Pittsfield is the largest city and the county seat of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the principal city of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Berkshire County. Its area code is 413. Its ZIP code is 01201 (01202 and 01203 are zip codes for Pittsfield post office boxes only). The population was 44,737 at the 2010 census. Although the population has declined in recent decades, Pittsfield remains the third largest municipality in Western Massachusetts, behind only Springfield and Chicopee.
In 2005, Farmers Insurance ranked Pittsfield 20th in the United States as “Most Secure Place To Live” among small towns with fewer than 150,000 residents. In 2006, Forbes ranked Pittsfield as number 61 in its list of Best Small Places for Business. In 2008, Country Home Magazine ranked Pittsfield as #24 in a listing of "green cities" east of the Mississippi. In 2009, the City of Pittsfield was chosen to receive a 2009 Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts' highest award in the arts, humanities, and sciences. More recently, in 2010, the Financial Times proclaimed Pittsfield the "Brooklyn of the Berkshires", in an article covering its recent renaissance.
In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places for single people to retire in the U.S. by U.S. News, due to the high number of single older residents and higher likelihood of finding companionship or a partner.
In 1738, a wealthy Bostonian, Col. Jacob Wendell, bought of lands known originally as Pontoosuck, a Mohican Indian word meaning “a field or haven for winter deer,” as a speculative investment, which he planned to subdivide and resell to others who would settle here. He formed a partnership with Philip Livingston, a wealthy kinsman from Albany, and Col. John Stoddard of Northampton, who already had claim to here.
A group of young men came and began to clear the land in 1743, but threats of Indian raids associated with the conflict of the French and Indian War soon forced them to leave, and the land remained unoccupied by whites for several more years.
Soon, many others arrived from Westfield, Massachusetts, and a village began to grow, which was incorporated as Pontoosuck Plantation in 1753 by Solomon Deming, Simeon Crofoot, Stephen Crofoot, Charles Goodrich, Jacob Ensign, Samuel Taylor, and Elias Woodward. Mrs. Deming was both the first and the last of the original settlers, and she died in March, 1818 at the age of 92. Solomon Deming died in 1815 at the age of 96.
Pittsfield was officially incorporated in 1761. Royal Governor, Sir Francis Bernard named Pittsfield after British nobleman and politician William Pitt. By 1761 there were 200 residents and the plantation became the Township of Pittsfield.
By the end of the revolutionary war, Pittsfield had expanded to nearly 2,000 residents, including Colonel John Brown, who began accusing Benedict Arnold as a traitor in 1776, several years before Arnold defected to the British. Brown wrote in his winter 1776-77 handbill "Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country".
While primarily an agricultural area, because of the many brooks that flowed into the Housatonic River, the landscape was dotted with mills that produced lumber, grist, paper and textiles. With the introduction of Merino sheep from Spain in 1807, the area became the center of woolen manufacturing in the United States, an industry that would dominate the community’s employment opportunities for almost a century.
The town was a bustling metropolis by the late 19th century. In 1891, the City of Pittsfield was incorporated, and William Stanley, Jr. who had recently relocated his Electric Manufacturing Company to Pittsfield from Great Barrington, produced the first electric transformer. Stanley’s enterprise was the forerunner of the internationally known corporate giant, General Electric (GE). Thanks to the success of GE, Pittsfield’s population in 1930 had grown to more than 50,000. While GE Advanced Materials (now owned by SABIC-Innovative Plastics, a subsidiary of the Riyadh-based Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) continues to be one of the City’s largest employers, a workforce that once topped 13,000 was reduced to less than 700 with the demise and/or relocation of the transformer and aerospace portions of the General Electric empire.
Currently General Dynamics occupies many of the old GE buildings and its workforce is expanding. Much of General Dynamics' local success is based on the awarding of government contracts relating to its advanced information systems.
1902 Presidential Incident
On September 3, 1902 at 10:15 AM, during a two-week tour through New England campaigning for Republican congressmen, the barouche transporting President Theodore Roosevelt from downtown Pittsfield to the Pittsfield Country Club (see historic photos above) collided head-on with a trolley. Roosevelt, Massachusetts Governor Winthrop Murray Crane, secretary to the president George Bruce Cortelyou, and bodyguard William Craig were thrown into the street. Craig was killed; he was the first Secret Service agent killed while on a presidential protection detail. Roosevelt, whose face and left shin were badly bruised, nearly came to blows with the trolley motorman, Euclid Madden. Madden was later charged with manslaughter, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to six months in jail and a heavy fine.
Baseball in Pittsfield
In 2004, historian John Thorn discovered a reference to a 1791 by-law prohibiting anyone from playing "baseball" within of the new meeting house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A librarian found the actual by-law in the Berkshire Athenaeum library, and its age was verified by researchers at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. If authentic and if actually referring to a recognizable version of the modern game, the 1791 document, would be, as of 2004, the earliest known reference to the game in America. See, Origins of baseball. The document is available on the Pittsfield Library's web site.
The so-called Broken Window By-Law is the earliest known reference to “baseball” in North America. A finding that baseball was invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown provided the rationale for baseball centennial celebrations in 1939, including the opening of a National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in that city. But few historians ever believed it and even the Hall's vice president, Jeff Idelson, has stated that “Baseball wasn't really born anywhere.”
In 1859, the first intercollegiate baseball game was played in Pittsfield, MA. Amherst defeated Williams College 73-32.
Professional baseball was played in Pittsfield's Wahconah Park from 1919 through 2003. Teams included the Pittsfield Electrics of the 1940s, the Pittsfield Red Sox from 1965-69 with such then A-league players and future greats as George Scott, Carlton Fisk, and Reggie Smith, the Pittsfield Senators (later Rangers) of the 1970s, and the 1985-88 AA Pittsfield Cubs (Chicago) featuring future greats Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro.
From 1989 to 2001, the Pittsfield Mets and Pittsfield Astros (2001 only) represented the city in the New York - Penn League. The Astros have since moved to Troy, New York and are now known as the Tri-City ValleyCats.
In 2005, Wahconah Park became the home stadium of the Pittsfield Dukes, a summer collegiate baseball franchise of the New England Collegiate Baseball League owned by Dan Duquette, former Boston Red Sox general manager. The Dukes had played the 2004 season in Hinsdale, Massachusetts as the Berkshire Dukes. In 2009, the franchise changed its name to the Pittsfield American Defenders. The American Defenders name refers to both the United States Military and a line of baseball gloves produced by Nocona Athletic Goods Company. Duqette's ownership group also owns the American Defenders of New Hampshire, members of the independent Can-Am League.
Ulysses Frank Grant, born August 1, 1865 in Pittsfield, MA (died May 27, 1937), was an African American baseball player in the 19th century, who played in the International League and for various independent teams. Mark Belanger, eight-time Gold Glove winning shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles, Turk Wendell, relief pitcher for the New York Mets, and Tom Grieve, outfielder for the Texas Rangers were all from Pittsfield.
Arienti, Stephen ‘Nails McGee,’ born July 4, 1880, died December 24, 1945. A Major League Baseball player. He made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Superbas on May 15, 1900, and hit a home run in his first at bat. Nails McGee was known for his temper, and developed a reputation as being one of baseball’s first hot heads. This resulted in his being hit with several bean balls, ultimately leading to a career ending concussion. Arienti died in his hometown of Pittsfield Mass, in 1945, and is buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery.