Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Boston (2.)
BOSTON, the capital of the State of Massachusetts, in Suffolk County, and the second city in commerce, wealth, banking capital, and valuation in the United States of North America. It lies at the bottom of Massachusetts Bay, and is one of many pear-shaped peninsulas formerly attached to the mainland only by narrow marshy necks, which fringed the shores of the bay. The Charles River, once more than double its present width, divides it from the similar promontory of Charlestown (the site of the battle of Bunker Hill), on the other side of which the Mystic River, uniting with the Charles, flows into the harbour. The latest determination gives the latitude of Boston 42° 21′ 27.6″ N., and the longitude 5° 59′ 18″ E. from Washington and 71° 3′ 30″ W. from Greenwich. When it is noon in Boston it is 4 o'clock 44 minutes and 14 seconds at Greenwich, and 36 minutes past 11 at Washington, which is distant by railroad 450 miles.
The Indian name of the peninsula was “Shawmut,” meaning “living fountains.” When Governor John Winthrop, with his company, came over from England with the king's charter, to establish a government under it in the bay, they reached Charlestown, as a temporary settlement, on June 17, 1630. Looking across the Charles, the Indian Shawmut presented to the eye an elevation nearly in its centre, with three distinct summit peaks, the remnants of the only one of which now remaining constitute the present Beacon Hill, so called from its ancient use as a signal warning station. These triple summits led to the substitution of the name “Trimountaine,” or “Tremont,” as the English designation of the whole peninsula—a favourite title perpetuated in the name of a central street, a hotel, a theatre, a bank, a lecture-hall, &c. A single lonely white man, the Rev. William Blaxton, a clergyman of the English Church, was then living, with house, orchard, and garden on the slope of the central hill, supposed to have come over in 1623, one of several isolated settlers on the promontories and islands of the bay, called “the old planters.” He invited Winthrop's company to cross the river and build their cabins on his side, because of the purer and more abundant water-springs. On the records of the company we read, that at a court held in Charlestown, September 17 (n.s.), 1630, “It is ordered that Trimountaine shall be called Boston.” This has consequently been the date assumed for the foundation of what is now the present city, and the second centennial of which was commemorated by public civic services, an oration by Josiah Quincy, a former mayor, then president of Harvard University, and a poem by the banker-poet, Charles Sprague. It is not probable that the peninsula was occupied till a month later. Blaxton, not finding the new-comers congenial associates, sold out his rights to them in 1634, and moved elsewhere. It has often been said, and has been widely accepted, that Boston received its name in compliment to the second minister of its firstchurch, the Rev. John Cotton, formerly vicar of St Botolph's, borough of Boston, Lincolnshire, England. This was not the case. The Rev. John Wilson, of King's College, Cambridge, and of Sudbury, in Suffolk, England, came in Winthrop's company, and was first pastor of the church. Cotton did not arrive till September 4, 1633, three years after the name Boston had been adopted. Undoubtedly the name was chosen in compliment to the much honoured Mr Isaac Johnson, one of the foremost in the enterprise, who with his wife, the Lady Arbella, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln, came with Winthrop in a vessel bearing her name. Johnson was from the English Boston, as were also his associates, Atherton Hough, who had been mayor of the borough, and Thomas Leverett, “ruling elder” of the church, who had been an alderman.
|Ground-Plan of the City of Boston.|
1. Massachusetts Hospital. 2. State House. 3. Athenæum. 4. Court-House. 5. Faneuil Hall. 6. City Hall. 7. Exchange. 8. Custom House. 9. Bunker's Hill Monument. 10. Insane Hospital. 11. House of Correction. 12. Telegraph Hill (Dorchester Heights) ··················· Low Water mark. – – – – – – 5 Fathom line.
