9 Things We Have Boston to Thank For

In honor of its 200th year as a city, we explore some of the wickedest things that call Boston home.

Boston Public Garden
Entrance Gate to the Boston Public Garden (Shutterstock)

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The best cannoli in the world can be found at Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End. I haven’t personally tried every cannoli in the world (although my New England Catholic family of dozens has probably sampled, collectively, a good percentage of them) but I know this to be true. Anyone who’s from around Boston does. Unfortunately, the cannoli was invented in “Italy,” but Boston has plenty of other claims to fame that originated (and didn’t just reach their final form) in the City.


1. John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy
JFK (Cecil Stoughton, White House, public domain, National Archives)

If you’ve ever watched JFK give a speech, you already knew this. His accent, and he, are technically from Brookline, but he was raised in and around the City. Not to mention that, of course, he represented Massachusetts in Congress prior to his presidency. You can take the T right up to 18 Tremont Street, which formerly housed the headquarters for his 1946 congressional campaign.

2. Microwave

(Pamperchu via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license, Wikimedia Commons)

Percy Spencer, an engineer from Maine, is credited with the creation of the microwave, which debuted commercially in a Boston restaurant in 1947. Legend has it that Spencer noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted while he was testing vacuum tubes, which produce microwave radiation. He tested the tubes again with popcorn, and it popped — meaning microwave popcorn has been around longer than the microwave.

3. Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath (Giovanni Giovannetti/Grazia Neri, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Bell Jar author and poet was born in Jamaica Plain, Boston. Before writing the great works of literature she is known for today, Plath attended Smith College in Northampton, MA and edited for The Smith Review, the school’s student paper.

4. Telephone

An early telephone (Shutterstock)

Multiple people have been credited with the invention of the telephone, but most attribute its creation to Alexander Graham Bell. He was the first to patent the device, and his version made its first call in Bell’s Boston laboratory. His patent was disputed, however, and the history of the telephone remains as hard to understand as words spoken over a long-distance line.

5. America

Statue of Paul Revere (Shutterstock)
Statue of Paul Revere (Shutterstock)

This is another contentious claim, since Plymouth is about 45 minutes from Boston by car and the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia (not to mention there were already people in America before the pilgrims came from Europe), but the good old U.S. of A. as we know it today wouldn’t be here without Boston, MA. The Boston Massacre and the rest of the Revolutionary War, as well as Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, all deserve partial credit for the fact that we operate under a democracy and eat vegetables other than peas.

6. Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie (Shutterstock)
Boston Cream Pie (Shutterstock)

Maybe not the cannoli, but Boston still has claim to a delicious and cream-filled dessert. Also, the Boston Cream Pie is one of the only foods with a place in its name that can actually be traced back to that place. These originated at Boston’s Omni Parker House, a hotel still open today.

7. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy (CBS Television, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Nimoy was born to Ukrainian immigrants in the West End, near where his father ran a barbershop. He sold newspapers and greeting cards to supplement his family’s income and practiced his singing by participating in his synagogue’s choir. After working in the area for years, Nimoy landed a major role in the play Awake and Sing! at age 17. He went on to play Mr. Spock on the hit TV series Star Trek.

8. Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is another iconic dessert, and another happy accident involving chocolate. Legend has it that when attempting to bake chocolate cookies in the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, added chunks of chopped-up chocolate bar to her dough. The result was delicious, as we all know (and chocolate chip cookies can still be purchased everywhere, from the humble Faneuil Hall to gourmet bakeries like Cookie Time in Arlington).

9. The Internet

Vintage Computer

Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim Berners-Lee) created the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at MIT. It may not be as significant as the chocolate chip cookie, but the internet has affected the world in its own small way.

Featured image: Entrance Gate to the Boston Public Garden (Shutterstock)

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