All About Boston

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

State Street - Boston Massachusetts

Boston is one of the earliest colonial cities in the present-day United States, and despite its relatively small size it has had a significant impact on the course of U.S. history. From its role in the American Revolution to its present-day importance in American intellectual life and innovation, the city Oliver Wendell Holmes lovingly called “The Hub of the Solar System” is one of America’s most prominent places.

Brief History & Remarkable Events

Boston was founded by Puritan settlers in the year 1630. The Puritans intended to make a strict religious community of the “elect,” which significantly affected the kinds of colonists it attracted (as contrasted with, say, the cash crop farming in the Chesapeake region and the different demographics that migrated there.) Not long after, the foundations would be laid for Harvard University in what is now Boston’s neighboring city of Cambridge. Over the course of a hundred years, Boston would become the center of several incredibly important social movements in the early U.S., such as the first Great Awakening and the independence movement. The Boston Massacre (unsurprisingly) took place here, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere’s Ride as well. The Battle of Lexington and Concord would occur in those nearby towns, beginning the Revolutionary War. After the Revolution, Boston lawmakers would prove influential in shaping the new Constitution, and activists here would form the backbone of the abolitionist movement. The greater Boston Area was one of the centers of industrialization in the Industrial Revolution. During this time, more colleges and universities would be built, and the academic communities of New England boomed—today the Boston area houses more than fifty colleges and universities, including several of the world’s most decorated institutions. As a result, Boston is also a significant center for entrepreneurs and innovators, and Boston area groups are some of the leaders in their fields.

Influential People

Some of the most influential people from Boston have been: John Adams (U.S. President), Louisa May Alcott (author), George H. W. Bush (U.S. President), Julius Caesar Chappelle* (Statesman), John Singleton Copley (painter), W. E. B. DuBois (writer and civil rights activist), Mary Dyer (martyr), Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer), John Hancock (U.S. Statesman), John F. Kennedy (U.S. President), Robert Kennedy (U.S. Statesman), John Kerry (Secretary of State), Jack Kerouac (writer), Cotton Mather (Minister and early proponent of inoculation), Anne Sexton (poet), Henry David Thoreau (writer), Eli Whitney (inventor), and Malcolm X (activist and public leader).

*There are unfortunately few comprehensive online resources about Chappelle. For a print source, try: Florida Black Public Officials (Black Officials La Villa), 1867–1924, University of Alabama Press (1998).

Landmarks & Cultural Centers

Boston might not have as many skyscrapers as nearby New York, but it still has its fair share of famous locales. These include: the Prudential Center, Copley Square, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, Harvard Square in Cambridge, the Boston Common, Quincy Market, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Institute for Contemporary Art.


Per U.S. Census estimates, Boston has the following demographics:

  • Population: 667,000 (note: this increases by about 30% during the academic year due to the substantial college presence.)
  • Boston’s population is about 53% self-identified women, above the national average.
  • Boston is about 27% foreign-born persons.
  • Boston is about 53% persons self-identified as white only.
  • About 45% of the adult population has attained at least a Bachelor’s Degree, compared to the national average of 36%
  • The median income is $56,000. The national median is $52,000.

For more about the history of Boston and its surrounding areas, check out the Massachusetts Historical Society.

By Logan Chamberlain
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