Massachusetts is no stranger to the limelight. There have been countless instances when headlines from Massachusetts were splashed across newspapers, radio waves, television sets and smartphone screens across the nation. Check out these landmark moments in Massachusetts history that caught the whole country’s attention.
1. When witchcraft trials began in Salem in 1692.
One of the most infamous cases of mass hysteria in American history, the trials exposed the dangers of religious extremism and resulted in the execution of 20 people, 14 of them being women. Did you know that hearings were also conducted in modern-day Danvers, Ipswich and Andover?
2. When British troops opened fire on Boston citizens during the Boston Massacre in 1770.
3. When Boston's premier nightclub, The Cocoanut Grove, burned down in 1942. The tragedy replaced World War II headlines in the newspapers.
The fire killed 492 people and injured hundreds more. The disaster was the second deadliest single-building fire in American history and led to a reform of safety standards and codes across the country.
4. When a killer tornado swept through Worcester on June 9, 1953.
By the time it ended, 94 people were dead and Massachusetts had incurred more than $58 million in property damage. It was the worst tornado in New England history.
5. When the Boston Strangler prowled the streets of Boston from 1962 to 1964.
The country joined Massachusetts in terror as the Boston Strangler raped and killed at least 13 women over the course of two years. Albert DeSalvo eventually confessed to the crimes and was murdered by fellow inmates while serving his life sentence.
6. When a German U-boat opened fire on Orleans during World War I on the morning of July 21st, 1918.
The attack was the only shelling of the U.S. coast during WWI and the first time in history that American aviators engaged an enemy vessel in the western Atlantic. The German submarine was spotted three miles off the coast of Cape Cod and began firing at the tugboat "Perth Amboy" and the four barges in her tow. A few of the shells fired by the U-boat’s two deck guns actually exploded on Nauset Beach.
7. When William Rosenberg opened a doughnut shop called Open Kettle in Quincy in 1948. A couple years later, Rosenburg renamed the place "Dunkin’ Donuts".
(OK, so maybe the whole country wasn't looking on for this one, but they definitely SHOULD have been paying attention.)
8. When robbers held up a postal truck in Plymouth for $1.5 million in what was then the largest cash heist of all time on August 14, 1962.
In what the press called "The Great Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery", two men disguised as police officers and carrying submachine guns overtook the driver and guard of a postal truck and tied them up. They then drove the truck to an unknown location and hid the money. One defendant disappeared before trial, while the others were acquitted. The cash stash has never been found.
9. When busing programs to integrate Boston public schools sparked white boycotts and violent demonstrations in 1974.
Massachusetts had recently passed the Racial Imbalance Act, which commanded school districts to desegregate or risk potentially losing state educational funding. It was the first law of its kind in the nation.
10. When John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and sister, Lauren Bessette, were killed in a plane crash near Martha's Vineyard on July 16th, 1999.
Kennedy's plane, the Piper Saratoga, plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod. The reasons for the crash are still disputed, but an accepted theory holds that spacial disorientation and low visibility played a major part.
11. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to legalize gay marriage on Nov 18, 2003. It was the first state in the nation to do so.
12. When The Boston Red Sox won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals after 86 years of frustration on October 27, 2004.
13. When medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts on November 6, 2012.
14. When two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.
Brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were identified as the perpetrators of the attack. The massive manhunt for the suspects was broadcast live all over the world.
Through the good and the bad, this state has shown the nation what it means to endure and prosper. We definitely didn’t include every landmark and newsworthy event in Massachusetts history, so feel to chime in with times you feel the whole country was paying attention to Massachusetts.