The Commonwealth

"The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," by Grant Wood

Every state has a proud and rich history. That certainly is true of Maine, where I now live, as well as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, where I have lived in the past. Yet I would be hard-pressed to name a state that has played host to more people and events of national significance over a longer period of time than my home state of Massachusetts, aka the Commonwealth. It hasn't all been for the good, of course. The Salem witch trials come to mind. But in terms of star billing and staying power on the American scene, I doubt that “the Commonwealth” can be beat. Here are some highlights, through the end of the 20th century. Decide for yourself.
1604: French explorer Samuel de Champlain explores and maps the coast of Massachusetts, but establishes no settlement there. 

1620: The Mayflower crew sights Cape Cod.

1620: The Pilgrims anchor the Mayflower at what is now Provincetown.

1620: The passengers on the Mayflower sign the Mayflower Compact.

1620: The Pilgrims relocate to Plymouth, where they establish a settlement.
1621: The first thanksgiving is celebrated at Plymouth.

1628: Puritans found what is now Salem
City of Boston

1630: The City of Boston is founded. 

1630: Anne Bradstreet, the first woman to be published in colonial America, emigrates from England to Massachusetts.

1634: Boston Common becomes the first public park in America.

1635: The Massachusetts Bay Colony banishes independent-minded clergyman Roger Williams, who later founds Providence and co-founds Rhode Island. 

1635: Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in America in continuous existence, is founded.

1636: The oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, Harvard College, is founded.

1636: Settlers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, together with their Indian allies, wage war against the Pequot Indians in Connecticut.

Statue of Anne Hutchinson and daughter, State House, Boston

1637: The Massachusetts Bay Colony banishes religious dissident Anne Hutchinson for her views. She relocates to Rhode Island.

1638: The first printing press in America is set up in Cambridge.

1639: The first free public school in America opens in Boston.

1639: The first American post office is established in Boston. 

1643: The first American ironworks is established in Saugus.

1653: The first public library in America is established in Boston.

 Mary Dyer

1660: Massachusetts hangs Mary Dyer on Boston Common for being a Quaker.

1675: King Philip’s War, which leads to the destruction of many English settlements in southern New England, begins in Massachusetts.

The stone reads "REBECCA NURSE HANGED JULY 19, 1692"

1692: Twenty men and women are executed during the Salem witch trials.

1704: The first regularly issued American newspaper begins publishing in Boston.

1706: Benjamin Franklin is born in Boston.

1716: The first American lighthouse is built in Boston harbor.
Sam Adams

1722: Samuel Adams, an early leader in America's fight for independence, is born in Boston.

1725: James Otis, who first said "taxation without representation is tyranny," is born in Barnstable.

1728: Mercy Otis Warren, America's first female playwright, is born in Barnstable.
1737: John Hancock is born in Braintree.

John Singleton Copley self-portrait

1738: Painter John Singleton Copley is born in Boston.

1763: The end of the French and Indian War paves the way for English expansion in western Massachusetts. 

1765: Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, is born in Westborough.
Boston Massacre

1770: Five civilians are killed by British troops in what becomes known as the Boston Massacre.

1773: Colonists board three ships in Boston Harbor and toss the shipments of tea into the water.

1774: John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman is born in Leominster.
Reenactment of the Battle of Lexington

1775: Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott ride out to warn colonists in the countryside west of Boston that the British are on the march.

1775: The first battles of the American Revolution take place at Lexington and Concord

1775: The British capture Bunker Hill, but their losses outnumber those of the rebels, 2-1. 

1775: George Washington assumes command of the fledgling American army outside Boston.

1775: The first American naval vessel, the schooner Hannah, is commissioned in Beverly. 

John Adams

1776: Bostonian Henry Knox brings 59 captured cannons and mortars from Ticonderoga and Crown Point in New York to the rebel army in Cambridge.

1776: Facing American cannons that have been trained on the city, the British abandon Boston

1776: John Adams of Massachusetts leads the fight for passage of the Declaration of Independence.

1779: A Massachusetts naval assault on British forces in Maine ends in a disastrous defeat for the Americans.

1780: The Massachusetts Constitution, now the oldest in continuous use in the world, takes effect. 

1782: Harvard Medical School is founded. 

1783: Under a state court ruling, Massachusetts becomes the first state to abolish slavery.
Shays' Rebellion

1786: Poor farmers stage Shays' Rebellion, an armed revolt, to protest high taxes and debt.

