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Massachusetts: Bay State

JOINED UNION: February 6, 1788
STATE BIRD: Chickadee
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Named after local Indian tribe whose name means "large hill place"
1992 POPULATION: 5,998,375
LAND AREA: 7,838 square miles
ECONOMY: Electronics, communications equipment, cranberries, trade, leather goods, wood products
HISTORY: When the Pilgrims landed near Plymouth in 1620, local Massachusetts Indians helped them survive their first winter, introducing them to native foods like turkey, corn, and squash. Soon, relations with Indians changed and fighting between them and settlers was intense in King Philip's War in 1675-76, with the colonists winning. The Massachusetts towns of Boston, Concord, and Lexington were sites of key activity before and during the Revolution including: the Boston Massacre in 1770, Boston Tea Party in 1772, and "the shot heard round the world" in Lexington in 1775. One of the key figures in shaping America's early government and Constitution, America's second president, John Adams, lived in Massachusetts along with his wife, Abigail, who was an early supporter of rights for women.

Return To Basics 1854


Published in 1854, "Walden," by Henry David Thoreau, is a somewhat fictionalized journal Thoreau kept during his stay at Concord's Walden Pond. Part of an American movement called Transcendentalism, the book stresses the importance of Nature, how the ordinary can be divine, and the necessity to see through illusions to reality.

Thoreau went to Walden Pond "because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life..." Here he reflected on America's passion for material possessions, business, and success. He views most of these as distractions that keep people from being fully alive.

Thoreau's message was taken up by anti-materialists of the 1960s, and most recently, by environmentalists. Today, Walden Pond still offers some room for reflection, but its surrounding area is threatened by developers who wish to subdivide it.

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