The Gerrymander Plaque

Boston, Massachusetts
The Gerrymander Plaque in Boston marks the spot where Governor Gerry hatched a plan to redraw electoral districts to favor his party in 1812.
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About This Location

Hidden in plain sight on the outer wall of a downtown establishment in Boston lies a modest plaque marking the birthplace of an enduring political tactic. It was here, on a fateful night in 1812, that then-Governor Elbridge Gerry, along with state Senator Israel Thorndike, hatched a plan to redraw electoral districts to favor their party’s interests.

The scheme, which involved carving out convoluted, contorted districts to consolidate power, quickly gained infamy. Dubbed the “gerrymander” after a caricatured depiction resembling a wiggly salamander, this term became synonymous with the manipulation of electoral boundaries for political gain. Despite its dubious origins, President James Madison saw merit in the plan, elevating Gerry to the vice presidency later that year.

Fast forward over two centuries, and gerrymandering remains a contentious issue in American politics. The plaque, adorning a building on the corner of Arch and Summer Streets, serves as a somber reminder of this enduring legacy.

The unveiling ceremony for the plaque was a poignant affair, attended by descendants of the architects of the gerrymander. As the green sign, adorned with the original Boston Gazette political cartoon, was revealed, it stirred a mix of emotions among those present.

Elbert Gerry Jr., great-great-great grandson of Elbridge Gerry, took a moment to challenge the historical narrative surrounding his ancestor. He highlighted Gerry’s distinguished contributions to the nation, from signing the Declaration of Independence to representing the country in diplomatic affairs.

Despite the somber undertones of the event, there were moments of levity. Elbert Gerry Jr. humorously addressed the perpetual mispronunciation of the family name, emphasizing the hard “g” sound. When asked about continuing the family’s political legacy, he quipped, “No, too old for it.”

The plaque reads:

The Gerrymander

Near this site stood the home of 
state senator Israel Thorndike, a 
merchant and privateers. During 
a visit here in 1812 by Governor 
Elbridge Gerry, an electoral 
district was oddly redrawn to 
provide advantage to the party 
in office.

Shaped by political intent rather than any natural 
boundaries, its appearance resembled a salamander. 
A frustrated member of the opposition party called it 
a gerrymander, a term still in use today.

Location

Address: 25 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.354558, -71.058844
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.354558, -71.058844
Parking Notes: Public parking is located right in front of the plaque on Arch Street and on Summer Street as well.

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