pronounced WUS tuhr (pop. 169,759; met. area pop. 478,384), is a leading New England
industrial center and the second largest city of Massachusetts. Worcester lies about 40
miles (64 kilometers) west of Boston, the largest city.
In 1673, settlers from eastern Massachusetts founded the village of Quinsigamond on the
site of Worcester. In 1684, King Charles II of England canceled the Massachusetts Bay
Colony's charter. This action so angered the people of Quinsigamond that they renamed
their village Worcester. According to tradition, this name honored the Battle of Worcester
(1651), in which Charles suffered a great defeat in the English Civil War.
Worcester, the county seat of Worcester County, covers 38
square miles (98 square kilometers). The city has about 375 manufacturing plants.
Worcester's chief products include machinery and machine tools; fabricated metals; printed
materials; and chemicals, plastics, and abrasives. Worcester is home to the Massachusetts
Biotechnology Research Park, where many biotechnology companies have facilities. Airlines,
railroad freight lines, and passenger trains serve the city.
The College of the Holy Cross, the oldest Roman Catholic college in New England, was
founded in Worcester in 1843. The city is also the home of Assumption College, Clark
University, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Worcester Polytechnic
The Worcester Art Museum is known for its art objects from many periods of history. The
Higgins Armory has an outstanding display of medieval and Renaissance armor. The American
Antiquarian Society owns the largest collection of early American publications, including
newspapers, sheet music, and children's books. The Worcester Science Center includes Gage
Planetarium and a science museum and zoo. Also in Worcester are Mechanics Hall, the site
of many cultural events; Centrum Civic Center; and Worcester Center, a three-level
Nipmuc Indians lived near the site of Worcester before whites built a village there in
1673. Indians destroyed that settlement and another that was built in 1684. The whites
settled Worcester permanently in 1713 and incorporated it as a town in 1722. During the
Revolutionary War in America (1775-1783), Worcester became the home of the Massachusetts
Spy, a newspaper famous for its support of the colonists.
Manufacturing became important in Worcester after 1828, when the Blackstone Canal linked
the town with Narragansett Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. Worcester received a city
charter in 1848. Through the years, the growing number of industrial jobs in Worcester
attracted thousands of immigrants.
The city's population reached a peak of 203,486 in 1950. Since then, many middle-income
families have left Worcester and moved to the suburbs. Worcester has a council-manager
form of government.