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22 December, 20223 minute read

Surprising Facts About Boston’s History

There are so many types of travellers. Sun-seekers, nightlife lovers, wildlife watchers. For the history buff, there’s no better place to visit than Boston. Boston has a rich and fascinating history that dates back hundreds of years. It was one of the first cities established in the United States, and it played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. There are countless historical sites and landmarks to explore.

Here at Titan Travel, we take pride in making sure your holiday to Boston is led by an expert tour guide who will be able to enrich your experience with all the interesting facts your history buff brain could need. There are so many surprising facts about Boston’s past that may not be widely known. Here are just a few examples.

Anybody for tea?

In 1773, an act was passed by the British Parliament which imposed a tax on tea important to the colonies. In response to the Tea Act, on 16 December 1773 a group of colonists, including many prominent figures such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, boarded three ships in the harbour and threw 342 chests of tea overboard, into the water. This act of defiance became known as the Boston Tea Party.

The Boston Tea Party was a major turning point in the lead-up to the American Revolution. It was a bold and dramatic act of protest that galvanized the colonists and helped to build support for the cause of independence. The event is remembered as a key moment in American history and a re-enactment takes place every year on 16 December.

Taking in the site of the Boston Tea Party is the first excursion in our Charm of Cape Cod with Historic Boston escorted tour.

America’s first public beach

Revere Beach was America’s very first public beach. Established in 1896, it stretches for more than three miles along the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most notable features of Revere Beach is its historic boardwalk, which was built in the 1920s and is a popular spot for walking, biking, and rollerblading.

In addition to the boardwalk, Revere Beach is also home to the New England Sand Sculpting Festival, which is held every summer and features sculptures created by talented sand artists from around the world.

The birth of the subway

Boston was the birthplace of the United States’ first ever subway system. The subway system, which is also known as the "MBTA" or the "T," was officially established in 1897, making it the oldest subway system in the country.

The T subway system is an integral part of the transportation network in the Boston area, and it is used by millions of people every year. It continues to be updated and expanded to meet the changing needs of the city, and it’s an important part of the transportation landscape in Boston.

You'll see thousands of commuters boarding the subway in our The Best of New England in the Fall escorted tour.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist

The biggest and most valuable art thefts in history took place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on 18 March 1990, and it remains unsolved to this day.

On the night of the heist, two men dressed as police officers entered the museum and stole 13 works of art, including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet. The total value of the stolen art is estimated to be over $500 million. Despite numerous investigations and efforts to recover the stolen art, including the offer of a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen art, it has never been found. The case remains one of the most famous art heists in history and the subject of much public interest and speculation. The museum has left the empty frames where the stolen art used to hang as a reminder of the theft and as a way to keep the case in the public eye.

Run, Kathrine, Run!

Five years before women were officially accepted into the race, Kathrine Switzer became the first female marathon runner when she ran the Boston Marathon in 1967. She initially entered the marathon under the name "K.V. Switzer," and she received a bib and a race number. However, when race officials realized that she was a woman, they tried to stop her from running. Switzer was able to finish the race with the help of her boyfriend, who physically shielded her from race officials.

The incident sparked a media frenzy and brought national attention to the issue of women's participation in sports. Having gone on to run in 39 marathons, written several books and worked as a commentator and coach Switzer is now recognized as a pioneer and a leader in the world of women's running. She is credited with helping to pave the way for other women in the sport.

We (don't) wish you a Merry Christmas

It’s hard to imagine America not celebrating Christmas, but that’s exactly what happened in 1659. The Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law that made it illegal to celebrate Christmas or any other holiday, reflecting the general sentiment of the time that holidays were frivolous and should not be celebrated.

The ban on Christmas was eventually lifted in the late 18th century, as the influence of the Puritans waned and the country became more diverse and inclusive. Today, Christmas is widely celebrated in Boston and throughout the United States.

It's worth noting that Christmas was not the only holiday that was banned in the Puritan colonies. The Puritans also banned the celebration of other holidays, such as Easter, and they did not allow the singing of Christmas carols or the display of Christmas decorations. These practices were eventually adopted in the colonies as the country became more diverse and inclusive.

In our Grand Tour of New England and Canada with the Big Apple you'll get a guided tour of Boston's historic landmarks, and then you're free to explore the city at your leisure.

That's not the only interesting law in Boston

There are a number of unusual laws that were enacted by the Puritans who founded Boston and the surrounding area in the early colonial period that are still on the books in Massachusetts today. Here are a few examples:

  • It’s illegal to go to bed on a Sunday unless you are tired. This law came about because the Puritans believed that people should spend their Sundays resting and attending church.

  • It’s illegal to wear a goatee without a license. This law was originally intended to prevent people from impersonating naval officers.

  • It’s illegal to own more than two cats without obtaining a special license. This law was likely enacted as a way to control the population of stray cats and to prevent the spread of diseases.

  • It is illegal to take a bath unless a doctor gives you a prescription. If that’s not strange enough, it’s also illegal not to bathe before going to bed.

Thankfully for the good people of Boston, while these laws are still technically on the books, they’re not enforced and are generally considered to be relics of a bygone era.

If these facts have left you eager for more American history and culture, see all our USA escorted tours here.


Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.

Ting | About the author

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