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Greylock Blackstone Lighthouse

 Providing Massachusetts resources for educators to enhance teaching and learning.

Massachusetts Firsts  

Every state likes to claim firsts, and Massachusetts is no different. Sometimes there are challenges to the claims, and that is where good research can come in -- by students of all ages. The listed item may be very old and not challenged until recently: e.g., Quincy as the location of the first railroad in the country, although recent research has revealed it to be 9th;  or there has been a change in the status of the listed item: e.g., until very recently Massachusetts was the # 1 cranberry growing state in the world but is now #2, second to Wisconsin. 

We want to spread the word about firsts but we also want to be truthful, so please feel free to make corrections,citing your sources for corrections. Students can be encouraged to find out if there are any firsts in their community to be added or to replace a listed item.


From Citizens Information Service  Massachusetts Facts 

From Mass. Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) Travel Trivia (see below) 

People | Places | Landmarks | Events | Inventions | Resources 

The first American novel (The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown) was published in Boston in 1789. 

The country's first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby, made his fortune in Salem. 

Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food in Mass. in 1925. 

The first Quakers arrived in this country in Mass. in 1656. 

President Theodore Roosevelt sent the first international wireless message from Marconi Beach on Cape Cod. 


America's oldest university is Harvard in Cambridge. Harvard University is also the oldest corporation in the U.S. 

The first ship of the U.S. Navy was commissioned in Beverly. 

The first religious meeting house was built in Plymouth in 1620. 

The first schooner was built in Gloucester. 

The first public school in the country was Boston Latin School. 

The country's leading textile manufacturing center at the end of the 19th c. was Fall River. 

Worcester created the first mass-produced Valentine in America. 

Great Barrington was the first town in the world to have electric street lights. 

The largest on-display collection of Medieval and Renaissance armor in the world is at Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester. 

Auburn was home to the first liquid fuel rocket. 

The first American city founded by a woman was Taunton. 

The oldest highway in the country is route 20, the Old Boston Post Road from Boston to New York. 

The shoe capital of the U.S. in 1890 was Lynn. 


The first library in the U.S. was established in 1638, when Massachusetts clergyman John Harvard donated several hundred books toward the founding of a college in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

America's first lending library was the Franklin Public Library, founded in 1778 through a donation of books from Benjamin Franklin.

America's first lighthouse was built on Boston Harbor in 1716. 

The tallest granite monument in the U.S. is the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. 

The USS Constitution or ;Old Ironsides, îmoored in the Charlestown Navy Yard, is the oldest commissioned battleship in the world. 

The oldest standing church of the original 13 colonies is the Old Ship Church in Hingham. 

The oldest historical museum in the U.S. is Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth. 

Quincy was the site of the Granite Railway, the first railroad in the country in 1826. 
     (Note: Anthropology Prof. Fred Gamst of UMass. Boston has shown this railroad to be the 12th in the U.S. The Granite Railway was an inclined plane built to carry granite to Neponset wharf and thence to Charlestown via barges for construction of the Bunker Hill Monumnet. Interestingly, his research shows that #1 and #2 were both in Massachusetts. In 1795 Charles Bulfinch used an inclined plane and rail cars to take earth from the top of Beacon Hill to its base to prepare a level area for the new State House. In a similar project in 1805, Bulfinch used a Beacon Hill line to remove much of two of Boston's three Beacon Hills to fill portions of Boston's tidal Back Bay. 


The first Thanksgiving service was held in Plymouth in 1630. (Thanksgiving did not become official until the 19th century.) 

The first Christmas card printed in the U.S. was printed in Roxbury in 1874. 

The first lion was exhibited in the U.S. in 1716 in Boston. 

The first battles of the American Revolution took place in Lexington and Concord. 

Volleyball was invented by William Morgan in Holyoke in 1895. 

The oldest marathon in the U.S. is the Boston Marathon, which began in Ashland (1897 - 1924), and later moved to Hopkinton to equal the Olympic distance.

First Night to celebrate New Year's Eve originated in Boston. 

The largest craft fair in the U.S. is held in West Springfield (A.C.C. Craft Fair). 

The largest flea market in the U.S. held three times a year is in Brimfield. 

The country's oldest dance festival, Jacob's Pillow, is held annually in Becket. 

The oldest surviving examples of American painting are the Freake family portraits at the Worcester Art Museum. (This needs checking out) 


Inventions & Innovations 
The chocolate chip cookie was invented at the Tollhouse Inn in Whitman. 

The first wooden automobile bodies were made in Amesbury. 

The first computer was developed in 1928 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. 

Anesthesia was first used during surgery at Mass. General Hospital, Boston. 

Snow-making was invented in Lexington. 

The first subway system in the US was built in Boston in 1898. 

The oldest operating wooden carousel in the U.S. is ;The Flying Horseî on Martha;s Vineyard. 


The world's largest man-made reservoir used for drinking water is Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts. 

The first fried clams were served in Essex. 

Massachusetts is the world's leading cranberry grower (it is now second). 

The highest revenue-producing fishing port in the U.S. is Gloucester (This should be checked out). 


For more information on MOTT offerings see 

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