Some graceful courtesies have been exchanged in recent years between the two cities. The English Boston sent over a copy of her charter, framed in wood from St Botolph's church, and this now hangs in the city hall of the Massachusetts capital; and some descendants of John Cotton, with members of his American Church, through one of their number, Edward Everett, then American minister at the Court of St James's, united in a generous subscription to restore a chapel in St Botolph's, and to erect a monumental tablet in it to the revered teacher.
It is remarkable, considering the leading and conspicuous character which has always attached to Boston from the first English settlement of the country, that it should have remained for nearly two centuries under the simple form and administration of a town government, the same as that of the smallest interior hamlets. Such a government, by all the citizens assembled in “town meeting” to dispose all their affairs, was, however, found favourable to the development and prosperity of the community. Here was trained a homogeneous population under peculiar institutions. Wealth slowly but steadily increased, through the whale and cod fisheries, the fur-trade, the sale of lumber and pitch, and a commerce largely with the West Indies and elsewhere,—though much impeded by the restrictions of the English navigation laws. Heavy exactions and drawbacks were found in the Indian and in the French colonial wars. Here began opposition to the measures of the British ministry, for oppressing and taxing the colonies. The Stamp Act, passed in 1765, was repealed in 1766. The Tea Act, passed in 1773, was defied by the emptying of three cargoes of tea into the harbour, December 16 of the same year, by a party in the guise of “Mohawk Indians.” The port was closed by a British fleet, June 1, 1774. The British army evacuated Boston March 17, 1776, after having been beleaguered in it nearly a year. The constitution of the State was adopted here in 1780, midway in the war.
Population, Valuation, &c.—The population of Boston, in 1708, was about 12,000; in 1719, about 18,000; in 1780, about 23,000; in 1800, 25,000; in 1850, 139,000; and, with Roxbury and Dorchester, in 1873, was 308,875. Charlestown brought with it 32,040; West Roxbury, 10,361; and Brighton, 5978. The total, in 1875, must be nearly 360,000. The valuation of the city in May 1875 was $554,200,150 of real estate, and $244,554,900 of personal property,—total, $798,755,050. The value of the corporate public property is $30,787,292. The net city debt is $27,294,208. The number of public paupers, including insane, is 689; of criminals, 1495. There are fifty-eight banks of deposit and discount in the city, the capital of which is $52,900,000, and the circulation $27,074,396. The number of savings-banks is twenty-one, with deposits of $73,322,368·56. Of fire and marine insurance companies, stock and mutual, there are thirty, with four new ones in formation, besides life insurance companies and those against accidents and for specific forms of property. The annual sale of merchandise in the city is estimated at $1,000,000,000.
Commerce.—Boston has commercial relations with every part of the globe. In 1874 the gold value of its foreign imports was $49,522,547; of its exports of foreign merchandise, $2,084,257; and of its domestic merchandise, in currency, $27,035,169. There arrived 167 American vessels from foreign ports, with a tonnage of 234,587 and 6324 men; of foreign vessels from foreign ports 1849, with a tonnage 484,448 and 18,486 men. There cleared for foreign ports, 598 American vessels, with 254,347 tons and 6606 men; and 1882 foreign vessels, with 472,941 tons and 17,995 men. The total tonnage of Boston, registered and enrolled, on December 31, 1874, was 331,266. Its commerce is slowly recovering from the effects of the war of secession.
Great Fires.—The buildings of Boston having from the first been largely of wood, the use of which material for that purpose is now under severe restrictions, and closely compacted, the old town suffered from frequent and disastrous conflagrations, several of which were successively described as "The Great Fire." There had been ten of these disasters, severe under the then existing circumstances, before the year 1698. In 1711, the town-house and a meeting-house, both of brick, and a hundred dwellings were destroyed. In 1760 a conflagration consumed 349 dwellings, stores, and shops, and rendered more than 1000 people homeless. But these and all subsequent ones were eclipsed in their devastation by the disaster of November 9-10, 1872, in which hundreds of costly warehouses filled with goods, with banks, offices, churches, &c., were destroyed, though all of brick or granite, involving a loss of over $80,000,000. It is an evidence of the energy and resources of the citizens, that in a little more than two years after the catastrophe, the whole “burnt district,” with widened and improved thoroughfares, was covered with solid, substantial, and palatial edifices combining all the safeguards, improvements, and conveniences of modern skill. At least as large an amount has been expended on this restoration as was lost in the ruin. The fire department has been made more efficient under the control of three commissioners. There are now in the city twenty-nine steam fire-engines and a fire-boat in the harbour, eleven hook and ladder companies, sixteen horse-hose companies, a protective department, an insurance brigade, with waggons, &c., an alarm telegraph, and a system of signal boxes.
