Boston, Ms. Seaport and capital of the state. Situated at the W. extremity of Massachusetts Bay, into which empty Charles and Mystic Rivers. By age and commercial importance, Boston is the metropolis of New England. The population of Boston, in 1800, 24,937; in 1810, 33,250; in 1820, 43,298; in 1830, 61,391; in 1840, 93,470; and in 1850 136,884. Owing to the almost insular situation of Boston, and its limited extent, its population, as compared with that of other large cities of the Union, does not fairly represent its relative importance. (Gazetteer of the United States of America, 1854)
The peninsula on which Boston proper is built is connected with the main land of Roxbury on the S., from which it extends, in a direction a little E. of N., about 3 miles, having an average breadth of about a mile. The isthmus, or Neck, as it is commonly called, is something over a mile in length, and is nearly all included within the limits of Boston. It was originally quite narrow, and so low that parts of it were frequently overflowed by the highest courses of the tides. The waters of the harbor, flowing up into the bay of Roxbury, on the E. side of the Neck, and those of the Charles River, spreading out over the flats upon the W., formed a broad but shallow cove upon that side, between the isthmus and the main land of Brookline. Until 1786, 156 years after the settlement of Boston, the only passage into the town was over the Neck. It has been much elevated in being improved and built upon, and additions to its width are continually made by filling up the flats, especially upon the W. side. There are now four broad avenues passing over the Neck from Roxbury to the city: Harrison Avenue, Washington Strict, Suffolk Street, and the Tremont Road. — The main body of the peninsula, which was thus nearly surrounded by the waters of the harbor and of Charles River, comprised within its natural limits about 700 acres of land. In three points it swelled into hills of considerable elevation; one being on its S. E. angle, and presenting a bold barrier to the waters of the ship channel; another being at its N. extremity, looking off towards Chelsea and Charlestown ; and the third, which was more central, with a very much broader base, extending its N. and W. slopes nearly to the banks of Charles River. This was the most elevated of the hills, being 138£ feet above the level of the sea; and its summit was cleft into three conical peaks, which, being near the original centre of the town, led at first to the adoption of the name of Tremont, or Trimountain, for the town itself. This name, however, was soon dismissed for its present name, which it received on the 7th of September, 1630, in honor of the Rev. John Cotton, the second minister of the first church, who came from Boston, in England. The Indian name of the peninsula was Shawmut. — There is extant a very accurate description of Boston in 1633, by William Wood, the author of New England Prospect, which Snow, a writer of high authority on this subject, remarks, "could hardly be amended." — " Boston," says Wood, " is two miles N. E. of Roxbury. Its situation is very pleasant, being a peninsula hemmed in on the S. side by the bay of Roxbury, and on the N. side with Charles River, the marshes on the back side being not half of a quarter of a mile over; so that a little fencing will secure their cattle from the wolves … It being a neck, and bare of wood, they are not troubled with these great annoyances, wolves, rattlesnakes, and mosquitoes. Those that live here upon their cattle must be constrained to take farms in the country, or else they cannot subsist, the place being too small to contain many, and fittest for such as can trade into England for such commodities as the country wants, being the chief place for shipping and merchandise. This neck of land is not above four miles in compass, in form almost square, having on the S. side, at one corner, a great broad hill, whereon is planted a fort, which can command any ship as she sails into the harbor within the still bay. On the N. side is another hill, equal in bigness, whereon stands a windmill. To the N. W. is a high mountain, with three little rising hills on the top of it, wherefore it is called the Tramount From the top of this mountain a man may overlook all the islands which lie within the bay, and descry such ships as are on the sea-coast….
