Massachusetts Facts

Part One: Concise Facts

Statistics

Legal Holidays in Massachusetts

Note: Whenever a holiday falls on a Sunday it is observed on the following Monday. Legal Holidays Observed in Massachusetts.

  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • 3rd Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • 3rd Monday in February: Washington's Birthday
  • March 17: Evacuation Day*
  • 3rd Monday in April: Patriot's Day
  • Last Monday in May: Memorial Day
  • June 17: Bunker Hill Day*
  • July 4: Independence Day
  • 1st Monday in September: Labor Day
  • 2nd Monday in October: Columbus Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
  • 4th Thursday in November: Thanksgiving Day
  • December 25: Christmas

    *Celebrated only in Suffolk County (Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop), provided, however, that all state and municipal agencies, authorities, quasi-public entities or other offices located in Suffolk county shall be open for business and appropriately staffed on Evacuation Day, on March seventeenth, and Bunker Hill Day, on June seventeenth, and that section forty-five of chapter one hundred and forty-nine shall not apply to Evacuation Day, on March seventeenth, and Bunker Hill Day, on June seventeenth, or the day following when said days occur on Sunday.

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Population and Area

Massachusetts, according to the 2010 United States census, has a population of 6,547,629. It has a gross area of 8,257 square miles and a net land area of 7,838, and ranks 14th in population and 45th in area among the states of the nation. It is divided into 14 counties, varying in size and population from Nantucket (area 50.34 sq. mi., pop. 10,172) to Worcester (area 1575.95 sq. mi., pop. 798,552) and Middlesex (area 844.21 sq. mi., pop. 1,503,085).

The 14 counties are made up of 39 cities and 312 towns, of which Boston with a population of 617,594 is the largest and Gosnold with a population of 75 is the smallest. More than half the state's total population lives in the Greater Boston area. Other Massachusetts cities over or approximating 100,000 population are:

1. Boston: 617,594

2. Worcester: 181,045

3. Springfield: 153,060

4. Lowell: 106,519

5. Cambridge: 105,162

6. New Bedford: 95,072

7. Brockton 93,810

8. Fall River: 88,857

9. Lynn: 90,329

10. Quincy: 92,271

According to the 2005-09 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates, 14.1% of Massachusetts residents are ‘foreign born'. Moreover, the six largest ancestry groups of the total number of people who responded with a particular ancestry include: Irish (23.7%), Italian (14.1%), English (11.9%), French-except Basque (8.6%), German (6.8%), Polish (5.3%), and Portuguese (4.9%). In the 2010 Census, Hispanics or Latinos comprised 9.6%, African-Americans 6.6%, Asians 5.3%, and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) .29% of the state.

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Boundaries

Massachusetts lies between the parallels of 41° 10' and 42 degrees 53' north latitude and between 69 degrees 57' and 73 degrees 30' west longitude. It has a shoreline of approximately 1,980 miles on the Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts Bay, and Buzzards Bay. The state is 190 miles, east-west, and 110 miles, north-south, at its widest parts. The northern, or New Hampshire-Vermont border, runs almost due east and west for 135 miles; the western, or New York boundary, is 49 miles long. On the south, the state borders Connecticut for 91 miles and Rhode Island for 65 miles.

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Time

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is on United States Eastern Standard Time, and by law employs the Daylight Saving Plan, advancing the clock one hour at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, and retarding it one hour at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.

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Climate

The prevailing wind is from the west, with an average velocity of 10 to 13 miles per hour. Average monthly temperatures in Boston range from 28.2° in January to 72.0° in July. The lowest temperature recorded by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Gloucester since its establishment (October 1870) was -18° in February 1934; the highest, 104° in July 1911. The last killing frost generally occurs before May 10, and the earliest fall frost usually comes in late September or early October. The normal annual precipitation is 44.23 inches.

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Topography

Massachusetts topography varies greatly; from the rocky shores, sandy beaches and salt marshes of the coast; through rolling hills, and fertile valley to lofty wooded hills in the western part of the state.

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Minerals

Although valuable mineral resources are not usually credited to Massachusetts, the mining of non-metallic minerals is a considerable industry within the state. Clay, lime, marble, sand and gravel, silica, quartz, granite, limestone, sandstone, slate, and traprock are all mined to a varying extent. From time to time small deposits of alum, asbestos, barite, feldspar, graphite, mica, peat, and semi-precious stones, such as the beryl, aquamarine, and tourmaline have been worked. Test borings in the Narragansett Basin (southeastern Massachusetts) indicate the possibility of fairly substantial coal deposits.

There is no metal mining in Massachusetts, but ores of copper, gold, iron, lead, silver, zinc, and other metallic minerals have at times been discovered.

Dolomitic marbles are found in Ashley Falls, West Stockbridge, and Lee, all in Berkshire County. Verd antique is quarried near Westfield, in Hampden County. The Quincy quarries produce monumental granite (including that used for the Washington Monument), while building granites come chiefly from Milford, West Chelmsford, Becket, and Fall River. Diatomite, a hydrous or opaline form of silica is found in South Framingham. Mineral production within the state was valued at $101,100,000 in 1984. The valuation was based on returns from clay, lime, sand, and stone (mostly granite and basalt).

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Soil

Massachusetts soils vary widely in color and in character. Broadly speaking, the uplands contain an abundance of mineral matter, while more or less organic matter is present in the lowlands.