Water Supply.—Though the first white settlers were drawn to Boston by its pure and abundant springs, the want of water resources was long felt till efficient measures were taken for a supply. The southern portion of the town was supplied at the beginning of this century by an aqueduct from Jamaica Pond in Roxbury. The works already constructed and still in progress fully meet the present and prospective demands. The waters from Cochituate Lake and its tributaries, from twenty to thirty miles from the city, flowed into it by gravitation, October 25, 1848. The storage reservoirs and the works have cost up to May 1875, $10,786,739. The length of the conduit of brick is 14⅛ miles, and of supply pipes of iron 262⅓ miles. The annexation of Charlestown brought with it the waters of Mystic Lake, the works for which had cost $1,147,902, with 1½ miles of brick conduit, and 127 miles of pipe, pumping engines, and reservoir.
The public schools of the city are organized and supervised under the statutes of the State which make provision for free education by some compulsory enactments, subject to such special regulations as may be enjoined by the Legislature. The Legislature of 1875, by an Act (chapter 241), introduced a change in the composition and functions of the school committee. Henceforward this board is to consist of twenty-four members, chosen by the citizens on general ticket, to be disposed in three sections of eight members each. After the close of the first year from the first election, eight members are to retire, and eight new members are to be elected, to serve for three years, all without compensation. The board is to elect and fix the compensation of a secretary, an auditing clerk, and other necessary subordinate officers, and also of a superintendent of schools, and a board of not more than six supervisors. The mayor is to be, ex officio, chairman of the general board, to which no other member of the city government can belong, and which shall have the whole management of the schools, choosing and fixing the compensation of all teachers, janitors, &c., but needing the authority of the city council before incurring an expense exceeding $1000 for the purchase of land, or the erection or alteration of a building. Boston has now 9 high schools, 49 grammar-schools, 416 primary schools, 25 evening schools and industrial, licensed minors', deaf-mute, and kindergarten schools,—total, 499. The number of teachers employed is 1289; of scholars, 53,391. Cost of maintenance for the year ending May 1, 1875, $1,724,373·61. In the old city there is a Latin, English high, girls high, and normal school; and in each of the municipalities that have been annexed there is a high school, where classical education is furnished.
The public buildings of Boston are very numerous, embracing those of the United States Government, the State, the county, and the city. Most of them have been built within a few years, and are substantial and commodious, but, owing to the constant expansion and growth of the city, each of them in turn becomes contracted, and needs enlargement or a substitute. The buildings connected with each of the railroad stations have been reconstructed for extension three or four times. The largest group of edifices and works is that of the United States navy-yard, with docks, manufactories, foundries, machine shops, ordnance stores, rope-walks, furnaces, casting pits, timber sheds, ordnance parks, ship-houses, &c. The half of a very elaborate and costly edifice, the corner-stone of which was laid by President Grant, is now (1875) completed and in use for the United States post-office and sub-treasury. The other half, now in progress, will accommodate the United States courts. There is also a custom-house, with bonded warehouses, and the United States court-house.