The original conformation of the ground was such that the N. part of the peninsula was almost severed from the other by the coves or indentations of the shore which ran in around the base of Copp's Hill on the S., both from the harbor on the E., and from Charles River on the opposite side, so as nearly to meet at their extreme points. When the tides were highest, this part of Boston, and the central part, which would also be nearly or quite cut off from the continent by the flowing of the waters across the Neck, presented the appearance of two islands, rather than that of a peninsula. The tide ran up on the E. to where Dock Square now is, and in a northerly direction almost to Hanover Street at a point a little E. of Union Street. From Charles River, on the opposite side, a broad cove came up to a point only a few rods N. W. of Hanover Street, leaving but a narrow neck of land for the connection between the centre and the north end of the town. By the erection of a causeway where Causeway Street now is, this cove was subsequently converted into a capacious mill pond, and by means of a short canal cut through the neck by which its waters were separated from the harbor, they were made available for a tide mill at this place. This was long known as Mill Creek, and constituted the dividing line between the centre and the north end. That part of the map of Boston which exhibits an equilateral triangle, as included between Charlestown, Merrimac, and Causeway Streets, having its apex in Haymarket Square, covers the principal part of the area which was occupied by this mill pond ; having been converted into solid land with the materials obtained by the leveling of Beacon Hill and the eminences W. of it, excepting the creek, which was kept open to connect the river with the harbor as long as the navigation upon the Middlesex Canal was a matter of consideration. This improvement was commenced about 1804, and when completed, it had added to the area of the city about 43 acres. And here it may be remarked that the area of the peninsula, which in its natural condition comprised, as above stated, only about 700 acres, has been enlarged by continued encroachments upon the sea, until it contains fully double this number of acres at the present time. The city is now extending its limits in this manner more rapidly than at any former period. The quantity of land made, and in the process of being made, by improvements recently undertaken by the city at the south end, is estimated at over 2,000,000 square feet. By the railroads in this direction entire hills of gravel are being removed from their bases in the vicinity of Boston, to form the foundations of a new and beautiful extension of this flourishing city. It is not improbable that the whole of the bays on each side of the Neck may, at some period not far distant, disappear before the march of human enterprise, and that the city may be otherwise extended much into the area of Roxbury and Dorchester. — Some knowledge of the natural structure of the ground on which Boston is built is necessary to explain the great irregularity of the plan upon which its streets and thoroughfares have grown up. The high hills in different quarters of the town, with the coves, and creeks, and marshes, thrusting themselves up between them on all sides, would necessarily control the choice of sites for building, and the location and courses of the principal streets, in a place thus springing up in the poverty and infancy of the country. There is a similar irregularity in the lower part of the city of New York. Even in Philadelphia, the situation of which upon a gently-swelling plain admitted of the most uniform arrangement of the streets which could possibly be desired, the operation of this principle is illustrated, in the case of Dock Street, in the oldest part of the city, which follows the winding course of an ancient creek running into the Delaware. This seems the more remarkable there from being almost a solitary exception to the general plan. But in Boston it would have been perhaps impossible for the founders of the city, even if they could have anticipated its future growth and greatness, with the means they had at command, to have caused it to be built up on any outline materially different from that which it received. As an example, an order dated March 30, 1640, provides for a road between certain points, " two rods in breadth, as directly as the land will bear."
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
The want of ample room upon the peninsula for the growth of the city, especially before the relief afforded by the railroads, led to such a crowded occupancy of the limited area, that the streets are in many parts narrower than would have been preferred, and, with one noble exception,— that of the Common.—very little space has been afforded in the older sections of the city for public squares and pleasure grounds. In the newer portions, which are building up on the Neck, some spacious squares have been reserved for public grounds, which are handsomely enclosed with iron fences, ornamented with trees, and with beautiful fountains in the centre….
"Prior to 1640," says Snow in his History of Boston, " mention is frequently made of Tower Fields, in the Boston records: and they seem to have been enclosed by a general fence." The following vote was passed on the 30th of March, 1640: "Henceforth, there shall be no land granted either for house-plot or garden, out of the open lot or common field which is left between the Sentry Hill and Mr. Colburn's end, except three or four lots to make up the street," &c. This was the origin of the Boston Common; which, scanty as their precincts were, the fathers of the city, with a wise and disinterested care for the public welfare, secured to the enjoyment of all future generations of its inhabitants. This Common, extending over about forty-eight acres of ground, with its splendid malls surrounding the whole border, shaded with majestic elms, some of which are over a hundred years old, and its numerous cross paths beautifully graded, bevelled, and adorned with variegated trees, is considered- as one of the most delightful promenades in the world. One of its greatest charms is in the diversified natural surface which it presents; and one of the most gratifying proofs of the good taste of the Bostonians is seen in the care which has been taken to obliterate as little as possible, by any artificial embellishments, those lineaments of nature which are universally pleasing. This beautiful ground is enclosed by a costly iron fence one mile and two hundred and seventeen yards in length, with elegant granite gateways at two of the opposite angles. Near the centre is a beautiful little pond, out of the midst of which a fountain, supplied from the Boston Water Works, sends up its massive and graceful jet d’eau from 80 to 90 feet into the air. The fountain also displays, at will, many other pleasing forms, having an affluent supply of water, and a head which presses upon it like one of nature's illimitable forces. This extensive and beautiful public ground is an inestimable boon to the citizens of Boston. Its position, partly on the north-western declivity of Beacon Hill, with a public garden of about 25 acres lying still beyond it, keeping its whole western margin open to Charles River and to the distant landscape as far as the eye can reach, secures the free ingress of the most exhilarating and healthful influences of the climate to the very centre of the city. As a field for military parades, civic processions, and grand commemorative banquets, the Common has been honorably distinguished. On the annual gala day of the republic, it presents, in pleasant weather, a most joyous and sublime spectacle. The people of the city, and of the country for many miles around, the native born and the adopted citizen, young men and maidens, old men and children, here meet as in a grand levee, under the mutual restraints of self-respect, courtesy, and decorum, and in the conscious enjoyment of a dignity and happiness which fall to the lot of the populace of no other country on the globe. It is seldom that any unseemly rudeness or vulgarity offends the eye or ear on these public occasions; especially since intoxicating liquors have been excluded from the refreshment stands upon the streets. It is estimated that not less than 100,000 persons have been present at the usual display of fireworks in the evening; and yet, within a half hour after the entertainment is over, this vast multitude will have retired, without disorder, leaving the Common and its vicinity to its accustomed silence and repose.
