Quincy History

Adam's Birthplace

Our History

As the birthplace of John Adams, John Quincy Adams and John Hancock, Quincy has long been recognized for the pivotal role her native sons and daughters played in the fight for American independence. It was John Adams – the “Atlas of Independence” – who championed the dream of a new nation on American soil, a country built upon the principles of freedom, justice and a passionate spirit of independence.

That independent spirit would lead succeeding generations of Quincyites to pursue the American dream with the same passion and tenacity as their revolutionary forefathers: men and women like Howard Johnson – who opened his first ice cream shop in Quincy – and Amelia Earhart, who once held a financial interest in Quincy’s Dennison Airport.

And the spirit is alive today: While in Quincy, be sure to visit our many historic treasures to learn more about these important chapters in the Quincy story:

Colonial History:

MansionFirst settled by a party including Captain Wollaston in 1625, Quincy was originally part of the neighboring town of Braintree. Her famous early residents included presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as the legendary patriot John Hancock – known for signing his name to the Declaration of Independence in extra-large script “so that fat King George can read it without his glasses.” In 1792, the north precinct of Braintree became the town of Quincy, with residents opting to name the new town after Col. John Quincy, grandfather of Abigail Adams.

Today, visitors to Quincy can tour the birthplaces of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams as well as the Adams Mansion, the Summer White House for both presidents and home to their descendants until the early 20 th century. Other historic sites include United First Parish Church – where both Adams presidents and their wives are buried – historic Hancock Cemetery and the Dorothy Quincy Homestead, the childhood home of John Hancock’s wife, Dorothy Quincy.

Granite Industry/First Commercial Railway

Quincy’s granite industry was famous the world over, with many of America’s most prominent statues and monuments sculpted from granite quarried here. In fact, the first commercial railroad in America was founded in Quincy in 1826 to transport Quincy granite to Charlestown for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. Quincy’s granite industry also played a role in the city’s population growth, as immigrants from Finland, Sweden, Italy and other countries settled here to work in the quarries. So prolific was the Quincy granite industry that at one point there were nearly two dozen granite quarries operating in the city. Following World War II, new, cheaper building materials led to a decline in the granite industry, with the last quarry closing in the 1960s. Yet the artistry and craftsmanship of those early stonecutters who made the term “Quincy Granite” synonymous with superior quality can still be seen in such monuments as Bunker Hill and the Titanic Memorial.

Today, visitors can see portions of the original 1826 granite railway, while the quarries themselves are popular with hikers and rock climbers. Several of the former quarries have also been filled and reshaped into the new Granite Links Golf Club.

Shipbuilding/World War II

SalemShipbuilding/World War II: Quincy has a proud shipbuilding tradition that includes producing many of the U.S. Navy ships that fought for our freedom during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Just as the term “Quincy granite” came to signify the best in the business, the term “Quincy built” referred to the finest ships afloat. Shipbuilding in Quincy continued until the mid-1980s, when General Dynamics closed the Fore River Shipyard.

Today, visitors can tour one of the ships built at Quincy’s world famous shipyard: the Cold War era heavy cruiser the USS Salem. Home to the U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum, the Salem offers visitors the chance to experience life on the former flag ship of the Sixth Fleet.

Kilroy Was Here:

Kilroy Was HereQuincy is also the birthplace of the popular catch phrase “Kilroy Was Here”: During World War II, James Kilroy – a worker at Quincy’s Bethlehem Steel Shipyard – chalked the message next to rivets he inspected on ships under construction. With no time to paint over the markings before the ships went into battle, “Kilroy Was Here” traveled the globe, where battle-weary GI’s adopted the phrase as a rallying cry, scrawling it wherever they went. Soon, a legend sprang up that no matter where Allied Forces landed, “Kilroy” somehow managed to get there first!

After the war, “Kilroy Was Here” grew in popularity. So popular, in fact, was the phrase – which was sometimes accompanied by a cartoon of an eyes and nose peering over a wall – that it’s rumored “Kilroy” has been to the Great Wall of China, the top of Mount Everest and even on the moon!
Click here to see some of the photos entered in Discover Quincy’s Kilroy Was Here Photo Contest!

Famous Entrepreneurs:

Dunkin' DonutsQuincy’s nickname – Birthplace of the American Dream – doesn’t just refer to John Adams and his role in bringing about American independence. It also honors two world-famous businesses that got their start in Quincy: Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin’ Donuts! In 1925, Howard Johnson borrowed $2,000 to buy a corner drugstore and soda fountain in Quincy’s Wollaston section. That first store laid the foundation for what would become a coast-to-coast chain of 1,000 restaurants and hundreds of hotels. Twenty-five years later, in 1950, William Rosenberg changed the name of his Quincy doughnut shop from “The Open Kettle” to Dunkin’ Donuts – and an international franchising giant was born. Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin’ Donuts – two Horatio Alger success stories that illustrate why Quincy is truly the birthplace of the American dream!


Aviation History PhotoFollowing the Wrights Brothers’ successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903, Quincy was in the forefront of the burgeoning aviation industry, with several early aeromeets held here. It was at a 1912 aeromeet in Quincy’s Squantum section that pioneering aviatrix Harriet Quimby was killed. The first woman to fly the English Channel, Quimby and her passenger, William Willard, fell from her plane as it nosed down over Dorchester Bay as thousands of spectators looked on in horror. Quincy later played host to yet another famous female aviator: Amelia Earhart, who once held a financial interest in Quincy’s Dennison Airport. Earhart disappeared in 1937 somewhere over the Pacific as she attempted to fly around the world.