Since 1651, Boston has had a legal responsibility to mark and measure its boundaries every few years. Despite advances in technology, the practice of “perambulating the bounds” means that someone has to go out and walk the town lines. This law is one of the oldest still on the books, but when was the last time Boston perambulated its bounds? Listen now!
Perambulating the Bounds
- Big thanks this week to Marta Crilly, Reference and Outreach Archivist at Boston City Archives, for finding a trove of documentation on modern perambulations of the bounds.
- Thanks also to Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub, whose 2012 post was our first exposure to the concept of perambulating the bounds.
- The 1651 Act Respecting Bounds of Town Lands that requires Massachusetts towns to periodically perambulate their bounds.
- The current version of that law that is still in effect.
- From the City Archives, a gallery of officials perambulating Boston’s bounds in 1896.
- John Hancock and Samuel Sewall perambulate the bounds in 1765 (after meeting in a tavern, of course).
- Some New England towns still perambulate their bounds, but they’re not all happy about it.
This Week in Boston History
- September 4, 1841: John Quincy Adams argues against war with Britain over the Caroline Affair.
- September 5, 1924: The “Magellans of the Sky,” a US crew attempting the first circumnavigation of the world by air, touch down in Boston.
- September 6, 1881: After huge fires in Michigan, daytime turns to dusk, and a spooky yellow glow settles over Boston.
- September 7, 1783: After years apart, John Adams would do anything, even ride in a newfangled hot air balloon, to see Abigail sooner.
- September 8, 1775: George Washington convenes his generals in Cambridge to determine whether to attempt an amphibious assault on British-held Boston. Luckily, they decide not to.
- September 9, 1947: Grace Hopper’s team at Harvard discovers a moth in their Mark II computer, the first actual computer bug.
- September 10, 1801: Jason Fairbanks is executed in Dedham for the murder of his girlfriend Eliza Fales.