Some of the most elegant streets in Boston are those which front upon the Common; viz., Beacon, Park, Tremont, and Boylston Streets. Beacon Street, especially, for grandeur of elevation, extent and beauty of prospect, and the splendor of its long line of palace residences, culminating with the State House on the summit of the hill, will compare to advantage with the most celebrated streets and terraces in the European cities.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
The literary, charitable, and humane institutions of Boston are numerous and well endowed; and the buildings with which many of them are furnished, are among the handsomest ornaments of the city. The Boston Athenaeum, incorporated in 1807, has a library of about 50,000 volumes, which, in value as well as in size, is hardly surpassed by any other in the country. Its regulations are framed with the design that it shall answer the highest purposes of a public library. Besides the bound volumes above enumerated, it possesses 20,000, or more, unbound pamphlets, between 400 and 500 volumes of engravings, and the most valuable collection of coins in this part of the country. It has lately received an important accession to its treasures in the purchase of about 450 volumes, and from 800 to 1000 pamphlets, which once formed a part of the library of Washington. This important acquisition was secured to the Athenaeum through the liberality of about 100 gentlemen of Boston, Salem, and Cambridge. There are also connected with the Athenaeum a fine sculpture gallery and a gallery of paintings. In the latter is to be seen Belshazzar's Feast, the great historical picture of Washington Allston, which, although many years under his hand, was never entirely finished; also, a valuable series of sketches by this great artist.
Hon. James Perkins gave for the use of the Athenaeum, in 1821, his own costly mansion in Pearl Street, which was occupied until it became necessary, in 1849, to change the location. The beautiful building which it now occupies is on Beacon Street, a short distance east of the State House, a situation most highly eligible for such an institution. The edifice is elegant, spacious, and convenient. The front is in the later Italian style of architecture, resembling some of the works of Palladio in its general arrangement; constructed of the Patterson freestone, of a light gray color. The length is 100 feet, and the height 60. The main entrance opens into a pillared and panelled rotunda, from which the staircases conduct above. The sculpture gallery, 80 feet by 40, is on the first floor. The library occupies the second story, which is divided into three rooms, two in front and one large hall in the rear, 109 feet by 40. This hall is beautifully finished in the Italian style, and admirably fitted for the purposes of its design. The picture gallery is in the upper story, divided into six apartments, each lighted by a skylight. An annual exhibition of paintings is open here, during the winter
The Massachusetts Historical Society, founded in 1790, occupies a suit of rooms in the granite building, on Tremont Street, between the Stone Chapel Cemetery and the Boston Museum. It has a valuable library of 7000 bound volumes, besides 450 volumes of manuscripts, and a large collection of pamphlets, maps, charts, coins, and other interesting relics of antiquity. The manuscripts of the historian Hubbard; of the first Gov. Winthrop, 11 vols.; of Gov. Hutchinson; of the first Gov. Trumbull, of Connecticut, 23 vols.; and the manuscript of Washington's Farewell Address to the Officers of the American Army, are in possession of this society. One of its rooms is adorned with the portraits of about 70 distinguished personages, mostly the worthies of New England. This society has issued a series of Historical Collections, in all amounting to 30 volumes.
The library of the Boston Library Society, founded in 1792, occupies a hall over the centre of the Tontine Buildings, as formerly denominated, in Franklin Place. This hall was a donation to the society by Bulfinch, (the architect of the Capitol at Washington,) Vaughan, and Scollay, the three proprietors of the Tontine. This library has over 12,000 volumes.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780, is next in age to the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, which is the oldest of the scientific associations of the country. Its library, of 8000 volumes, contains a valuable collection of the memoirs and transactions of learned societies, and other scientific publications. It is kept in the N. wing of the Athenaeum, on the lower floor.