1788: Massachusetts ratifies the federal Constitution and becomes the sixth state in the union.

1789: The first cotton mill in America opens in Beverly.

1789: The first American novel, William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy, is published in Worcester.

1791: Samuel Morse, co-inventor of the Morse code, is born in Charlestown. 

1793: Williams College is founded.
Massachusetts State House

1795: The Massachusetts State House is built on Beacon Hill in Boston. 

1796: Horace Mann, considered the father of public education in America, is born in Franklin.

1797: John Adams of Massachusetts becomes the second president of the United States.

USS Constitution

1797: The frigate Constitution, now the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel, is launched in Boston.

1803: Essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson is born in Boston.

1804: Novelist and short-story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne is born in Salem.

1805: William Lloyd Garrison, who would become a leading abolitionist, is born in Newburyport. 

1806: The first church built by free African-Americans opens in Boston. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1807: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who lived much of his life in Cambridge, is born in Maine, which remains part of Massachusetts at this point. 

1807: John Greenleaf Whittier, poet and abolitionist, is born at his family’s rural home near Haverhill.

1809: Physician and author Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. is born in Cambridge.

1810: Women's-rights champion Margaret Fuller is born in Cambridge.

1812: Mountain man James "Grizzly" Adams is born in Medway. 

1817: Author, poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau is born in Concord. 

1817: Harvard Law School is founded. 

1818: Lucy Stone, abolitionist and champion of women’s rights, is born in West Brookfield. 

1819: Sewing-machine pioneer Elias Howe is born in Spencer. 

1820: Maine separates from Massachusetts and becomes a state. 

1820: Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, is born in Adams.

Clara Barton 
1821: Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, is born in Oxford.

1821: Amherst College is founded.

1825: John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts becomes the sixth president of the United States. 

1826: The first American railroad is built in Quincy. 

1827: Edgar Allan Poe's first book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems, is published in Boston.
Emily Dickinson

1830: Poet Emily Dickinson is born in Amherst.

1831: America's first abolitionist newspaper begins publication in Boston.

1833: A constitutional amendment separates church and state, officially ending Puritan rule.

1834: Artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler is born in Lowell. 

1836: The Transcendental Club is formed in Cambridge, formalizing transcendentalism in New England.
"The Blue Boat," by Winslow Homer

1836: Painter Winslow Homer is born in Boston.

1837: Mount Holyoke Seminary, the first college in the United States specifically for women, opens. 

1839: Boston University is founded.

1840: Charles Thurber invents the typewriter in Worcester. 

1841: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., future U.S. Supreme Court justice, is born in Boston. 

1843: The College of the Holy Cross is founded.

1846: The first public demonstration of the use of ether as an anesthetic occurs in Boston

1847: Esther Howland manufactures the first valentine cards in America in Worcester. 

1851: After sailing on a whaling ship out of New Bedford, author Herman Melville publishes Moby Dick. 

1852: Tufts University is founded.

1856: Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson form the Smith & Wesson gun manufacturing firm inSpringfield.

1856: Milton Bradley, the father of the board-game industry in America, moves to Springfield.

1859: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is established.

1862: The lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic are published in the Atlantic Monthly.

1862: Author Edith Wharton, who lived in Massachusetts for several years, is born in New York City.
Morgan Freeman in "Glory," the story of the 54th Massachusetts

1863: The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry becomes one of the first black units in the Union Army.

1863: Boston College is founded.

1865: Worcester Polytechnic Institute is founded.

1868: W. E. B. Du Bois, civil-rights activist, sociologist, historian and author, is born in Great Barrington. 

1868: Louisa May Alcott of Concord publishes the first part of Little Women 

1868: The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is founded by Southbridge native George Thorndike Angell.

1869: The Massachusetts State Board of Health is established as the first board of its kind in America.

1875: Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone in his Boston workshop.

1875: Louis Prang prints the first American Christmas card in Boston.

1875: Smith College is founded. 

1875: Wellesley College is founded. 

1879: Radcliffe College is founded. 

1880: Emerson College is founded. 

1887: Clark University is founded.

1891: The first basketball game is played in Springfield.

1891: The Kennedy Biscuit Works (later Nabisco) begins mass production of Fig Newtons in Newton.

1892: Poet Robert Frost graduates from Lawrence High School.

1893: Charles and Frank Duryea produce America's first successsful gas-engine vehicle in Springfield. 

