19th Century Massachusetts

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The 19th century was a time of change and growth in Massachusetts history.

Massachusetts in the 19th century was marked by economic growth and political change as well as by warfare. Many wars waged during this century and although these wars did not take place in Massachusetts, they indirectly affected the state and its residents.

When the industrial revolution occurred in the 19th century it changed the economy in Massachusetts from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy. This brought many new manufacturing jobs to the state.

Massachusetts changed physically as well, particularly Boston when it underwent massive public works projects that reshaped the size of the city and its terrain and also helped create new infrastructure.

As a result of Massachusetts’ great schools and hospitals, many inventions and medical and scientific breakthroughs also occurred in the state in the 19th century. In addition, the state also became an important place in the literary world when many Massachusetts residents became highly acclaimed authors.

The 19th century also brought new groups of immigrants that influenced American food, music and culture.

The following is a list of notable people, places and events of 19th century Massachusetts:

Massachusetts in the War of 1812:

The War of 1812 is often referred to as the Second War of Independence because it was yet another war with Britain for control over North American trade. Although the war didn’t take place in Massachusetts, many citizens of Massachusetts fought and died in the war. The Boston-based ship, the USS Constitution also served in the War of 1812 where it earned its famous nickname, Old Ironsides.

Massachusetts in the Civil War:

The Civil War was another war that didn’t take place in Massachusetts yet over 150,000 Massachusetts men fought in the war. This includes a number of African-American men in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment which was the first official African-American regiment in the U.S during the Civil War. Many Massachusetts women also served as nurses in the war. Massachusetts’ manufacturing industry provided many supplies to the Union army such as weapons, blankets, clothing and tents.

Massachusetts in the Industrial Revolution:

After the industrial revolution began in the 19th century, mills and factories began sprouting up so quickly in Massachusetts that it soon became the hub of the manufacturing industry in America. Manufacturing was the dominant industry in Massachusetts until the turn of the century when the industry slowly declined as more and more manufacturing jobs migrated to the south were operating costs were much cheaper.

Boston in the 19th Century:

Boston underwent many changes during the 19th century. Once such change was a large public works project that forever changed the city. The project was the Boston Landfill Project which was a massive land making effort during which Boston’s hills were cut down and used to fill in the bays. This nearly doubled the landmass of Boston and turned it from a small, hilly peninsula that was practically an island to a wide, flat landmass.

Another such change was the building of the Boston Subway, which was the first subway in America and a huge engineering feat for the city. The project cost around $5 million and took over two years to complete.

The 19th century also brought a massive wave of new immigrants into Boston, particularly Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants. This was mostly due to the Great Famine in Ireland and political and economic instability and natural disasters in Italy that caused a mass exodus of refugees. Many of these refugees flocked to the United States and to Boston because it was one of the first ports that ships stopped in when coming from Europe.

The Concord Writers of the 19th Century:

Since Massachusetts was home to a number of highly-acclaimed educational facilities and placed a great emphasis on education and literacy, it is no surprise that the state was home to many notable authors of the 19th century, particularly the Concord writers Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

19th Century Icons with Massachusetts Connections:

Some notable 19th century icons that weren’t originally from Massachusetts but had connections to the state, and to each other, include Abraham Lincoln, his assassin John Wilkes Booth as well as the man who killed John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett.

19th Century Massachusetts

Photos of Massachusetts in the 19th century. Top left: Danvers State Hospital. Top right: Boston subway construction. Bottom left: Massachusetts General Hospital. Bottom right: Dock Square in Boston

Sources:
Massachusetts; Suzanne LeVert, Tamra B. Orr; 2009

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the owner and operator of this website and all the articles are written and researched by her. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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