The State House, for the business of the Legislature of the commonwealth, was built in 1798, and has been recently greatly extended. It stands on the highest land in the city,—what remains of the old Trimountaine summits,—and has a gilded dome, fountains, and statues on its lawn, with statues, busts, paintings, and trophies within. The edifice looks nobly down upon the "Common," so dear to the citizens of Boston. This park came with the original purchase from Mr Blaxton, and encloses 48 acres, with malls all round it, a pond, a fountain, a soldiers' monument, a deer park, and about 1300 trees. An Act of the Legislature of 1875 protects it from being encroached upon in any way by the municipal authorities without a vote of the majority of the citizens. To the State also belong a court-house and some of the newly reclaimed territory on the South Bay. To the county of Suffolk belong a jail, and court-houses, municipal and probate. The State prison is in Charlestown district.
To the city, besides the school-houses,—which bear the names of honoured citizens for many generations, and of ex-mayors,—belong a large number of structures and appliances:—the Old State House, so called, built for the British authorities in 1712,—the oldest public building now standing in the city, Christ Church, dedicated in 1723, coming next to it; Faneuil Hall, famous for its patriotic oratory, originally the gift of Peter Faneuil in 1743, used for “town meetings,” and enlarged in 1806; extensive market-houses; the City Hall; the Public Library; bath-houses; engine-houses and armories; the Public Garden on the new territory, highly ornamented, enclosing more than 24 acres, with a pond; city stables, &c.
Statues in public places:—in bronze, a fine equestrian statue of Washington, and those of Dr Franklin, born in Boston, January 17, 1706,—of Daniel Webster, Horace Mann, and Edward Everett; of marble or granite, Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Governor Andrew, Columbus, Aristides, soldiers in the war of secession, and the monument commemorating the introduction of the use of ether as an anæsthetic, first applied in the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Boston is fringed with substantial wharves on all its water margins, for the most part covered with massive warehouses. Horse railroads, or tramways, make easy connections within its own limits, and with the suburbs. Steam roads open communication with the whole continent, in every landward direction. Successive experiments have been tried with the various materials and methods for paving the streets, and constructing side-walks. The streets of the town were first named in 1708. The first map of the town, that of Bonner, was made in 1722. Overseers of the poor were first chosen in 1691. The superintendent of lamps has charge of 7664 gas, and 976 fluid, burners. The cost of gas to the city, for 1874, was $275,064·35. There are seventeen police-station houses and lock-ups; the expense of that department was $683,892·78; of the health department, $446,877·08; of the fire department, $671,511·13; of the City Hospital, $111,198·31; of penal and pauper institutions, $405,903·40. The cost of street widenings and extensions from 1822 to 1874 was $21,739,983·13; and in 1873-74, $6,403,413·76, reduced by “betterments,” $283,697·50; tax assessed in 1874, $9,022,187·17 The revenue of the city was $23,633,874·06. There had been in the town and original city eleven burial-places. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, five miles distant, enclosing 125 acres, was put to use in 1831. There have been more than 19,000 interments in it. Five other suburban cemeteries are now provided, and interments in the city are prohibited.
The Public Library, as an institution of the city, was fostered by an enterprise initiated by M. Vattemare, in securing a gift of books from the city of Paris, in 1843. Acts of the Legislature, renewed and extended from 1848 to 1857, aided by the efforts of individual citizens and meetings of committees, with free and conditional gifts of money and of books, kept the object steadily in view. In 1852 Mr Joshua Bates, born in Massachusetts, then of the firm of the Messrs Baring, of London, made a gift to the city for the purpose of a library, of $50,000, subsequently adding various donations of books. The main hall of the library building bears his name, in commemoration of his munificence. The present spacious and solid structure, which, however, already needs a second enlargement, was inaugurated for its uses, on January 1, 1858, with an address by Edward Everett. It cost, with the land, $365,000. Large donations of money and of private libraries have since accrued from living benefactors, and by bequests. The names of Ex-Mayor Bigelow, of Abbot Lawrence, and Jonathan Phillips deserve mention for their pecuniary gifts; while the libraries of Theodore Parker, Edward Everett, and George Ticknor have furnished most valuable acquisitions. Here is deposited the Prince Library, belonging to the Old South Religious Society. The unique and rich collection, known as the Barton Library, of 12,000 volumes, including the magnificent Shakspearian treasures, was obtained in 1873. The edifice has been once enlarged, with efforts to render it fireproof, and additional ground has been purchased at a cost of $70,000. The expense of its maintenance and care, in 1874, was $135,000. There are employed in it 103 persons. The number of volumes is about 280,000, besides pamphlets, MSS., and valuable collections of engravings, including the Tosti, so called. Branch libraries are established for the convenience of the citizens, in South and East Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, Brighton, and Charlestown; and a system of other local deliveries has been initiated.
