Welcome to Massachusetts
The official name of the State of Massachusetts is the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts", but it is often referred to simply as "The Commonwealth." Massachusetts is ranked 14th in the U.S. in population with 6,587,536 residents and is the third most densely populated of the 50 states. Massachusetts features two separate metropolitan areas: Greater Boston in the east and Springfield in the west. Boston is the state capital and largest city in Massachusetts, with a population of 609,023, and the Greater Boston metropolis has a poplation of 4,522,858 making it the 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states and has the U.S.'s sixth highest GDP per capita.
There are 50 cities and 301 towns in Massachusetts, grouped in 14 counties. The counties moving from west to east are Berkshire County, Franklin County, Hampshire County, Hampden County, Worcester County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Suffolk County, Norfolk County, Bristol County, Plymouth County, Barnstable County, Dukes County and Nantucket County. Massachusetts is the 7th smallest state in the U.S., with an area of 10,555 square miles. It is 183 miles wide and 113 miles long. Currently, forests cover around 65% of the state. Massachusetts has played a significant historical, cultural and commercial role in American history.
Massachusetts is home to 121 institutions of higher education. Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both located in Cambridge, consistantly rank among the world's best universities. In addition, Tufts University (29th), Boston College (31st) and Brandeis University (31st) rank in the top 40. Among the liberal arts colleges, three of the top ten are in Massachusetts, with Williams College (1st), Amherst College (2nd) and Wellesley College (6th). Others in the top 40 are Smith College (19th), Holy Cross (29th) and Mount Holyoke (29th). The public University of Massachusetts (UMASS) features 5 campuses in the state, with its flagship campus in Amherst, which enrolls 25,000 students. Massachusetts is also home to the country's oldest public elementary school (The Mather School) founded in 1639, the oldest high school (Boston Latin) founded in 1635, the oldest boarding school (The Governor's Academy) founded in 1763, the oldest college (Harvard University) founded in 1636 and the oldest women's college (Mount Holyoke) founded in 1837.
The state flag displays on both sides, the coat of arms centered on a blue shield. The shield depicts an Algonquian Native American with a bow and arrow, the arrow is pointed down, signifying peace. The arm itself is the Goliad symbol signifying the philosophy that those represented would rather lose their right arm than live under tyranny. A white star with five points appears next to the figure's head representing Massachusetts' admission as the 6th U.S. state. A blue ribbon surrounds the shield bearing the state motto:
Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem
"By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty"
Above the shield is the state military crest; the bent arm of Myles Standish holding a broadsword aloft. The sword has it's blade up, to remind everyone that it was through the American Revolution that liberty was won.
The state has several nicknames including The Baked Bean State, The Codfish State, The Bay State, The Pilgrim State and The Old Colony State. The state bird is the black-capped chickadee, the state flower is the Mayflower and the state tree is the American Elm.
The Olympic sports of Basketball and Volleyball were invented in Western Massachusetts (Springfield and Holyoke, respectively). The Basketball Hall of Fame, a shrine to the sport's history, is a major tourist destination in the city of Springfield. The Volleyball Hall of Fame is located in Holyoke.
Massachusetts has a long history with amateur athletics and professional teams. Most of the major professional teams have won multiple championships in their respective leagues. Massachusetts teams have won 6 Stanley Cups (Boston Bruins), 17 NBA Championships (Boston Celtics), 3 Super Bowls (New England Patriots) and 8 World Series (7 Boston Red Sox, 1 Boston Braves).
The American Hockey League (AHL) is headquartered in Springfield. The other professional sports teams in Massachusetts include the Springfield Falcons (AHL), Worcester Sharks (AHL) and the Springfield Armor (NBA Development League). Massachusetts is also the home of the Cape Cod Baseball League, The Boston Marathon, The New England Revolution (Major League Soccer), The Boston Cannons (Major League Lacrosse) and the Boston Breakers (Women's Professional Soccer). There have been 9 U.S. Opens and 2 Ryder Cups played in Massachusetts.