Downtown Amherst. Shops along the west side of South Pleasant Street, February 2005.
|Nickname(s): The People's Republic of Amherst|
Location in Hampshire County in Massachusetts
|• Type||Representative town meeting|
|• Total||27.8 sq mi (71.9 km2)|
|• Land||27.7 sq mi (71.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)|
|Elevation||295 ft (90 m)|
|• Density||1,365.3/sq mi (526.7/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC-4)|
|ZIP codes||01002–01004, 01059|
|GNIS feature ID||0618195|
Amherst (i//) is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,819, making it the largest community in Hampshire County (although the county seat is Northampton). The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three of the Five Colleges. The name of the town is pronounced without the h ("AM-erst"), giving rise to the local saying, "only the 'h' is silent", in reference both to the pronunciation and to the town's politically active populace.
Amherst is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lying 18 miles (28.9 km) northeast of the city of Springfield, Amherst is considered the northernmost town in the Hartford-Springfield Knowledge Corridor Metropolitan Region.
The earliest known document of the lands now comprising Amherst is the deed of purchase dated December 1658 between John Pynchon of Springfield and three native inhabitants, referred to as Umpanchla, Quonquont and Chickwalopp. According to the deed, "ye Indians of Nolwotogg (Norwottuck) upon ye River of Quinecticott (Connecticut)" sold the entire area in exchange for "two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate at Eight fatham wch Chickwollop set of, of trusts, besides severall small giftes" [sic]. Amherst celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. The Amherst 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee was established to oversee the creation and implementation of townwide activities throughout 2009. The Amherst Historical Society also organized events, including a book published by them and written by Elizabeth M. Sharpe, Amherst A to Z.
When the first permanent English settlements arrived in 1727, this land and the surrounding area (including present-day South Hadley and Granby) belonged to the town of Hadley. It gained precinct status in 1734 and eventually township in 1759.
When it incorporated, the colonial governor assigned the town the name Amherst after Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst. Many colonial governors at the time scattered his name amidst the influx of new town applications, which is why several towns in the Northeast bear the name. Amherst was a hero of the French and Indian War who, according to popular legend, singlehandedly won Canada for the British and banished France from North America. Popular belief has it that he supported the American side in the Revolutionary war and resigned his commission rather than fight for the British. Baron Amherst actually remained in the service of the Crown during the war—albeit in Great Britain rather than North America—where he organized the defense against the proposed Franco-Spanish Armada of 1779. Nonetheless, his previous service in the French and Indian War meant he remained popular in New England. Amherst is also infamous for recommending, in a letter to a subordinate, the use of smallpox-covered blankets in warfare against the Native Americans along with any "other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race." For this reason, there have been occasional ad hoc movements to rename the town. Suggested new names have included "Emily," after Emily Dickinson.
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, Amherst has a total area of 27.8 square miles (72.0 km2), of which 27.7 square miles (71.7 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2) (0.14%) is water. The town is bordered by Hadley to the west, Sunderland and Leverett to the north, Shutesbury, Pelham, and Belchertown to the east, and Granby and South Hadley to the south. The highest point in the town is on the northern shoulder of Mount Norwottuck; the peak is in Granby but the town's high point is a few yards away and is about 1100 feet. The town is nearly equidistant from both the northern and southern state lines. For interactive mapping provided by the Town of Amherst, see External Links on this page.
|Climate data for Amherst, Massachusetts (1981–2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||70
|Average high °F (°C)||34.6
|Average low °F (°C)||13.2
|Record low °F (°C)||−30
|Precipitation inches (mm)||3.31
|Snowfall inches (cm)||12.7
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||8.6||10.1||10.9||12.5||11.5||10.4||10.0||9.0||9.8||10.2||10.1||123.3|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||5.5||4.0||2.7||.4||0||0||0||0||0||.1||1.0||3.4||17.1|
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
As of the 2008 U.S. Census, there were 35,564 people, 9,174 households, and 4,550 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,283.4 people per square mile (485.7/km²). There were 9,427 housing units at an average density of 340.1 per square mile (131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 76.7% White, 5.10% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 9.02% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 2.89% from other races, and 3.35% from two or more races. 6.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,174 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the town the population was spread out with 12.8% under the age of 18, 50.0% from 18 to 24, 17.2% from 25 to 44, 13.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.8 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $40,017, and the median income for a family was $61,237. Males had a median income of $44,795 versus $32,672 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,427. About 7.2% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 3.5% of those age 65 or over. The reason for the large population living below the poverty line is the large number of students that live in Amherst.
According to the 2010 5-year American Community Survey estimates, occupied housing units had a median household income of $50,063, which includes both renter and owner-occupied units. More specifically, owner-occupied units had a median income of $100,208, while renter-occupied housing units had a median income of $23,925. Large disparities in income between the two groups could explain the high poverty rate and lower median income, as students are the primary tenants of renter-occupied units within Amherst.