The Mechanics' Apprentices Library Association, in Boston, claims the distinction of being the first of its kind established in the world. It is due to the wise suggestion and philanthropic energy of Mr. William Wood, now residing in Canandaigua, N. Y.; whose exertions have been extended, with the like success, to most of our large cities, and even to the cities of the old world. Lord Brougham remarks, that, " Although the remote origin of these institutions may be traced to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Wood has the merit of establishing them on their present plan, and adapting them peculiarly to the instruction of mechanics and apprentices. He founded the first in Boston, in 1820." The library contains about 4000 volumes, and was the gift of the Boston public to the apprentices of the city. It was originally intrusted to the care of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, a society of established reputation, founded in 1795. This society, which is still prosperous, has handsome funds, which have been recently invested in the Revere Hotel. Its income is employed for relieving the distresses of unfortunate members and their families, and to stimulate, by premiums, inventions, and improvements in the mechanic arts. For this purpose it provides for those frequent and extensive exhibitions of the products. of manufacturing skill and industry which have been so highly successful in Boston. In 1828, the Apprentices' Association was organized as distinct from that of the Mechanics, and the library committed to their entire control.
The Mercantile Library Association, of Boston, instituted in 1820, is a large and useful society, composed of merchants' clerks and others, which has a library of over 7000 volumes, and maintains an able and popular course of lectures. Their hall is on the corner of Bromfield and Province Streets.
Efforts are now making to establish a free City Library, and several handsome donations have been already made for that purpose.
But the most munificent foundation of this character, in Boston, is that of the Lowell Institute, established by the princely liberality of JOHN LOWELL, Jr., Esq. By a legacy amounting to about $250,000, this gentleman has provided for the maintenance of public lectures, of the highest order, which are to be free to all the citizens, on the great subjects of natural and revealed religion; on the literature and eloquence of the English and other languages; on the various sciences in their application to the arts, and other relations of utility to man; and on such other subjects as the wants and taste of the age may demand. The Lowell Institute, by its ample income, is able to command the services of men of the highest talent in the country, and to furnish them with the fullest means for illustrating the subjects of their various discourses. The lectures are given on Tuesday and Friday evenings, in a spacious audience room, fitted up for the purpose, and leased by the Institute, in the rear of the Marlboro' Hotel. None of its income can be expended in the erection of buildings.
There are other literary societies in Boston which we cannot speak of in detail. Such are the Boston Society of Natural History: the American Statistical Association; the New England Historical and Genealogical Society; the American Oriental Society; and the Boston Lyceum. All these have valuable libraries, cabinets, and collections. The Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Academy of Music, and the Musical Education Society, are well-conducted and efficient associations for the cultivation of musical science and Christian psalmody.
Among the numerous charitable and humane institutions of the city are the Boston Lunatic Hospital, and the Houses of Industry and Reformation, each of which has a commodious and handsome edifice, located at South Boston; the Quarantine Hospital, delightfully situated on Rainsford's Island; the New Almshouse, on Deer Island, for which a most splendid, capacious, and well-constructed building has been erected, which is in the form of a Latin cross, having its four wings, three stories high above the basement, radiating from a central building four stories high,- the Boston Eye and Ear Infirmary, with a beautiful structure lately erected in the W. part of the city; the Boston Female Asylum, founded in 1800, for assisting, instructing, and employing female orphan children, for which a new and substantial brick building, with ample grounds and some peculiar arrangements for warming and ventilating, has been provided at the south end ; also the New England Female Medical College, established by the exertions of Samuel Gregory, for the qualification of females to nurse and attend upon the sick of their own sex. Besides these there are several societies for the benefit of seamen; among which are the Boston Port Society, and the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, which has provided an excellent Home for Sailors.
The Massachusetts General Hospital, situated on an open plot of ground of four acres, on the banks of Charles River, at the W. part of the city, is one of the noblest, best endowed, and best furnished institutions of the kind in the country. This beautiful edifice is of Chelmsford granite, 274 feet in length by 54 in breadth, with a portico in front of eight Ionic columns. Connected with the building in the rear is a kitchen and laundry of the most approved construction. The whole interior arrangement is according to the most perfect system. The premises are decorated with ornamental trees and shrubs, and laid out in gravel walks for those patients who are able to enjoy exercise in the open air. This institution has found many munificent patrons in Massachusetts. Its capital, now yielding income, exclusive of the large amount invested in the buildings, grounds, &c., is $171,119. It has several other sources of income, making its whole receipts, in 1850, $38,517. The number of patients received the same year was 746.
