Guiding Question:

How did population change in Boston affect the way Bostonians viewed themselves and their city on a hill?


Map of Boston, 1838, Bradford

Map of Boston, 1838
Courtesy of Boston Public Library, Norman Leventhal Map Center


Boston has always been a unique and vibrant city, full of old world charm but created with the hope contained in the new. John Winthrop, Boston's founder and a Puritan, declared "we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." The Puritans were a group of Englishmen and women who sought to purify the English church and believed the New World was the perfect place to start. As Boston grew and prospered Puritan ways found their way into the very fabric of Boston society. Values such as piety, morality and obedience to community code would be ingrained into every Bostonian, and would shape the city's future.

As time progressed the original Puritans disappeared but their values remained constant, surviving economic hardships, a revolution and a new government. Boston in the early 19th century still had strong connections to its 17th century beginnings. However change was near: Boston would enter an age of unprecedented growth in terms of population and geographic size. Boston's average citizen would also change as a result of Irish immigration to the city.

Looking to escape political tumult, economic hardship or a blight which had wiped out the countries main staple crop, the potato, the Irish arrived in droves to the growing city. These new immigrants with a different religion, different values and even different looks would change Boston forever. Yet what form would this change take and what fears and feelings would the old Bostonians have towards these new Bostonians? And how would the perception of what it means to be American change for both groups?


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