On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts officially became the sixth member of the United States after having been one of the 13 original colonies. Since then, Massachusetts has been one of the more notable states in the country despite its small size. A lot of that is thanks in part to having the capital city of Boston, which has proven to be a culture and financial hub of the east coast.
Because Massachusetts has a history that’s longer than just about any other state in the country, there have been a lot of weird and wild things to happen over the years. Let’s take a look at the history of Massachusetts, picking out five of the weirdest facts about the state (at least thus far).
There Were No City Parks Before Massachusetts
Almost every city and town in the United States has a park area where there’s a lot of natural beauty with some walkways for people to enjoy. Most of us just assume that parks have been around forever, but that’s actually not the case. The United States didn’t have any official city parks until Massachusetts, with Boston Common being the first designated park.
Boston Common takes up 50 acres right in the heart of the city and went through a few owners during the 17th century. There were multiple uses for Boston Common originally as it changed hands between Episcopalian and Puritan leaders. The park officially opened in 1634, but it wasn’t designated as a public park until the 1830s. In the time between, Boston Common was used for just about everything from public executions to family picnics.
Christmas Used to Be Banned
It’s hard to imagine a large city in the United States having a Christmas celebration, including a massive tree in the downtown area. In Boston and the rest of Massachusetts, there was no Christmas celebration for a brief period during the 17th century. The previously mentioned Puritans had gotten their way a lot during that era of Massachusetts, and back then, they felt that the celebration of Christmas was for fools.
Puritan law was put into place that outlawed any public celebration and instituted a fine of what would now be about $50 for anyone caught doing so. “Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way,” was the type of person who was subject to these fines that seem ridiculous now.
The Home of Basketball
When we think about the sport of basketball, the Boston Celtics might be one of the first teams that you think about due to their success in the NBA that’s only matched by the Los Angeles Lakers. However, when it comes to the history of basketball, most people assume that it was invented in a place like Kansas or Indiana.
Much of that is because people know the name James Naismith. Naismith is known as a Canadian immigrant who became the first head coach at the University of Kansas while the state of Indiana saw the biggest boom in the sport. However, it was at a YMCA location that he invented the sport when the weather was too cold for the kids to play outside, launching a multi-billion dollar sport that’s played around the world.
Home of the Chocolate Chip Cookie
The history of the cookie goes all the way back to 7th century AD Persia, so you’d think that the chocolate chip cookie would date back further than 1938. However, that’s when it was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in Whitman, Massachusetts. Wakefield was the owner of the Toll House Inn at the time, a popular restaurant in the area.
The chocolate chip cookies became such a hit that Toll House exploded in popularity to the point of becoming a world-recognized brand. The Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe was published and became known in just about every household in the United States. Eventually, chocolate chip cookies were sold in just about every bakery and made their way overseas, as well.
There Were Other Names to Pick From
English colonist John Smith was the man who said the state should be named Massachusetts, doing so after the Massachuset tribe. The name translates into English as “near the great hill,” but the tribe wasn’t the only one in the region that could have been the namesake for the state.
The Nauset, Wampanoag, Nipmuck, and Pocumtuc tribes all made up regions of what is now Massachusetts, so why did the Massachusett tribe get selected? They just happened to be the tribe that was in what is now Boston, the eventual capital and most populous city in the state.