The McLean Asylum for the Insane, so called from JOHN MCLEAN, Esq., an eminent merchant of Boston, and a liberal benefactor of the General Hospital, is a branch of that institution, having a separate location on a delightful eminence in Somerville, about 1 mile N. W. of the city. The establishment, consisting externally of a group of five elegant buildings, makes a fine appearance from whatever direction it is viewed. As an example of the noble manner in which such institutions are sustained by the Boston merchants, it maybe stated that, in 1843, Hon. William Appleton gave $10,000 "for the purpose of affording aid to such patients in the McLean Asylum as, from straitened means, might be compelled to leave the institution without a perfect cure;" and, in 1850, the same gentleman contributed the further sum of $20,000 " for the purpose of erecting two additional edifices, sufficiently large to accommodate eight males and eight females, with such conveniences and facilities as shall enable each to have not only the care, attention, and comforts, but the luxuries and retirement which they have been accustomed to enjoy at home."
The Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind is another of the great eleemosynary institutions originated by Boston liberality. It was first opened as an experiment, in 1832, under the superintendence of Dr. Samuel G. Howe. In 1833, Col. Thomas H. Perkins made a donation of his valuable mansion house in Pearl Street, other gentlemen in Boston $50,000, the ladies $14,000, and the legislature $6,000 annually, for its permanent establishment. It now receives from the state $9000 annually. Its average number of pupils is about 100, who are from many different states of the Union. The rapid growth of the institution having rendered its removal necessary, the estate in Pearl Street was exchanged for the present large and beautiful edifice at South Boston, formerly known as the Mount Washington House. To this splendid building, five stories high, and from its lovely eminence overlooking the city, harbor, and surrounding region, many conveniences have since been added, making the establishment, in respect to its accommodations, all that can be desired. It is open to the public on the afternoon of the first Saturday in each month.
Several of our national societies for religious and benevolent purposes have their seat of operations in the metropolis of New England. Among these are the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the American Baptist Missionary Union, the American Education Society, the American Peace Society, the American Unitarian Association, the Prison Discipline Society, and the old Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North America. Several others, though not national in their organization, are truly such in the extent of their operations; such as the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society, the American Tract Society of Boston, and the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society.
There are upwards of one hundred churches in Boston, of the different denominations; 98 of which have their regular places of worship. Of these, the Unitarian Congregationalists have 22; Orthodox Congregationalists, 14; Baptists, 13; Methodists, 12; Episcopalians, 11; Roman Catholics, 11; Universalists, 6; Presbyterians, Swedenborgians, and several other denominations, one each. Most of the church edifices are venerable and costly structures, which contribute in no small degree to beautify, the city. Several have lofty spires, which have a fine appearance on an approach to the city by land or water. That of the Park Street Meeting House, north of the Common, rises to the height of 218 feet above the pavement, and is one of the most beautiful examples of this description of architecture in the country. The Gothic style, in dark colored sandstone, has been adopted, with fine effect, in the erection of several of the more recent structures.
The oldest church edifice in Boston, still standing, is that of Christ Church, (Episcopal) at the north end, built in 1723. In the steeple of this church is a peal of eight bells, on each of which is an inscription. Two of these are as follows: " We are the first ring of bells cast for the British Empire in North America. A. R., 1744." "God preserve the Church of England. 1744." The initials A. R. are those of the founder.
The Old South Meeting House, on Washington Street, is the next building in age, having succeeded to two others of wood on the same spot. It was opened for worship April 26,1730. There is great historical interest connected with this sacred edifice. "Here was delivered, in defiance of the threats of authority, and in presence of marshalled soldiery, Warren's fearless oration, on the anniversary of the massacre of the 5th of March, 1770. Here were repeatedly held the meetings of oppressed freemen, which called forth those peals of patriotic eloquence which moved the whole country, and shook the British throne." When the British troops occupied Boston, the whole interior of the Old South, except the sounding board and the east gallery, was dismantled by them, and converted into a circus for their dragoons. About two feet of earth was spread upon the floor for their horses to exercise upon. Large portions of the invaluable historical library, collected by its former pastor, Rev. Thomas Prince, they used for kindling their fires. This desecration of the Old South excited universal indignation. Happily, the interior was afterwards fully restored in its former style, with its two tiers of galleries, &c., and has been carefully preserved to this day, at once a venerated specimen of the elegance of ancient times, and a sacred shrine of patriotic and religious memories. In keeping with these associations, the Old South has long been the place where the annual election sermon is delivered before the governor and General Court.
