Term Paper: City of Boston

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Boston

Of Revolutions and Red Sox: The Historic City of Boston

Boston is one of America's oldest and most historic cities. It is the capital and the most populous city of Massachusetts, one of the thirteen first states of the United States of America. However, Boston's history stretches back even farther than the existence of the American union. It was founded on November 17, 1630 by Puritans, and the city in its oldest cobblestone and brick quarters still retains much of its distinct Puritan look in its architecture and design ("Boston, Massachusetts: City History," CityLights, 2008). Some wits might also say that it does so in some of its attitudes, such as the fact that Boston's public transportation system the 'T' closes shortly after midnight, while New York City's subways runs all night!

When the Puritans arrived, Native Americans still lived in the area, thus Boston's early European settlers first called the area Trimountaine like the Indians. The Puritans later renamed the town for Boston, England, an area in Lincolnshire, from which a number of the colonists had emigrated ("Boston, Massachusetts: City History," CityLights, 2008). The Puritans came to Boston fleeing persecution from the Anglican Church, but they did not come to embrace religious toleration -- citizenship in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was restricted to church members until 1664 and church dissidents like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished from the colony. There was also the famous hysteria spawned by the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 (Banner 2008).

Yet in addition to these exhibitions of religious intolerance, Boston encouraged tremendous intellectual ferment and scholarship. It encouraged higher learning, with the founding of Boston Latin School and Harvard University (Banner 2008). Later, Boston's elite liked to think of their city as the 'Athens of America,' with Harvard College as its Parthenon ("Boston Brahmins," Murder at Harvard, 2008). Although such elitism has been fought from within and without the many educational institutions of the city, Boston still houses some of the finest schools in the world within its confines or nearby, including Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College, to name just a few.

Boston led the way in technological innovation during the 17th century. The first printing press in the colonies was built in Cambridge by Stephen Daye in 1639. Colonial Boston was one of the world leaders in shipbuilding and quickly became the primary port of North America. Boston was one of world's wealthiest international trading ports because it was the closest major American port to Europe. Its New World exports included rum, fish, salt, and tobacco ("Boston, Massachusetts: City History," CityLights, 2008).

And of course tea. The independence of mind exhibited by the Puritans during this era carried over into the early 1770s, when Boston gave birth to some of the most vehement demonstrations and to wrest the colonial governments away from British control. The Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and several early battles occurred in or near the city, including the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston ("Boston, Massachusetts: City History," CityLights, 2008). The revolution itself is largely credited with beginning in Boston, after the British army sent "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" ("Boston, Massachusetts: City History," CityLights, 2008).

After independence was won, Massachusetts became one of the industrial powerhouses of the new nation. As one the first states, it was linked by roads, canals, and later railways to almost all of the major supply and transport hubs. Textiles in nearby Lowell, Massachusetts contributed to the city's rapid growth during the 1840's and Boston's status as a port made immigration a plentiful source of immigrant labor, particularly the Irish. "The 1840s and 1850s brought more Irish to America than any other decades. The arrival of thousands created a need for housing that resulted in the evolution of slums. Unskilled laborers were most likely to find work near the waterfront. Ostracized and homesick, the Irish settled near the wharves where they found inexpensive rent and friends from their homeland" (Frisch 2005).

Unlike Chicago and New York, the structure of Boston made it easy for residents of wealthier enclaves to remain isolated from the new workers. "The unique geography of Boston, a peninsula city, made expansion possible only by landfill. All of Boston's new neighborhoods in the mid-nineteenth century were created by leveling off hills and using the dirt to fill areas of water to create new land. These new landfill areas were generally small and largely bordered by water, so it was easy to keep them exclusive. When immigrants did move in to the newly fashionable Old South End, the Brahmins moved out" ("Boston Brahmins," Murder at Harvard, 2008).

Many of the new Irish immigrants found employment as domestics, and at one time 2/3 of all unskilled laborers in Boston were of Irish ancestry. The Irish faced great prejudice in the eyes of the established Boston elites: "None need apply but Americans" meant 'no Irish' need apply in 1845 (Frisch 2005). Thus as well as being a city of industrialization and immigration, Boston could be a city of elitism and class tensions. "Visiting Boston for the first time in the 1830s, Harriet Martineau noted that it was 'perhaps as aristocratic, vain, and vulgar a city, as described by its own 'first people,' as any in the world.' What particularly distressed Martineau was the evidence of an aristocracy of wealth amid a new republic, a group whose cultural pretensions and social exclusivity she saw a particularly at odds with the democratic ideals of egalitarianism and inclusive citizenship" ("Boston Brahmins," Murder at Harvard, 2008).

Many of these Boston Protestants were abolitionists, regardless of their personal prejudices. "The Civil War was a profitable time for Boston manufacturers, with the production of weapons, shoes, blankets, and other materials for the troops" (Banner 2008) However, "while industrialization and advances in transportation brought a great array of products within reach of the typical household, life for those who worked in the factories was hard," according to some, almost as hard as slavery (Browne, 2003, p.4). "The workweek averaged 55 to 60 hours. Work was monotonous and highly regimented. Accidents were common. Periodic economic downturns resulted in unemployment and loss of income. Whereas the farm households of prior generations might have been able to get by in hard times, raising their own food and making their own clothes and implements, factory workers depended on employment to support themselves and suffered greatly during business slowdowns" (Browne, 2003, p. 4).

In the 20th century, the importance of manufacturing in Boston's economy began to decline. "New England auto makers are thought to have lost their early lead in automobiles partly because their manufacturing experience with electric and steam engines led them to experiment more with these power sources, while their mid-west competitors focused on the internal combustion engine. In addition, mid-western entrepreneurs who had made fortunes in lumber and mining provided capital for local auto companies" (Browne 2003, p.3). Some also believe Boston's refusal to allow more immigrants within its circles of power, which would have brought new ideas and new capital, played a role in its limited growth at this time (Domosh 1990, p.264).

But Boston still remained a place of great intellectual capital. It was one of the first states to pioneer the innovation of a structured public school… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"City of Boston."  Essaytown.com.  April 20, 2008.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/city-boston/27163.