, after his hometown in Lincolnshire
England. Winthrop and his followers left England to escape religious
persecution and to establish a pious Puritan state. Ironically, Blackstone
shortly left the colony due the harsh, intolerant society that the Puritans
Citizenship in Massachusetts was restricted to church members until
1664. Dissidents like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished.
Despite these facts and the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the
colony was developing representative institutions which would help form a
future democratic nation.
Over the next two centuries Boston developed as a center for Puritan
life. Early on, Boston began to emerge as an intellectual and educational
center with the arrival of noted theologians and statesmen, and the founding
of Boston Latin School and Harvard University. The first printing press in
the colonies was built in Cambridge by Stephen Daye in 1639. With its
excellent harbor, Boston became the leading commercial center in the
colonies. Colonial Boston was a world leader in shipbuilding and the
primary port of North America.
The growth of the Boston area continued in the 18th century. As
settlements grew into towns around the city, overseas trade increased, and
mills were built along the rivers for logging, the forging of iron, and
processing wool. Fishermen and farmers prospered as well.
Separated by a great geographical distance, the American colonies were
still loyal British subjects. This began to change in the 1730's when the
Crown increased taxes on the colonists to help replenish the treasury.
Boston became a leading center of colonial resistance as a great
philosophical distance began to grow between the Colonies and Britain. The
seeds of revolution were planted.
The Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767, led to the Boston
Massacre in 1770. The Tea Act of 1773 resulted with The Boston Tea Party.
The British responded to the defiant acts by closing the ports and bringing
in more troops to contain the dissidents. On the evening of April 18, 1775,
the British dispatched troops to the towns of Lexington and Concord to
arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and to seize arms which the colonists
were storing. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode through the night to warn
the colonists of the approaching soldiers. The next morning, on Lexington
Green, "the shot heard round the world" was fired, and the American
Revolution began. Two months later after the Battle of Bunker Hill, George
Washington was summoned to Boston to take command of the rebel army.
Massachusetts prospered in the early 19th century with improved roads,
new canals, and the construction of railways, linking cities and towns.
Laborers were recruited locally, but by the 1840's there were not enough
locals to fill the work force. The answer came with the arrival of the
first non-English immigrants, from Ireland. The Civil War was a profitable
time for Boston manufacturers, with the production of weapons, shoes,
blankets, and other materials for the troops. Boston also played a role as
a leading voice of the abolitionist movement. The late 19th century was
Boston's greatest industrial era. As millions of immigrants from around the
world came to America, Boston continued as a leading manufacturer of a wide
variety of goods and products.
Boston's manufacturing went into a state of decline during the first
decade of the 20th century. The once thriving factories and mills had
become old and obsolete. The tenements were aging and decaying. Many
businesses closed and relocated to the south. Prosperity continued in the
Hub however with the development of service industries, banking and finance,
and retailing and wholesaling.
Boston suffered with the rest of the nation during the Great Depression.
With the outbreak of War II, factories were retooled for the war effort, and
people went back to work on the production lines. Again Boston was a major
arms manufacturer during wartime.
By the 1950's, fishing and farming were in decline in Massachusetts, but
the Boston area emerged as a leader in the fledgling computer and high-tech
industries. Many of these new business were created and staffed by
graduates of MIT and the other colleges in the Boston area. The financial
and service industries continued to expand. Today, the Boston skyline is
brimming with skyscrapers and office towers; a testament to Boston's
achievements and its vitality.
Boston continues to evolve in the new millennium. A new convention
center, an addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, the 2004 Democratic National
Convention are some of the development plans for the Boston of tomorrow. In
March of 2003, the new Freedom Tunnel and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill
Bridge were completed and opened, as part of the Big Dig Project.
Boston is a city with a rich past, but it is also a city looking ahead