Ever come across a quirky news item or blog about your city that revealed things you’d never heard before? A popular one floating around online is that it’s illegal to make clam chowder with tomatoes in Massachusetts. Well, on closer research, we found that there is no official law about clam chowder: it’s just one of the many urban legends, one of which also forbids people from eating peanuts in church! So, we moved on to interesting facts that shine light on the achievements of the state and/or its people.
The first sewing machine was invented in Massachusetts
In 1846, Massachusetts native Elias Howe conceptualized and patented the world’s first sewing machine. The financial crisis of 1837 forced Howe to take up work in a Boston shop making scientific equipment and mariner’s tools. He was approached by an inventor one day, who aspired to develop a knitting machine. It got Howe thinking, and he spent five years toiling away to create an automatic sewing machine. Howe was also born with a physical disability, which encouraged him to find a less taxing way to sew. To demonstrate the prowess of his invention, Howe challenged five seamstresses to a public seam sewing race and finished five full seams before any of the women had even completed one.
Some important computing technology firsts were led by MIT
The first digital computer to operate in real time – Whirlwind I – was invented at MIT. The idea for the invention came about during World War II, when the US Navy enlisted MIT’s assistance to design a universal flight simulator based on an analog electromechanical computing system. The institute’s brilliant assistant director during the time (who is today regarded as a pioneer computer engineer) – Jay Forrestor – was assigned the project. In addressing the challenge of designing a computer that operated in real-time, Forrestor’s brainwave of using a 3-D array of magnetic cores took the machine’s performance to another level. MIT also led the way in the development of the first multi-user, time-sharing system Multics, in 1964.
The first testing ground for birth control pills
Endocrinologist Gregory Pincus and Harvard obstetrician Dr. John Rock tested the first contraceptive drug on 50 women in Massachusetts. The human trail was successful, with not even a single test subject ovulating while on the drug. Pincus went on to present the results of his study in Tokyo and Canada, creating big news in the scientific and drug industry.
The first public beach in the country
Revere Beach, located less than five miles north of downtown Boston, is the United States’ first public beach. It opened to the public in 1895 and was mostly used by immigrants to the area and the working class. It continues to be a popular haunt today, with clean sand and water, sea gulls, many benches and tables, and good food in the vicinity.
Know a good story or little-known fact about Massachusetts? Feel free to share it with us.