The public schools of Boston, next to her religious institutions, and in harmony with them, have, from the first, been her most cherished care. The records of the town afford evidence, as early as 1635, of the establishment of a " Free School." From that hour to the present, Boston, in this respect, has held an honorable preeminence. The system of the public schools has here been brought to a high degree of completeness and perfection. It comprises schools of four different grades, viz.: I. The Primary Schools, each taught by one female teacher, for children between 4 and 8 years of age. 2. The English Grammar and Writing Schools, into which all the children pass from the primary schools. 3. The English High School. 4. The Latin Grammar School. The two last are exclusively for boys. A public high school for girls is, perhaps, a desideratum ; though the deficiency is supplied, to a great extent, by excellent private schools in the city. The number of primary schools, in 1851, was 188; and of the English grammar schools, 22; with a corps of 370 teachers, whose Salaries amount to $183,898. The buildings for the use of the high and grammar schools are the most perfect in their kind, and in their style of architecture at once neat and ornamental. Their cost, with that of the primary school houses, including the ground, up to May 1, 1851, is estimated at $1,210,110. About one quarter part of the population of Boston is kept at school throughout the year, at an annual expense to the city of about $250,000; which, including the heavy investments for buildings, apparatus, &c., involves an outlay for this important public interest without a parallel in the world's history. It is, however, a part of the encomium due to the merit of the public schools of Boston, that many of her sister cities are now emulating her wisdom and liberality in this particular.
As a branch of the same enlightened philanthropy, the Boston Farm School for Indigent Boys, on Thompson's Island, should be mentioned; the object of which is "the education and reformation of boys who, from loss of parents or other causes, are exposed to extraordinary temptations, and in danger of becoming vicious and dangerous, or useless members of society." This institution, with 140 acres of land and suitable buildings, can accommodate 300 boys, who are to be trained with a view to promote at once their physical, mental, and moral welfare. This is virtually the Boston “College for Orphans." It has been in operation since 1835. There are likewise the House of Correction, and the House of Industry and Reformation, at South Boston, the latter designed for juvenile delinquents, and having a branch at the hospital on Deer Island, in which excellent schools are maintained. The State Reform School, at Westboro, also receives a large number of this class of children from the city.
The institution of the Franklin medals, awarded annually in the Boston schools, was founded by Dr. Franklin. The following is from the clause in his will, in which he makes the bequest, and defines its object: —
"I was born in Boston, New England, and owe my first instructions in literature to the free grammar schools established there. I therefore give one hundred pounds sterling to my executors, to be by them, the survivors or survivor of them, paid over to the managers or directors of the free schools in my native town of Boston to be by them put out to interest, and so continued at interest forever, which interest; annually shall be laid out in silver medals, and given as honorary rewards annually by the directors of the said free schools, for the encouragement of scholarship in the said schools," &e. To the proceeds of this benefaction the city adds an annual sum sufficient to procure six silver medals, which are inscribed "The Gift of Franklin." The first pupil of the Boston schools, who received the Franklin medal, was Dr. John C. Warren, in 1792.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
As a commercial port, and also as a place of internal trade, especially since the completion of her great lines of railroad communication, Boston possesses preeminent advantages. Previous to the revolution, and for a long time afterwards, this was the most extensive mart of foreign commerce in the country; and, even to this day, Boston has more than one half of the East India trade carried on from the United States, and of the Russia trade three quarters. She has also an extensive trade with the Mediterranean the West Indies, South America, and every part of the commercial world. In 1851, the arrivals from foreign ports were 2877, of which 75 were from the Cape of Good Hope and beyond. Besides these, a large number of the foreign vessels, belonging to Boston, arrive and discharge their merchandise at New York, for the advantages of a more central and extensive market.
The foreign commerce of this country may be said to be controlled by the cities of Boston and New York. The aggregate value of their imports amounts to about $185,000,000, of which about $35,000.000 comes direct to Boston. The immense wealth of these two cities, amounting in the aggregate to $500,000,000, enables them almost entirely to command those great branches of commerce which require a heavy capital for their operations. The East India and Pacific trade, without including the vessels bound to California, employs, at the present time, 338 ships and barks, which, with the exception of a few vessels owned in Salem, is controlled entirely by Boston and New York; New York having a majority of the China trade, and Boston controlling nearly all the trade with Calcutta, Manilla, Batavia, Sumatra, the Cape of Good Hope, Chili, and Peru.