Of churches and places of worship in Boston, there are 163 for Protestants, 26 for Roman Catholics, and 3 Jewish synagogues. The Roman Catholics have a cathedral which will seat more than 4000. The Unitarians have the largest number of Protestant churches. There are 112 public halls, which serve very miscellaneous uses of worship, debate, lecturing, society meetings, and amusement.
Literary, learned, scientific, benevolent, and secret societies, represented by their own edifices, halls, libraries, and collections, are very numerous, and well sustained. Among these may be mentioned the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Massachusetts Historical Society; the Boston Athenæum, with a very extensive library, paintings, and statuary; the New England Historic Genealogical Society; the Masonic Temple; the Odd Fellows' Hall; the Mechanics' Association; the Mercantile Library Association; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Boston College (Roman Catholic); the Boston University (Methodist); Young Men's Christian Union; Young Men's Christian Association, with a sectarian condition; Young Women's Christian Association; the Natural History Society; the Horticultural Society; the Marine Society; the Boston Library Society; the Music Hall, with its great organ; the Harvard Medical School, and Warren Museum; the State Library; the Law Library; the General Theological Library; the Art Museum, &c. There are four theatres in the city,—the Boston, the Globe, the Howard, and the Museum.
Ninety years after the settlement of the town of Boston, Daniel Neal, of London, wrote a description of it, returning from his visit. In this he says: “The conversation in this town is as polite as in most of the cities and towns in England, many of their merchants having travelled into Europe, and those that stay at home having the advantage of a free conversation with travellers; so that a gentleman from London would almost think himself at home at Boston, when he observes the numbers of people, their houses, their furniture, their tables, their dress, and conversation, which perhaps is as splendid and showy as that of the most considerable tradesmen in London.” Though in the succession of visitors from abroad, particularly from England, who have followed Mr Neal, there have been a few who have found matter for satire and depreciatory criticism in their accounts of Boston, of its citizens, their habits, &c., the great majority of its foreign guests, especially if their own manners and errands have recommended them, have written in a similar strain. They have found there much to learn and enjoy, and to remember with pleasure. Cultivated Englishmen, particularly those who have visited Boston in recent years to obtain or to impart information, have found themselves at home there. The supposed conceit of its citizens over their own distinctive qualities or advantages has led to some pleasant banter from at home and abroad in characterizing the city as the “Athens of America” or “The Hub of the Universe.”
The development, growth, and increased population of the city, under the liberal social influences, and the changes of opinion and habit, which in no part of the world are more marked and active than here, have, of course, wholly displaced the original homogeneousness of its people, and the peculiarly Puritan character of the tone and customs of life. Its large foreign population make, in traditions, habits, social relations, and religion, a nation within a nation. The unfamiliar names which appear on the signs of shops and dwellings, the relaxed usages as regards the observance of Sunday, and the indulgence in amusements, large personal freedom, &c., have made Boston, substantially, a cosmopolitan city. Those now living remember when a person who ventured to smoke a cigar or a pipe in the street would have fallen into the hands of a constable. When the traffic in the streets is annually obstructed by an elaborate procession, mounted and on foot, on “St Patrick's Day,” and when a cardinal, with other officials from the court of Rome, comes hither to consecrate an archbishop in a cathedral, it is difficult to recall the virgin promontory and the English exiles with which this notice began.
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