Of residents 25 years old or older, 41.7% have a graduate or professional degree, and only 4.9% did not graduate from high school. The largest industry is education, health, and social services, in which 51.9% of employed persons work.
These statistics given above include some but not all of the large student population, roughly 30,000 in 2010, many of whom only reside in the town part of the year. Amherst is home to thousands of part-time and full-time residents associated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College and many of those students are involved with the liberal politics of the town.
|Rank||ZIP Code (ZCTA)||Per capita
|2||01003 (UMass Amherst Campus)||$3,531||$N/A||$N/A||11,032||16|
|Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 18, 2006|
Amherst is among relatively few towns of its size in Massachusetts without a mayor-council or council-manager form of government. Instead, it has maintained its traditional system, with a representative town meeting for the legislative branch and a select board for the executive. The Select Board hires a town manager for daily administrative issues.
By a special state law, Amherst's town meeting meeting is modified from the traditional, by designating ten precincts, each with 24 elected representatives. With an additional 14 ex officio members (the 5 Select Board members; the 5 School Committee members; President of the Library Trustees; Chair of the Finance Committee; Town Manager; and a Moderator), the total membership of Town Meeting is 254.
In recent years, some have sought to abolish the 254-member Town Meeting with a new charter that would create a directly elected mayor and a nine-member Town Council. The charter was rejected by voters in spring 2003 by fourteen votes and defeated again on March 29, 2005, by 252 votes.
State and federal representation
In the Massachusetts General Court, Amherst is in the "Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester" Senatorial District, represented by State Senator Stanley Rosenberg, a Democrat. Representative Ellen Story, also a Democrat, represents Amherst for the 3rd Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Amherst is represented at the federal level by an all-Democratic delegation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and by Representative Jim McGovern of the Second Congressional District of Massachusetts.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, funded by local governments and the Five Colleges, provides public transportation in the area and runs well into the early morning hours on weekends when school is in session. Passenger fares on Amherst routes are prepaid by member academic institutions; students and staff simply show their ID to ride as often as they like.
Amtrak rail service is available in nearby Northampton (NHT) on the Vermonter service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, Vermont. More frequent Amtrak service to New York City and Washington, D.C. is available from Union Station in Springfield.
The closest major domestic and limited international air service is available through Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Bradley is located approximately one hour's driving time from Amherst. Major international service is available through Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, 90 miles away.
- Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) born and lived in Amherst, one of the most prominent and celebrated American poets.
- Robert Frost (1874–1963) Pulitzer prize-winning poet who taught at Amherst College and retired there.
- Noah Webster (1758–1843) Author of An American Dictionary of the English Language
- Edward Hitchcock (1793–1864) educator, early geologist and a founder of the science of ichnology
- Osmyn Baker (1800–1875) born in Amherst, United States Congressman and lawyer
- Mason Cook Darling (1801–1866) born in Amherst, United States Congressman from Wisconsin and first mayor of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
- Edward Dickinson, (1803–1874), born in Amherst, lawyer, United States Congressman, and father of Emily Dickinson.
- William S. Clark (1825–1886) Academician, politician, businessman; principal founder of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts Amherst), founder of the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University).
- Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885) born in Amherst, noted author best known for A Century of Dishonor and her novel Ramona.
- Eugene Field (1850–1895) raised in Amherst by cousin, Mary Field French; poet and humorist who wrote children's poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
- Arthur Lithgow (1915–2004) lived and died in Amherst, noted actor, producer and director of Shakespeare plays, founder of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Ohio (today known as the Great Lakes Theatre Festival), former director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, father of actor John Lithgow.
- Harlan Fiske Stone (1872–1946), attended public schools in Amherst and Amherst College; dean of the Columbia Law School, 52nd Attorney General of the United States, and Chief Justice of the United States
- Howard Roger Garis (1873–1962) children's author who wrote the Uncle Wiggily book series
- Lilian Garis (1873–1954) author of juvenile fiction who under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope wrote early volumes in the Bobbsey Twins series
- Robert Francis (1901–1987) poet
- Melvil Dewey (1851–1931) devised the Dewey Decimal System while an assistant librarian at Amherst College in 1876
- Chinua Achebe (1930 - 2013) was a professor at the University of Massachusetts from 1972 to 1976.
- Paul Nitze (January 16, 1907 – October 19, 2004) born in Amherst, diplomat who helped shape defense policy over numerous presidential administrations.
- Ebenezer Mattoon (1755–1843) born in North Amherst, Lieutenant in Continental Army during American Revolution, US Congressman (1801-1803).
Born or raised in Amherst
- Annie Baker, playwright
- Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, poet
- P. D. Eastman, children's author, illustrator, and screenwriter
- James D. Hornfischer, military historian and author
- James Ihedigbo, Baltimore Ravens defensive back
- Martin Johnson, of rock band Boys like Girls
- Amory Lovins, scientist and environmentalist
- J Mascis, singer, guitarist and songwriter for alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr.