"Those," says an early historian of Boston, " who were formerly forced to fetch most of the bread they ate, and beer they drank a thousand leagues by sea, are, through the blessing of the Lord, so increased, that they have not only fed their elder sisters, Virginia, Barbadoes, and many of the Summer Islands, that were preferred before them for fruitfulness, but also the grand mother of us all, even the fertile isle of Great Britain. Beside, Portugal hath had many a mouthful of bread and fish from us in exchange for their Madeira liquor, and also Spain; nor could it be imagined that this wilderness should turn a mart for merchants in so short a space. Many a fair ship had her framing and finishing here, besides lesser vessels, barks, and ketches. Many a master, besides common seamen, had their first learning in this colony. Boston, Charlestown, Salem, and Ipswich, our maritime towns, begin to increase roundly, especially Boston, the which, of a poor country village, in twice seven years, is become like unto a small city, and is in election to become a mayor town suddenly, chiefly increased by trade by sea." This quaint and lively sketch of the infant commerce of Boston, so interesting on other accounts, reveals the early development of many of those great sources of wealth which have made it one of the richest cities of this country. It has been the mother of the maritime interest in America, has continued the training of " many a master, besides common seamen," not only for her own, but for the other great ports of the country, and is now a chief mart for the exportation of "bread and fish," in exchange for the commodities of Europe.
But as other considerations besides the facilities of trade had an influence, and even a controlling influence, in the original settlement of Boston, its situation was not selected upon the principle which has generally governed the location of our large cities, viz., the confluence of some large navigable river with the sea, thus uniting the greatest natural advantages for foreign and internal traffic. Consequently, for a time after the vast resources of the country west of the Alleghany Mountains began to be largely developed, and to seek a channel to the foreign market, the trade of Boston suffered, relatively, from the want of better communication with the more remote interior, and her ships had to seek freight in the southern ports. But, happily, in her large accumulations of capital, and in the indomitable enterprise of her citizens, she found the means of completely obviating this natural disadvantage, through the construction of the several great lines of railroad by which she has become connected with the most distant sections of the country lying east, west, north, and south. This great achievement of science, industry, and art has effected a most surprising advancement in the commercial prosperity and prospects of Boston. Her internal trade, which was formerly limited to the coast, and to the space circumscribed by the nearest ranges of elevated mountains, is now opened to the farthest boundaries of the valleys of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence; and her merchants now think as lightly of extending their traffic beyond the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and California, as they once did of reaching the opposite slopes of the Green Mountain and Alleghany ranges.
There are now seven great lines of railroad diverging in different directions from Boston, most of which are annually increasing in extent. It will give some idea of the magnitude to which this interest has grown, when it is stated that the aggregate distance travelled to and from Boston daily, upon the railroads now in operation, disregarding many of the shorter trips of the numerous accommodation trains around the city, is over 12,000 miles, and that the number of persons arriving and departing daily is upwards of 10,000. Another route is now nearly completed, to meet the great Erie Railroad, by the way of Hartford, Ct., and Fishkill on the Hudson River. But the greatest further improvement now in progress is the extension of the Fitchburg Railroad beyond its present terminus at Greenfield, by tunneling the Hoosic Mountain, and passing to the city of Troy on the Hudson River opposite the Erie Canal. As the highest grade on this road between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers is only 31 feet to the mile, and the distance between the two cities only about 175 miles, this improvement, when completed, cannot fail to give to Boston a large increase of the almost boundless commerce of the west.
By our tables of latitude and longitude, it will be seen that Albany, Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago lie within a fraction of the same degree of latitude with Boston; and as these four places- are the chief depositories of the immense produce of the west, and as the great marts for this produce in Europe — Liverpool, Havre, St. Petersburg, and other ports — lie some degrees N. of Boston, it must be evident that every variation to the S. of this line of communication will by so much increase the distance on this great channel of commercial intercourse. And the capitalists of Boston, aware of this fact, are expending large sums of money in the extension of these improvements. To say nothing of several enterprises more remote, or in their more incipient stages, we learn from authentic sources, that probably one third of the entire line from Albany to Buffalo; one half of the Vermont Central, the Rutland, and the Canada roads; two-thirds of the Ogdensburg, connecting the Vermont Central with Lake Ontario; and two thirds of the Michigan Central, extending from Detroit to Chicago, are owned in Boston.
As a mart for our domestic manufactures, Boston, from these various facilities, possesses great advantages; and especially as the metropolis of New England, which is already, and seems destined to be more and more, the great manufacturing district for the country.
