[View of fortifications around Dorchester, with the Dorchester steeple in the distance on the right]
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".