1893: Lizzie Borden of Fall River is acquitted of the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother.

1894: Poet E. E. Cummings is born in Cambridge.

1896: America's first public beach is established in Revere. 

Start of the 2002 Boston Marathon

1897: The Boston Marathon is run for the first time. 

1897: Howard Johnson, founder of the restaurant and motel chain, is born in Boston.

1898: The first American subway system begins operating in Boston.

1898: Northeastern University is founded.

1901: The Boston Red Sox are established.

1901: The Hendree Manufacturing Co. begins producing Indian motorcycles in Springfield.

1903: The Boston Red Sox win the first World Series. 

1904: Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, is born in Springfield.

Fenway Park

1912: Fenway Park in Boston opens as the home of the Red Sox.

1912: The Boston Red Sox win the World Series. 

1912: More than 20,000 immigrant textile workers stage the "bread and roses" strike in Lawrence.

1914: The Boston Braves win the World Series.

1915: The Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

1916: The Boston Red Sox win the World Series 

1917: Poet Robert Lowell is born in Boston.
Babe Ruth

1918: The Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

1918: Conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein is born in Lawrence.

1922: Author Jack Kerouac is born in Lowell.

1923: Former Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge becomes the 30th president of the United States.

1924: The Boston Bruins are founded.

1924: The Boston Herald wins the first of an eventual eight Pulitzer Prizes

1926: Robert Goddard launches the first successful liquid-fuel rocket in Auburn. 

1927: Sacco and Vanzetti are executed for robbing and killing a paymaster and guard.

1928: Poet Anne Sexton is born in Newton.

1928: The first computer is developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1929: The Boston Bruins win the NHL championship. 

1932: Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is born in Boston.

1932: Author John Updike, who lived much of his life in Massachusetts, is born in Pennsylvania.

1932: Mystery writer Robert Parker, author of the Spenser novels, is born in Springfield.

1939: The Boston Bruins win the NHL championship.

1941: The Boston Bruins win the NHL championship. 

1942: Almost 500 people are killed when Boston's Coconut Grove nightclub is destroyed by fire.

1945: The Berklee College of Music is founded.

1946: The Boston Celtics are founded.

1948: Brandeis University is founded.

1950: The Great Brinks Robbery, the largest robbery in America up to that time, occurs in Boston.

1950: Comic and television host Jay Leno, who grew up in Massachusetts, is born in New Rochelle, N.Y.

1953: Painter/illustrator Norman Rockwell moves to Stockbridge, where he lives for a quarter of a century.

1956: Heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano of Brockton retires after winning every match of his pro career.

Celtics legend Bob Cousy (left)

1957: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1959: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship. 


1960: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. of Massachusetts runs for vice president on Richard Nixon's losing ticket. 

1960: John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts is elected president of the United States. 

1960: The New England Patriots are established, originally as the Boston Patriots.

1960: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.
Boston Celtics championship banners

1961: The Boston Celtics won the NBA championship. 

1962: Edward Kennedy is elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat vacated by his brother John. 

1962: John W. McCormack of Massachusetts becomes speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

1962: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.  

Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963

1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

1963: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1963: Comic and television host Conan O'Brien is born in Brookline.

1963: Harvey Ball of Worcester designs the "smiley face." 

1964: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1965: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1965: Hampshire College is founded. 

1966: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1966: The Boston Globe wins the first of an eventual 21 Pulitzer Prizes
Albert DeSalvo

1967: Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler," is sentenced to life in prison. He is murdered in 1973.

1968: Massachusetts native and presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated.

1968: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

Ted Kennedy's car being hauled from the water.

1969: Mary Jo Kopechne drowns when U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy drives off a Massachusetts bridge.

1969: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1970: The Boston Bruins win the NHL championship.

1972: The Boston Bruins win the NHL championship.

Boston students bused to school under poice escort.

1974: The court-ordered integration of Boston's public schools sparks massive protests and confrontations.

1974: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1976: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1977: Thomas "Tip" O'Neill of Massachusetts becomes speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

1979: U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy launches a failed bid for the presidency.

1981: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1984: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship

1986: The Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.

1988: Gov. Michael Dukakis wins the Democratic presidential nomination, but loses the election.

1989: George H. W. Bush, who was born in Milton, takes office as the 41st president of the United States.

1992: Former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas fails to capture the Democratic presidential nomination.