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About New Bedford

New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, located about 51 miles (82 kilometers) south of Boston, 28 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and about 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Fall River. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 93,768 (93,102 during the 2005 census). It is the seventh largest city in the state. New Bedford is nicknamed "The Whaling City" due to the fact that it was one of the most important ports for the whaling industry. The city is considered one of the two major cities along the area of Massachusetts known as the South Coast (along with Fall River).

New Bedford Harbor


Immigration to New Bedford

North Congregational Church, Purchase Street, 1906
North Congregational Church, Purchase Street, 1906

Prior to 1800, New Bedford and its surrounding communities were, by and large, populated by Protestants of English, Scottish, and Welsh origin. During the first half of the nineteenth century, however, a large wave of Irish people came to Massachusetts. In 1818, Irish immigrants established the Catholic mission that built St. Mary's Church. Later in that century, immigrants from Portugal and its dependent territories of the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira began arriving in New Bedford and the surrounding area, largely because of the whaling industry. As the Portuguese community began to increase, they established the first Portuguese parish in the city, St. John the Baptist (1871). The French (chiefly French-Canadian) also secured a foothold in New Bedford at about the same time, and they built the Church of the Sacred Heart in 1877. Similarly, Polish-Americans established the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1903. A number of Jewish families, arriving in the late 19th century, were active in the whaling industry, selling provisions and outfitting ships. During the years leading up to the First World War, a sizable eastern-European Jewish community joined them in New Bedford, many of whom became prominent merchants


As of the 2006-07 academic year, the New Bedford school district, under the direction of Superintendent Michael Longo, is one of several in Massachusetts labeled as "underperforming" under the state's MCAS guidelines.[12] The school system, like that of nearby Fall River, is also in the process of major school upgrades and consolidations, having rebuilt several of its schools in recent years. The most recent, Keith Middle School, made headlines for the problems involved in the cleanup of the polluted ground soil on the site.

The school district, headquartered in the former high school building on County Street, is made up of twenty-eight schools, including:

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

High School
New Bedford High School is one of the largest high schools in the state. The school's athletic teams are named the "Whalers," in honor of the city's whaling legacy. Their teams wear red and white, and compete in the MIAA's Division I. The athletics teams have always been fairly dominant in regional and state competitions, especially, in recent years, the football and men's basketball teams. Additionally, the school has an award-winning drama club and marching band. The marching band has been successful in recent years, having won several regional and state championships. The school fight song, "On, New Bedford!," is sung to the tune of "On, Wisconsin!." Traditionally, New Bedford High School has had an intense rivalry with Fall River's B.M.C. Durfee High School. Their Thanksgiving Day match-up has been played over one hundred times.

Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School

New Bedford is also the home to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, a large vocational high school serving New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven. Its teams are called the "Bears," and wear green and gold.


Other Public Schools In addition, the school operates an alternative junior-senior high school, West Side High School, out of the original New Bedford Vocational High School building. There is also a charter school, the Global Learning Charter School, which serves grades 6-12.

Other Schools
There are seven Catholic schools within the city. Many of the students who attend these schools go on to attend Bishop Stang High School in neighboring Dartmouth. There are also two preschools and the Nazarene Christian Academy, a school operated by the Church of the Nazarene. The city also is the site of the marine campus of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (located at Fort Rodman) as well as its satellite visual art campus located in the former Star Store building downtown.

Closed Schools Two Catholic high schools closed recently: Saint Anthony High in 1978, and Holy Family High School, which closed in 1984. Both schools were small in registrations but were considered by some to be influential in New Bedford's 20th century culture.


As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 93,768 people, 38,178 households, and 24,090 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,799/km² (4,660/mi²). There were 41,511 housing units at an average density of 797/km² (2,063/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.86% White, 4.39% African American, 0.62% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 9.51% from other races, and 5.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.21% of the population. The ethnic makeup of the city is 38.6% Portuguese, 9.1% French, 8.0% Cape Verdean, 7.9% Irish, 7.3% English, and 7.1% Puerto Rican.

New Bedford is the Seventh largest city in the state of Massachusetts. The city and its metropolitan area is officially a part of the Providence metropolitan area. There were 38,178 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.5% were married couples living together, 18.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,569, and the median income for a family was $35,708. Males had a median income of $31,388 versus $22,278 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,602. About 17.3% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.1% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.


View of ships docked at New Bedford.
View of ships docked at New Bedford.

Fishing and manufacturing continue to be two of the largest businesses in the area, and healthcare has become a major employer. The three largest single employers based in New Bedford are Southcoast Hospitals Group, one of the top ten employers in Massachusetts (healthcare), Titleist (miscellaneous manufacturing), and Riverside Manufacturing (apparel manufacturing).

While accurate figures are hard to come by, tourism appears to be a growing industry. New Bedford tourism centers on fairs and festivals including the Summerfest Folk Music and Arts Festival, the traditional Blessing of the Fleet, and the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (the largest Portuguese cultural celebration in the nation). Tourism also focuses on the historic whaling industry, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is the only national park unit that focuses on the whaling industry's impact on the history of the United States.

According to a 2001 study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, the three largest employment sectors in the Greater New Bedford area (the area includes New Bedford and Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Wareham) were as follows: services (26% of total employment); wholesale trade (22%); manufacturing (19%). The largest industries by employment in the area were as follows: health services, eating and drinking places, wholesale trade, food stores, and social services.

In 2002, the city received $61,194,358 in taxation revenue, $44,536,201 in local receipts, and $12,044,152 classified as other available.

In 2005 the unemployment rate was 7.3%, having dropped throughout the 1990s from 12.5% to 5.3% in 2000, and then having risen to 10.4% in 2003.

In 2005, the city received $104,925,772 for education, and $22,755,439 for general government from the State of Massachusetts.


New Bedford has had a sporadic history of successful musicians. During the 1970s, the Tavares, a soul music group made up of five brothers from New Bedford, became a chart topping success with such songs as "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" and "More Than a Woman". In 1999, the pop group LFO (Lyte Funky Ones), whose group member Harold "Devin" Lima is from New Bedford, had a hit single with their song "Summer Girls". Most recently, the hardcore punk band A Wilhelm Scream has gained some success, having been added to the 2005 Warped Tour lineup. Josh Newton of From Autumn To Ashes is a New Bedford native.

In 2002, the movie Passionada was filmed in New Bedford, making it the first film to be shot in the city in 45 years. Previously, film director John Huston shot a scene for the movie adaptation of Moby-Dick in front of Seamen's Bethel in 1956. However, all other exterior shots for New Bedford in the film were shot in Youghal instead.


  • Official web site of the City of New Bedford
  • Official web site of New Bedford's Mayor Scott W. Lang
  • New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • Portuguese Feast of the Blessed Sacrament
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  • Southeastern Regional Transit Authority

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