The western region is hilly and is separated by the Connecticut River Valley from a central upland plateau region which slopes to the Atlantic coast. Except on Cape Cod where there are long stretches of sandy, treeless flats, almost all of the land was originally covered with dense forests. Even after the forests were cleared or thinned, however, the soil did not yield readily to cultivation by the early farmers, and their skill and patience were taxed heavily before it became productive. The most arable soil is found in the broad Connecticut Valley in the west-central part of Massachusetts. Rich alluvial deposits are found in the fertile river valleys.

On the whole, Massachusetts soils yield profitably when production is carried on under modern procedures. Even the sandy soils on Cape Cod have been made extremely fruitful when farmed by skillful agriculturists. In fact, Cape Cod and the South Shore produce the biggest cranberry crop in the world.

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Farming

Major farm products, on the basis of income, are milk, nursery and greenhouse, eggs, vegetables, cattle, hogs, sheep, cranberries, and fruit. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the total cash receipts from farm marketings in 2007 were $489,000,000 of which greenhouse/nursery accounted for 35%, fruit/vegetables 19%, cranberries 17%, and milk and livestock/poultry 21%.

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Key Industries

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts remains a vibrant and attractive area for industry. According to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, she attracts creativity in the arts, defense technology, financial services, information technology, the life sciences and biotechnology, manufacturing as well as maritime commerce. The Commonwealth has a rapidly growing film industry with over twenty-one productions filmed recently. The financial service industry ranks as the third largest industry sector in the state and ranks third in the country in asset management jobs and investment. Massachusetts continues to be a global leader in the life sciences with its world-class academic institutions. Manufacturing also has a rich and diverse history and is the fourth largest employer in the state. It continues to be a growth industry where the Commonwealth has increased productivity twice as fast as the average manufacturer in the country since 1997.

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Rivers

There are 4,230 miles of rivers within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The largest is the Connecticut, which flows from north to south. Its tributaries are the Deerfield, Westfield, Chicopee, and Miller's rivers. In the far western part of the state the Housatonic River flows south and the Hoosic River flows north between the Hoosac and Taconic mountain ranges.

The Merrimack River, in the northeast, rises in New Hampshire and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. It is navigable for shipping up to a distance of about 15 miles from its mouth. The Nashua and Concord rivers are tributaries of the Merrimack. The Blackstone River flows south from the center of Massachusetts. The Mystic and Charles rivers flow into Boston Harbor, and the Taunton River enters Mount Hope Bay at Fall River.

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Lakes

Massachusetts has more than 1,100 lakes and ponds. The largest of these, Quabbin Reservoir (24,704 acres) and Wachusett Reservoir (4,160 acres) are manmade. These two reservoirs will provide Metropolitan Boston with most of its water for many years to come.

Among those of natural origin, the largest are Assawompsett Pond (2,656 acres) in Lakeville and Middle­borough, drained by the Taunton River; North Watuppa Pond (1,805 acres) and South Watuppa Pond (1,551 acres) in Fall River and Westport, drained by the Quequechan River; Long Pond (1,361 acres) in Lakeville and Freetown, drained by the Taunton River; Lake Chargoggagogmanchaugagochaubunagungamaug – usually and mercifully called Lake Webster (1,188 acres) – in Webster, drained by the French River; Herring Pond (1,157 acres) in Edgartown on the island of Martha's Vineyard; Great Quittacas Pond (1,128 acres) in Lakeville, Rochester and Middleborough, drained by the Taunton River; Lake Quinsigamond (1,051 acres) in Worcester, Shrewsbury, and Grafton; and Monponsett Pond (756 acres) in Halifax and Hanson, drained by the Taunton River.

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Islands

Lying off Cape Cod are Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Island group.

Martha's Vineyard, triangular in shape, is about 19 miles long and less than 10 miles in width. It contains the towns of Edgartown, Chilmark, Tisbury, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Oak Bluffs.

Nantucket, also roughly triangular, about 15 miles long and from three to four miles wide, was once famed for its whaling industry. Both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are now popular summer destinations.

The Elizabeth Islands are a group of about 22 small islands lying between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. On one of those, Cuttyhunk, Bartholemew Gosnold established a colony in 1602, abandoning it the same year.

The Boston Harbor Island group includes The Four Brewsters, Bumpkin, Calf, Deer, Gallop's, George's (used for thousands of Confederate prisoners of war during the Civil War), Grape, The Graves, Green, Hangman, Long, Lovell's, Nixes Mate, Peddock's, Raccoon, Rainsford, Sheep, Slate, Spectacle and Thompson. Some islands have been made part of the mainland by the great amount of landfill that has gone on over the years. Governor's Island, where the first apple and pear trees in America were planted, is now a part of Boston's Logan International Airport. Most of the islands have been used for farming, resort-recreation areas, public facilities, or fortifications.

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Mountains

Massachusetts' landscape was extensively re-formed during the last Ice Age; the only substantial ranges left are the Berkshire Hills and the Blue Hills.

Mount Greylock, altitude 3,491 feet, in Berkshire County, is the highest mountain in Massachusetts. Other important mountains are Mount Williams (2,951 feet) in North Adams; East Mountain (2,660 feet) in Hancock; Mount Everett (2,602 feet) in Mt. Washington; Spruce Hill (2,588 feet) in Adams; Mount Frissel (2,453 feet) in Mt. Washington; Potter Mountain (2,391 feet) in Lanesboro; French Hill (2,214 feet) in Peru; and Mount Wachusett (2,006 feet) in Princeton.