Fun Boston Fact
Fun Boston Fact

49 Interesting Facts about Boston

By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published September 5, 2017Updated February 1, 2018
  • Foreign-born residents from over 100 different countries make up a fourth of Boston's population. In Boston public schools, half of the students either speak a language other than English or speak another language in addition to English.[19]
  • Children under the age of 18 only make up 17% of Boston's population. These lower numbers are largely attributed to high housing costs.[19]
  • Urban legend has it that Boston's difficult-to-navigate streets are paved cow paths. While some streets are paved over cow paths, most of the streets follow the original coastline of Boston Proper before the city expanded over 1,000 acres during the landfill projects in the 19th century, giving them their seemingly strange pattern.[19]
  • On April 15, 2013, two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring over 300. Rather than instilling fear, this event triggered over 36,000 participants in the race the following year in 2014, the most since the record-setting year in 1996 when the race had 36,748 starters for the marathon's 100th anniversary.[19][20]
  • Surprising Facts about Boston
    Downtown Boston is a walker's paradise (RiverNorthPhotography / iStock)
  • About 13% of Boston citizens commute by foot, giving it the highest percentage of pedestrian commuters in major cities of the United States.[16]
  • On a November evening of 1872, the Great Fire spread over 65 acres in a 12 hour period, destroying 776 buildings total resulting in $60 million in property damages, and causing 13 to 30 deaths, depending upon the source.[19]
  • The Boston Fire Department (1678) is the oldest in the United States.[19]
  • The Massachusetts Bay Company established Boston in 1630. The company was a group of English Puritan settlers seeking religious freedom. Previously, the only European settler in the area was William Blackstone, who arrived in 1626.[19]
  • In the 19th century, the hilltops of Boston, Pemberton, Beacon, and Mt. Vernon were reduced 60 feet or more for a landfill project. From 1830 to 1890, workers carted land from the hills adding it to bays and along the coastline to expand Boston by 1,121 acres in order to accommodate the ever growing population.[19]
  • March 5, 1888 marks the day of the Boston Massacre, when the 5,000 colonists of Boston confronted and rioted against British soldiers stationed at the Old State House. The soldiers fired into the crowd, resulting in six injuries and five deaths.[2][10]
  • To punish Boston colonists after the 1772 Boston Tea Party, British Parliament passed the Boston Port Act. This halted all trade in and out of Boston Harbor until the losses of over 90,000 pounds of tea were paid back to the East India Trading Company. Known as the Intolerable Acts by American colonists, this event was a main factor that lead to the American Revolutionary War in 1775.[10]
  • About 250,000, or one third of the citizens of Boston, Massachusetts are college students, leaving 600,000 "regular" citizens.[11]
  • Boston is an oasis in the desert, a place where the larger proportion of people are loving, rational and happy.

    - Julia Ward Howe

  • Wooden shingles originally coated the dome of the "New" State House. When it began leaking, the dome was sheathed in copper. In 1861, the dome received a 23 Karat gold coating.[3][19]
  • A golden pinecone sits atop the golden dome of Boston's State House.[12]
  • Deer Island in Boston Harbor holds two egg-shaped sewage digesters that make the harbor one of the cleanest in the world.[19]
  • The Boston Pilgrims won the first World Series over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903.[3][19]
  • From May 15, 2003, to April 10, 2013, the Boston Red Sox sold out every home game at Fenway Park—a total of 820 games—setting a record in the sport's world.[19]
  • After Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to New York in 1920, the Red Sox suffered an 86-year losing streak that prevented them from winning the World Series. This streak was said to be the result of the "Curse of the Bambino." The losing streak, and supposedly the curse, broke in 2004 when the Red Sox won against the Cardinals.[15]
  • The Boston Public Library, founded in 1849, was not only the first public library in the United States, but when the first branch opened in East Boston in 1869, it became the country's first branch library system.[19]
  • Interesting Boston Library Fact
    Boston Library was the first public library to lend books; previously, books were not allowed out of libraries

