A Few Firsts in Massachusetts 

1634 Boston Common becomes the first public park in America.

1635 The first American public secondary school, Boston Latin Grammar School, is founded in Boston.

1636 Harvard, the first American university, is founded in Newtowne, now Cambridge.

1638 The first American printing press is set up in Cambridge by Stephen Daye.

1639 The first free American public school, the Mather school, is founded in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.

1653 The first American public library is founded in Boston.

1704 The first regularly issued American newspaper, The Boston News-Letter, is published in Boston.

1775 First shot of the American Revolution fired in Lexington.

1806 The first church built by free blacks in America, the African Meeting House, opens on Joy Street in Boston.

1831 The first abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, is published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.

1838 First regular municipal police department organized in Boston.

1863 The first black American, Sgt. William Carney of New Bedford, to earnthe Congressional Medal of Honor, joins the Union Army. He later becomes a messenger at the Statehouse. He dies from injuries in anelevator accident there.

1866 The first African-American legislators in New England are elected to the General Court.

1876 The first telephone is demonstrated by Alexander Graham Bell in Boston.

1898 The first American subway system opens in Boston.

1914 Nation’s first statewide Department of Health established, one in acenturies-long series of public-health firsts for Massachusetts.

1926 The first successful liquid fuel rocket is launched by physics teacherand Worcester native Dr. Robert Goddard in Auburn. NASA’s Goddard Space Center is named in his honor.

1944 The first automatic digital computer is developed by Howard Aiken of Harvard.

1961 The first nuclear-powered surface vessel, USS Long Beach CG (N) 9, is launched at Quincy.

1971 Ray Tomlinson of Beranek & Newman in Cambridge sent the first email.The first email message was “QWERTYUIOP” and was sent between two side by side computers connected via ARPANET.

1976 Boston was the first city in America to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a “First Night” event.

1979 The first PC-based electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, is developed byDaniel Brickman and Bob Frankston, who found Software Arts in Cambridge. Selling 700,000 copies, it transforms the personal computerfrom novelty to useful tool.

1980 Walter Gilbert was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering a technique to decode DNA.

2004 First legal same-sex marriage in U.S. history solemnized in Cambridge.

Source: Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office; http://www.mass.gov

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