This week in New England history: March 14-20

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A list of significant dates in New England history:

March 14

1743: The first town hall meeting in America takes place at Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

Cotton Gin

Cotton Gin

1793: Westborough, Massachusetts-born and Yale-educated Eli Whitney is granted a patent for the cotton gin. The gin (short for engine) played a key role in the social and economic factors that led to the Civil War. By quickening the process by which cotton seeds and fibers were separated, the gin prompted the rise of cotton as a cash crop, making slave labor more profitable than ever.

March 15

1820: As part of the Missouri Compromise, Maine gains independence from Massachusetts, entering the Union as a free state while Missouri enters as a slave state.

March 18

Empty frame at the ISG Museum

Empty frame at the ISG Museum

1990: Two men dressed as police officers gain access to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum and steal 13 works of art, estimated at over $500 million. Because Gardner’s will requires that nothing be moved or rearranged in her museum, visitors to the museum can still see where the thieves cut the paintings from the frames.

March 17

The evacuation of Boston

The evacuation of Boston

1776: British forces evacuate Boston after laying siege to the city early in the American Revolution. Suffolk County, Massachusetts today celebrates Evacuation Day, which conveniently coincides with St. Patrick’s Day, as a public holiday.

March 20

1760: Boston catches fire in the worst fire to strike a colonial city. Shops and building burn along Boston’s streets and into the harbor, burning ten ships. While other colonies make charitable contributions to help the city rebuild, the British Crown refuses to offer aid, perhaps helping spark some of the revolutionary spirit in Boston.