- Eric Mabius, star of ABC show Ugly Betty, attended Amherst Schools
- Julie McNiven, actress with recurring roles on Mad Men and Supernatural
- Ilan Mitchell-Smith, actor starring in 1985 film Weird Science, attended Amherst public schools
- Helen Palmer Geisel, children's author and first wife of Dr. Seuss.
- Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia, Inc., attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Steve Porter, music producer
- Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, attended public schools in Amherst and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Uma Thurman, Oscar-nominated actress, whose father, Robert Thurman, taught at Amherst College
- Martin M. Wattenberg, artist and computer scientist
- Zoe Weizenbaum, child actress
- Jamila Wideman, basketball player
- Elisha Yaffe, comedian, actor, and producer
Live in Amherst
- Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin Foundation founder and Bitcoin Core contributor
- Christian Appy, author of Patriots and Working-Class War, professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Christopher Benfey, author of The Great Wave, professor at Mount Holyoke College
- Holly Black, author of Tithe, Valiant, Ironside, and co-author of the Spiderwick Chronicles
- Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
- Michelle Chamuel, singer, songwriter, producer
- Cassandra Clare, author of the famous The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices
- Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spider and the Fly and co-author/illustrator for Spiderwick Chronicles
- Peter Elbow, compositionist and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Joseph Ellis, historian and author of Founding Brothers
- Martín Espada, poet, professor at the University of Massachusetts and author of the 2006 The Republic of Poetry, among others
- Black Francis, singer/guitarist of the alternative rock band the Pixies, attended U-Mass Amherst
- Rebecca Guay, artist specializing in watercolor painting and illustration
- Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth
- Julius Lester, author and professor at the University of Massachusetts
- Michael Lesy, author of Wisconsin Death Trip, professor at Hampshire College
- J Mascis of alternative rock group Dinosaur Jr.
- John Olver, politician who served in the US House of Representatives
- John Elder Robison, author, Look Me in the Eye, also older brother of Augusten Burroughs
- Joey Santiago, lead guitarist of the alternative rock band the Pixies, attended U-Mass Amherst
- Archie Shepp, jazz musician and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts
- Chris Smither, folk/blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter
- James Tate, (b. 1943) poet and professor at University of Massachusetts
- Roman Yakub, composer
Points of interest
- Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
- Amherst Cinema Arts Center, a local theater showing mostly art and independent films
- Beneski Museum of Natural History, including the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet
- Emily Dickinson Museum, birthplace and lifelong residence of poet Emily Dickinson, now a museum. She is buried nearby in West Cemetery on Triangle Street.
- Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
- Mead Art Museum at Amherst College: 18,000 items with a particular strength in American art
- National Yiddish Book Center
- Theodore Baird Residence, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright
- W. E. B. Du Bois Library at UMASS Amherst - the tallest academic library in the United States.
- Hollander, Paul (1981). Political pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. xxv. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
Brentlinger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst was robustly and proudly alienated from American society and culture...he has probably benefited from living amidst like-minded people in what has been jestingly called 'the people's republic of Amherst, Mass.'
- Arkes, Hadley (1996), "Response to Fund", in Schaefer, David Lewis; Schaefer, Roberta Rubel, The future of cities, Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc, p. 9, retrieved 2013-04-07,
I come to you from one of those places that is in America, but not quite of it...In my case it is the People's Republic of Amherst
- Sarat, Austin (2008), "Contested Terrain: Visions of Multiculturalism in an American Town", in Minow, Martha; Shweder, Richard A.; Markus, Hazel, Just schools: pursuing equality in societies of difference, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, p. 102, retrieved 2013-04-07,
I live in a place whose liberal tendencies have earned it various nicknames. For example, it has been called 'The People's Republic of Amherst'
- "Amherst". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
- languagehat.com, uscho.com, bbc.co.uk
- See, e.g., local T-shirt for sale; Chris Rohmann, "Stage Struck: Silent But Deadly", Valley Advocate, Oct. 20, 2011; and "Living in Western Massachusetts", Pioneer Valley Cohousing (last visited Sept. 16, 2012).
- Carpenter, Edward W. (1896). The History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts, pp. 1-2. Press of Carpenter & Morehouse.
- Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets
- "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
- "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1950 Census of Population". 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
- "ACS DEMOGRAPHIC AND HOUSING ESTIMATES 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
- "HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
- "2006 State Election Party Enrollment Statistics (PDF, 108k)" (PDF). Massachusetts Secretary of State. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
- "Town Meeting", Town of Amherst Official Website (last visited March 21, 2014).
- "Massachusetts Senatorial Districts", Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (last visited March 21, 2014)
- "Nyeri Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "La Paz Centro Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "Kanegasaki Sister City Committee". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967.
- "Mary Mattoon and her hero of the revolution" by Alice M. Walker, Carpenter and Morehouse, 1902
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amherst, Massachusetts.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article about Amherst, Massachusetts.|
- Town of Amherst official website
- Digital Amherst, an online repository of historic information about Amherst
- Amherst Downtown BID
- Amherst Bulletin - the local newspaper