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The Athens of America

Boston was once a center for shipbuilding and it has always been a neighborhood of immigrants. It was part of the New England corner of triangular trade, receiving sugar from the Caribbean and refining it into rum and molasses, partly for export to Europe. Boston was chartered as a city only in 1822 as a result of a transformation from a small and economically stagnant town in 1780 to a bustling seaport and cosmopolitan center by 1800. It had become one of the world's wealthiest international trading ports, exporting products like rum, fish, salt and tobacco.
By the mid-19th century Boston was one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation, noted for its garment production, leather goods, and machinery industries. Manufacturing overtook international trade to dominate the local economy. A network of small rivers bordering the city and connecting it to the surrounding region made for easy shipment of goods and allowed for a proliferation of mills and factories.
Boston's "Brahmin elite" developed a particular semi-aristocratic value system by the 1840s—cultivated, urbane, and dignified, the Brahmin was the very essence of an enlightened aristocracy. He was not only wealthy, but displayed personal virtues and character traits. The Brahmin had expectations to meet: to cultivate the arts, support charities such as hospitals and colleges, and assume the role of community leader. In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator, an abolitionist newsletter, in Boston. It advocated "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves" in the United States, and established Boston as the center of the abolitionist movement.
The earliest Irish settlers began arriving in the early 18th century and they were forced to hide their religious roots since Catholicism was banned in the Bay Colony but later, throughout the 19th century, Boston became a haven for Irish Catholic immigrants. Today, Boston has the largest percentage of Irish-descended people of any city in the United States. The Irish took political control of the city, leaving the Yankees in charge of finance, business, and higher education.
From the mid-to-late-19th century, the Boston Brahmins flourished culturally. Higher education became increasingly important, principally at Harvard (based across the river in Cambridge).
The Brahmins were the foremost authors and audiences of high culture, despite being a minority. Emerging Irish, Jewish, and Italian cultures made little to no impact on the elite. From the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, the phrase "Banned in Boston" was used to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition. During this time, Boston city officials took it upon themselves to "ban" anything that they found to be salacious, immoral, or offensive: theatrical shows were run out of town, books confiscated, and motion pictures were prevented from being shown—sometimes stopped in mid-showing after an official had "seen enough".
[Suffragist Margaret Foley distributing the Woman's Journal and Suffrage News]
1,625 Media in collectionpage 1 of 17

The massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770, ...

Print shows British troops firing on citizens in Boston.

A view of the lines thrown up, on Boston Neck, by the Ministerial Army / B. Romans.

Print with legend shows and identifies several locations in the vicinity of Boston, including John Hancock's house, Beacon Hill, the British encampment on McHill, and a blockhouse.

The death of Warren / M inv. ; Norman sc.

Print shows Joseph Warren on bended knee, right hand over chest, left hand on rifle for support, after being mortally wounded during the battle of Bunker Hill, three soldiers stand nearby.

Contemplez l'ouvrage de pouvoir arbitraire / Le Barbier l'aîné inv. del. ; Patas sculp.

Print shows an imaginary scene depicting the funeral of Joseph Warren.

View of the attack on Bunker's Hill, with the burning of Charles Town, June 17, 1775 / drawn by Mr. Millar ; engraved by Lodge.

Print shows four British warships landing troops and firing on Charlestown, a British battery on Copp's Hill in Boston also fires on Charlestown which is in flames, also shows the assault on "Bunker's Hill."

John Malcom / dessiné et gravé par F. Godefroy.

Depicts event of January 25, 1774 when Boston Commissioner of Customs John Malcom (or Malcomb) was tarred and feathered and hung out his window by an angry mob.

John Malcom / dessiné et gravé par F. Godefroy de l'Académie Imple. et Rle. de Vienne &c.

Print shows John Malcolm, a customs officer, standing in a two-wheeled cart on a street crowded with onlookers as men prepare to tar and feather him.

View of the bridge over Charles River

Print shows view from Atkins Wharf of the bridge across the Charles River, two couples sightseeing in the foreground, and buildings in the background.

An east view of the new meeting house in Hollis Street, Boston / S. Hill sc.

Print shows a perspective view of the front and side of the Hollis Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt. / engrav'd, printed & sold by Paul Revere, Boston.

Print shows British troops firing on a group of citizens on a street in Boston, Massachusetts, with the Royal Custom House known as "Butcher's Hall" on the right, the First Church and Town House in the backgrou... more

Massachusetts General Hospital / J.R. Penniman, del. ; A. Bowen.

Illustration showing exterior view of front of building.

A New method of Macarony making as practised at Boston / copied on stone by D. C. Johnston from a print published in London 1774.

Print shows two American revolutionaries tarring and feathering the tax collector. In the background, a gallows.

The Bostons paying the excise-man or tarring & feathering / copied on stone by D. C. Johnston from a print published in London 1774.