There is probably no place in the world better provided than Boston with the necessary accommodations for her extensive commerce. The whole margin of the city on the E. and N. is lined with about 200 docks and wharves, affording altogether an extent of wharfage of over 5 miles. Some of these wharves are among the most stupendous structures of this description in the country. Long Wharf, at the foot of State Street, extends into the harbor 1800 feet, having upon it a line of 76 spacious warehouses. Central Wharf. S. of this, is 1379 feet long, with a uniform range of warehouses running the whole length, 50 feet wide and four stories high. Between these two wharves, on Commercial Street, stands the Custom House. South of Central Wharf is India Wharf, 930 feet long, with a range of 39 warehouses in the centre. Among the most extensive wharves towards the northern part of the city are Granite or Commercial Wharf, Lewis's Wharf, and the Eastern Railroad Wharf. On each of these is a range of massive granite warehouses, unequalled by any thing of the kind in the United States. On the Eastern Railroad Wharf there are two such ranges, and the avenue to the railroad station passes between them. That on the south side is occupied by an extensive flouring mill, in which 2500 bushels of wheat daily are manufactured into the finest flour. South of these are other important wharves; among these is Russia Wharf, formerly Griffin's Wharf, where that memorable demonstration of the spirit of resistance to British oppression was given, in the presence of several of her ships of war lying before the city — the emptying of about 340 chests and half chests of tea into the ocean. One of the greatest accommodations recently provided is that at the termination of the Grand Junction Railroad at East Boston, by which all the railroads coming to the city are immediately connected with a system of warehouses and wharves, where vessels are laden and unladen. This important was opened on the 17th of September, 1851, the day of the grand festival held by the city for celebrating the completion of the last of the great lines of railroad centring here, by which the River St. Lawrence, at its two most important points, the port of Ogdensburg and the city of Montreal, one the outlet of the commerce of the great lakes, and the other the head of ship navigation entering the British provinces by that mighty river, became connected with the port of Boston. This was a proud day for the New England metropolis, which, after years of incredible enterprise and expenditure, saw the completion of that magnificent scheme of internal communication by which the most distant sections of our country, and the neighboring provinces of Great Britain, became commercially annexed to her domain. As was natural, the highest public functionaries, and many of the wealthy merchants and others from Canada, were present, by invitation, to unite in the festivities of the occasion.
No maritime port in this country enjoys finer advantages than Boston in respect to the capaciousness and security of its harbor, and "the unobstructed ingress and egress of shipping to its wharves at all seasons of the year.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
The first settlement of Boston was in 1630, when John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, and the company of immigrants with him, having arrived and tarried for a short time at Charlestown, removed their location to the peninsula. There was one solitary inhabitant there at an earlier date, the Rev. William Blackstone, of whom Mather speaks as " a godly Episcopalian," who in 1626 had built a cottage near what is now called Spring Street, in the western part of the city. In 1634, fifty acres of land were set off to Mr. Blackstone, which was about one twelfth part of the peninsula, he being " the first European inhabitant." Not long afterwards, when he wished to remove, the town purchased all his "right and title to the peninsula of Shawmut " for £30, each freeholder pacing six shillings, and some of them more. Mr. Blackstone afterwards settled in Rhode Island. In 1673, the first wharf was built. In 1677, the court appointed John Hayward postmaster, " to take in and convey letters according to direction," which was the first commencement of the post office system in America. In 1690, the first paper money was issued. In 1701, the representatives of Boston were instructed by the town to use their influence to obtain the abolition of slavery — one of the earliest movements in the world on this subject. April 17, 1704, the first number of the Boston News Letter, the earliest newspaper in America, was published by John Campbell. The year 1706 is rendered memorable in the annals of Boston by the birth of Benjamin Franklin. October 1, 1768, after the disaffection of the colonists with the British government had become serious, two regiments of British troops were landed at Boston, who took up their quarters in the old State House. March 5, 1770, the Boston massacre occurred, by the firing of the troops upon the citizens, and killing three persons and mortally wounding three others. March 31,1774, the Boston port bill was passed in the British Parliament, shutting the port of Boston and producing great distress among the citizens. May 14, the town voted to discontinue all commerce with Great Britain. On the 17th of June, 1775, the memorable battle of Bunker Hill was fought. March 17,1776, the British were compelled to evacuate Boston, and the American troops, under General Washington, entered it in triumph. Independence having been established, and peace declared in 1783, Boston, with other cities of the Union, entered upon a rapid career of commercial enterprise and prosperity.
Boston continued a town, and its affairs were administered by selectmen, like other towns in Massachusetts, until February 23, 1822. At this time the population was about 45,000. The intention to make Boston a city had occasionally been entertained since 1651; but the people had not hitherto felt the necessity of a more efficient municipality than that of the town. They had continued in a remarkable degree, notwithstanding the admixture of foreign elements, to justify the early encomium of Winthrop: “They wore generally of that understanding and moderation, as that they would be easily guided in their way by any rule from Scripture or sound reason."
The city is divided into 12 wards, and is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen, and 48 common councilmen, 4 from each ward. The mayor and aldermen constitute one board, and the common councilmen another, who hold their sessions separately, excepting when they meet in joint ballot. Two persons besides from each ward are chosen to act with the mayor and president of the common council, as a school committee 5 and one from each ward to constitute a board of overseers of the poor. The term of all these offices is one year.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.