Massachusetts 6th District
The North Shore of Massachusetts Bay has often been at the leading edge of the nation’s economy. In 1640, the Saugus Iron Works was built here—the beginning of American heavy industry. When Europe’s great powers were convulsed in international war from 1792 to 1815, American ship owners suddenly became the richest in the world, and traders from Boston and Salem accumulated the capital needed to build textile mills and railroads and to finance much of the American Industrial Revolution. From the small port of Salem, ships left for China, bringing back porcelain and artifacts, which helped change American styles forever. Salem, first settled by Europeans in 1626, had the nation’s first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby. In 1900, it was the richest city per capita in the nation. Today, the North Shore is a quiet place. From Boston Harbor north to the mouth of the Merrimack River, it is a collection of ethnic factory towns from Lynn to Peabody (once one of the world’s great leather producers with more than 100 tanneries) to the former shipbuilding Newburyport. There are a few high-income enclaves, such as Marblehead with its yachts, Beverly with its estates, and artsy Rockport. Salem’s House of the Seven Gables is a popular tourist site. Built in 1668, it inspired the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne and is the oldest surviving wooden mansion in New England. The Salem witch trials are probably the town’s most famous legacy. More than two centuries later, they inspired Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, which used the trials as an allegory for the hearings of communist-baiter Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Moviegoers will recognize the fishing town of Gloucester as the homeport of the Andrea Gail, the 72-foot swordfishing boat whose tragic plight was dramatized in the novel and film The Perfect Storm. Although pleasure boating has surged, the ports were hit hard by overfishing of mackerel and herring in the 1970s and cod in the 1990s. A red tide scare closed clam-digging flats in July 2008. Some of the area’s economic hopes are tied to a proposed marine research institute and a new cruise terminal that opened in 2007. Lynn is the district’s largest city, and its General Electric jet engine plant has been the largest employer, although it has only a fraction of the jobs that it had at its peak of 13,000 in the late 1970s.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District includes the North Shore from Saugus and Lynn northward, plus towns and cities inland west to Burlington. Its high-income Yankee towns were historically liberal Republican, while Lynn, Salem, Peabody, and the Merrimack mill towns are still Irish working-class Democratic. The Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford survived the base closing review in 2005, although hopes for additional high-tech aerospace research have been disappointed. The 6th has been a Democratic district since the 1960s, though only marginally in the 1980s and in the early 1990s. While this district is the site of the original gerrymander—named after Elbridge Gerry—the current 6th boundaries are hardly grotesque by contemporary standards.