  • The Big Dig rerouted Boston's main highway into a 3.5-mile tunnel due to traffic congestion. The Central Artery (I-93)—designed for 75,000 cars—had over 190,000 vehicles pass over it per day. The project cost an estimated $22 billion with interest, making it the most expensive highway project in US history. The original highway was replaced by the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a series of contemporary urban parks.[19]
  • Boston established the oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. in 1636. The institution was named for its first benefactor, John Harvard, who upon his death in 1638, left the college his library and half of his estate.[19]
  • The Mather School of Boston (1639) was the first public elementary school in the United States.[12]
  • Boston's subway, known as the "T," carries 1.3 million passengers per day on average. The "T" is short for MBTA, or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.[8][9]
  • Boston Common Park
    Boston Common Park was used as a camp by the British before the American Revolutionary War
  • Boston Common, established in 1634, is the oldest public park in the United States. Each household in the Boston colony paid a minimum of six shillings to the area's first European settler, William Blackstone, to create the park.[19]
  • Boston created the first subway system in America on September 1, 1897. During the two and half years of the subway's creation, 910 bodies were unearthed. On its opening day, 240 passengers piled into a subway car meant to hold 45 people.[19]
  • Boston University Bridge is one of the only places in the world that a boat can sail under a train passing under a car driving under an airplane.[12]
  • The Hancock building in Boston displays colored lights that tell the weather. Which color means what weather can be remembered by the sayings, solid blue, clear view; flashing blue, clouds due; solid red, rain ahead; and flashing red, snow instead. Alternatively, during summer months, flashing red means the Red Sox game is rained out.[12]
  • The largest art theft in US history occurred at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990, when two men dressed as police officers stole 12 pieces of art worth over $100 million. The pieces have not been recovered.[12][15]
  • Famous Bostonians include e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Donna Summer, Mindy Kaling, Matt Leblanc, Leonard Nimoy, Conan O'Brien, Amy Poehler, George Stephanopoulos, Uma Thurman, Mark Wahlberg, Barbara Walters, Eli Whitney, Samuel F. B. Morse, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Susan B. Anthony, John F. Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, Robert Kraft, and Temple Grandin.[13][14]
  • In May 11, 1659, Puritan colonists passed a decree banning Christmas celebrations in Boston due to strong ties in Paganism. This ban lasted until it was overturned 22 years later in 1681.[7][11]
  • On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever phone call to his assistant in a machine shop in Boston. Bell was said to have stated to his assistant, who was merely down the hall, "Watson come here, I want you!"[11]
  • After multiple attempts to fight off taxation without representation, about 20 Boston colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships in Boston Harbor. On the ships, the disguised colonists cracked open and dumped 342 crates holding over 90,000 pounds of tea into the wharf, creating what is now famously known as the Boston Tea Party.[10]
  • Fun Boston Tea Party Fact
    George Washington actually condemned the Boston Tea Party and believed the perpetrators should compensate the East India Company for damages

  • 34. Boston offers its citizens and visitors over 850 restaurants. Amazingly, only 40 of the 850 serve fast food.[15]
  • The oldest restaurant in continuous service in the United States is Boston's The Union Oyster House, established in 1826.[8]
  • While the Salem Witch Trials are named after the town of Salem, Massachusetts, the first death sentence of a "witch" occurred in Boston. In 1648, Boston citizens hanged midwife Margaret Jones for using herbal remedies on her patients that were believed to have made them sicker.[7]
  • Boston holds the highest concentration of National Park sites in the United States, with 12 sites located within 30 miles of downtown Boston.[6]
  • Boston hails as the only state capital in the contiguous United States to have an ocean coastline.[16]
  • Boston Baked Beans helped earn Boston the title of the bean capital of the United States. However, the nickname of Beantown originates from a publicity stunt in 1907 that used stickers that displayed clasped hands over a bean pot. Postcards printed with sayings like,"You don't know beans until you come to Boston" also helped the name stick.[1]
  • The Emerald Necklace consists of a six-mile stretch of parkland, including the Boston Common, Public Garden, Franklin Park, Jamaica Pond, Arboretum, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, and Riverway and Olmsetead Park.[16]
  • The Boston Athletic Association established the Boston Marathon in 1897 as a 24.5-mile run attended by 18 runners. Today, the marathon attracts thousands of runners from all over the world every Patriot's Day, who run the grueling 26.2-mile route.[20]
  • Boston Marathon Fact
    The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest marathon (LornaWu / iStock)

