Massachusetts State Study

MassIf there is a place that as Americans we associate with liberty and courage it is Massachusetts.  The Massachusetts state motto is Ense petit placidum sub liberate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty).  Join us for a Massachusetts State study.

Super Short History

Massachusetts was inhabited by various Algonquin tribes when the first explores and pilgrims from Europe arrived there in the 1600’s.  In 1620 the first permanent European settlement was established at Plymouth by a people fleeing the persecution and evil of Europe.  Before they left the boat they set forth laws and rules they agreed to follow, this was called the Mayflower Compact.  It is the first written law code of North America.

Over the next couple hundred years more and more people settled in the Commonwealth from Europe and at such a distance and in such independent circumstances learned to rely, govern, and defend themselves.  When King George began to assert his authority Massachusetts was the first to stand up and say no.  When Independence was declared and the war was finally won, on February 6, 1788, Massachusetts agreed to become part of the Union of 13 states which federated together for their common protection and good.

This is Acorn Street in Boston. It looks just like it did in 1776. Photo by Ian Howard, CC licence, Wikimedia.

Today Massachusetts is one of the most densely populated of the states with large urban centers, manufacturing, professional fields and considerable political clout.

This is the Boston skyline early in the morning. Photo by Rebecca Hildreth, CC license, Wikimedia.


The land rises form a low sea plain in the east to hills and mountains in the west.  Cape Cod is the most famous cape in North America and has a distinctive shoreline.  Massachusetts used to be covered with deciduous forests, but much of that land has now been cleared for urban development and farmland.

Cape Cod Bay. Photo by PapaDunes, CC license, Wikimedia.

Fabulous Facts About Massachusetts

  • The name “Massachusetts” means “a large hill place.”  It was the name of the local tribe the pilgrims first came across.
  • Its official name is “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”  A commonwealth is a political unit established for the common good.  In the case of modern Massachusetts, it is no different from any other state.
  • Nickname: Bay State
  • Johnny Appleseed is the official folk hero.
  • Official State horse: Morgan Horse.  Read Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry to find out why.
  • The first subway system in the U.S. was built in Boston in 1897
  • “Fig Newton” is named after Newton, Massachusetts.
  • The Salem Witch Trials occurred in Massachusetts.
  • Boston Common became the first public park in America in 1634.
  • Basketball was invented in Massachusetts.
  • Harvard was the first university established in North America.

Map Exploration

Label these cities and natural features on a Massachusetts Map .

Massachussetts web


  • Boston
  • Worcester
  • Springfield
  • Lowell
  • Cambridge
  • Brockton
  • New Bedford
  • Fall River
  • Lynn
  • Quincy

Natural Features:

  • Cape Cod
  • Martha’s Vineyard
  • Nantucket Island


  • Cook and eat food from Massachusetts.  Try chocolate chip cookies, invented at the Toll House restaurant in Whitman; corn muffins, an integral part of New England cooking; Boston baked beans; Cranberry juice; and Boston Cream Pie.
  • Re-enact the Boston Tea Party.
  • Color the State flag.
  • Make a timeline of Massachusetts history.
  • Cut and Assemble the Mayflower.

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