Print shows a mob pouring tea into the mouth of a Loyalist who has been tarred and feathered. Behind the group, on the right, is the "Liberty Tree" from which hangs a noose and a sign "Stamp Act" written upside... more

The grand national caravan moving east. / drawn by Hassan Straightshanks, under the immediate Superintendence of Maj. Jack Downing.

A burlesque parade, led by Andrew Jackson and satirizing various aspects of his administration. The procession moves from right to left. At its head is Jackson, seated on a horse with Martin Van Buren cross-le... more

The decapitation of a great block head by the mysterious agency of the claret coloured coat

A cryptic and anonymous satire probably referring to the 1834 "decapitation" of the wooden figure-head of Andrew Jackson, placed on the ship "Constitution" when it was refitted at Boston. The deed was perpetrat... more

U.S. Custom House, Boston, Massachusetts, Traverse Section of Winning Design

The Boston Custom House, constructed 1837-1847, is among the earliest federal buildings erected outside the nation's capital. After Congress authorized a new custom house for the city of Boston, a local board o... more

[Bunker Hill]

Soldiers digging and pulling artillery, horse pulling, and battle scene.

Martin Van Buren / Thayer, successor to Moore, Boston.

One of the few campaign prints issued in support of Democratic incumbent Martin Van Buren's 1840 presidential bid. Designed to appeal to the workingman, the print invokes the recent history of Democratic suppor... more

From the Cambria steamer, starting from Boston, U.S. Bunker's Hill Monument

Drawing shows view of ships in Boston Harbor. To the right, Bunker Hill Monument.

Vicinity of Boston, from Bunker Hill monument, 1853 / engraved by James Smillie.

Print showing a bird's-eye view, looking north and west, of the city of Boston and notable landmarks of the surrounding communities. Includes numbered key identifying prominent features.

Sketch of a house in the streets at Boston Mass: being raised from its foundations for the purpsoe of permanent elevation

Drawing shows a three-story house in Boston, raised off its foundations on stones and logs to increase its elevation. Wallis was a British Commissioner from the Foreign Office to the United States in 1853.

Public market houses in Boston / Kilburn, del ; Tarbell, sc.

Print shows South Market, Williams Market, Gerrish Market, Boylston Market and Faneuil Hall Market.

Transverse section

Print shows the transverse section view of the Boston Public Library.

Principal floor

Print shows a floor plan for the Boston Public Library.

First story

Print shows the first floor plan for the Boston Public Library.

Honor to Washington. A national ode

An elaborate emblem to the memory of George Washington, illustrating the cover of a song in his honor composed by B. A. Burditt. The song, according to the text, was written "Expressly for the celebration of th... more

Welcome to the Prince of Wales

Masthead and illustration showing crowd of people gathered on balcony in Boston to greet the Prince of Wales. Illustration in oval on upper left labeled "Washington--Out rolled" showing woman hitting a strike ... more

Portland star match factory, Portland, Me. / JC [monogram] ; Geo. H. Walker & Co. Lith. Boston.

Print shows a bird's-eye view of the Portland Star Match Factory in Portland, Maine, with a Boston & Maine Railroad passenger train passing on the lower right foreground, men unloading timber from railroad cars... more

The Methodist : the largest and best paper in the denomination / John A. Gray, Printer, Stereotyper, and Binder, Cor. of Frankfort and Jacob Sts., New York.

Print shows a large advertisement for "The Methodist" a denominational newspaper published in New York; includes portraits of Rev. Henry Slicer, D.D., of the East-Baltimore Conference, Rev. George Peck, D.D., o... more

[Banknote for $500 from the Boylston Bank, Boston, Massachusetts] / American Bank Note Co.

Banknote showing an explorer, possibly Columbus, a woman holding dividers to a globe, and the head of a woman with grapes in her hair.

McClellan and Pendleton / Oakley & Tompson lith., Boston.

Campaign ephemera for Democratic presidential candidates George B. McClellan and George H. Pendleton, showing head-and-shoulders portrait of George B. McClellan.

Mr. Charles Dickens and his former American acquaintances - "not at home" / drawn by C.G. Bush.

Two panel illustration showing a distraught Charles Dickens standing with another man behind the door to his hotel room, on the other side of which is a group of people portraying characters from Dickens' novel... more

Charles Dickens as he appears when reading / sketched by C.A. Barry.

Charles Dickens, full-length portrait, facing front, standing at lectern.

World's Peace Jubilee, 1872 -- Boston Coliseum

Stereograph shows an interior view of the Boston Coliseum decorated for the 182 World's Peace Jubilee.

The cradle of liberty in danger / Th. Nast.

Print shows General Benjamin Butler as a monstrous genie frightening an infant lableled "Boston, Mass." in a cradle labeled "Common Wealth of Mass."