  • Boston offers over 100 colleges and universities, a fact that once gave it the nickname of the "Athens of America" in the early twentieth century.[11]
  • Boston's nickname, the Hub, or the Hub of the Universe, comes from a statement by Oliver Wendell that Boston, specifically the State House, was "the hub of the solar system." Although Wendell's comment was meant as a slight, Boston adopted the nickname, even establishing a plaque in a downtown sidewalk that commemorates the exact center of the universe.[17]
  • Some of the many nicknames given to Boston over the years include the City on the Hill, City of Notions, Title Town, Beantown, and the Hub.[6][8]
  • Boston Harbor holds many islands, 34 of which are included in the Boston Harbor Island's National Recreation Area.[16]
  • Some of Boston's many firsts include the invention of candlepin bowling (1888); the first newspaper in the U.S., the Boston News-Letter (1704); first historical society in the U.S., the Massachusetts Historical Society (1791); the United State's first windmill, on Copp's Hill (1632); and the first city police department in the U.S. (1838).[3][4][16][19]
  • Boston Molasses Fact
    An 8-foot wave of molasses traveled 35 mph through Boston
  • On January 15, 1919, a 55-foot steel tank filled with 2,319,525 gallons of molasses ripped apart, releasing a 13,000 ton wave on Boston's North End that destroyed nearby houses, vehicles, businesses, apartment buildings, and more. It took over six months to clean up, and caused over 40 injuries and 21 deaths. Until it finally faded away in 1995, the smell of molasses still permeated through Boston on hot days.[12][18]
  • Some of Boston's many claims as "the oldest in existence" include the oldest existing lighthouse, Boston Light (1716); oldest continuously working fish pier in the United States, the Boston Fish Pie (1914); the second oldest public building in existence in the U.S., the Old State House (1713); and the oldest American-made tower clock still operating in its original location, the Old Meeting House Clock (1768).[3][19]
  • In the Boston law books, spitting on the sidewalk is considered illegal.[21]
  • Keeping a mule on a second story floor of a Boston building is considered illegal, unless there is more than one exit available.[21]
  • Important Dates[3][4][5]
    DateEvent
    2400 BCNative Americans settle Boston peninsula, calling it Shawmut
    1614 ADJohn Smith makes first contact with intentions of establishing colonies
    1625William Blackstone becomes the first European settler in Boston
    1630Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Company form the Boston colony
    1634Boston Common becomes the first public park
    1635Boston Latin Grammar School becomes the first public secondary school in the U.S.
    1636Harvard College becomes the first institute of higher education in the U.S.
    1639Boston creates the first post office in the U.S
    1654Boston Public Library becomes the first free city library in the U.S.
    1656Boston Quaker Laws ban Quakers from Boston
    1659Puritans ban Christmas celebrations
    1681British Parliament lifts ban on Christmas celebrations
    1692Salem Witch Trials begin
    1711The first Great Fire destroys 100 houses and buildings
    1713Boston's Old State House becomes the oldest public building in Boston
    1733British Parliament establishes the Molasses Act
    1760The second Great Fire in Boston destroys 349 buildings
    1764British Parliament establishes the Sugar Act
    1767British Parliament establishes the Townshend Acts
    1768British Occupation of Boston begins
    1770Boston Massacre; Townshend Acts repealed except taxation on tea; Boston Tea Party
    1774British Parliament passes the Intolerable Acts
    1775Paul Revere's ride; American Revolution begins with the Battle of Lexington and Concord
    1776British troops leave Boston; colonists create and sign the Declaration of Independence
    1780The Massachusetts State Constitution becomes the first state constitution
    1783The Treaty of Paris officially ends the Revolutionary War
    1812War of 1812
    1814American Revolution begins
    1822Citizens vote to incorporate Boston as a city
    1838The Boston Fire Department becomes the first in the U.S.
    1846Massachusetts General Hospital of Boston performs the first operation under general anesthesia
    1863The Oneida Club plays American-style football for the first time
    1872The third and largest Great Fire of Boston destroys 776 buildings
    1897Boston opens the first subway in the U.S.; Boston holds the first Boston Marathon
    1919The Great Molasses Flood kills 21 and injures over 40 people
    1953Brigham Hospital performs the first kidney transplant
    1972The Boston Marathon recognizes a woman winner for the first time
    1990The Isabella Gardner Museum of Boston experiences the largest art heist in history
    2004The Boston Red Sox wins the world series for the first time in 86 years
    2005Boston begins the Big Dig to replace the Central Artery highway with a tunnel system
    2013Boston Marathon bombings
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