Source, via Bostonography.
What Boston is: The Hub of the Universe. First coined by writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, who actually referred to the State House as the hub of the solar system; for many years, a plaque in the sidewalk in front of Filene's downtown commemorated the exact center of the universe (Ed. note: As of April, 2015, the marker is back!). Actually, pretty much the only people who use the word anymore are headline writers looking for a short synonym for "Boston,'' as in the aprocryphal Globe headline:
2 Hub men die in blast;
New York also destroyed
Note: On 7/31/97, the Globe actually ran the following headline on the front page:
Wicked important note: Holmes did not utter the phrase as a compliment, as you can see from the passage in which he used the phrase:
A jaunty-looking person, who had come in with the young fellow they call John,--evidently a stranger,--said there was one more wise man's saying that he had heard; it was about our place, but he didn't know who said it.--A civil curiosity was manifested by the company to hear the fourth wise saying. I heard him distinctly whispering to the young fellow who brought him to dinner, Shall I tell it? To which the answer was, Go ahead!-- Well, he said,--this was what I heard:--
"Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system. You couldn't pry that out of a Boston man, if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crowbar."
Sir,--said I,--I am gratified with your remark. It expresses with pleasing vivacity that which I have sometimes heard uttered with malignant dulness. The satire of the remark is essentially true of Boston,--and of all other considerable--and inconsiderable--places with which I have had the privilege of being acquainted. Cockneys think London is the only place in the world. Frenchmen--you remember the line about Paris, the Court, the World, etc.--I recollect well, by the way, a sign in that city which ran thus: "Hotel de l'Univers et des Etats Unis"; and as Paris is the universe to a Frenchman, of course the United States are outside of it.--"See Naples and then die."--It is quite as bad with smaller places. I have been about, lecturing, you know, and have found the following propositions to hold true of all of them.
1. The axis of the earth sticks out visibly through the centre of each and every town or city.
2. If more than fifty years have passed since its foundation, it is affectionately styled by the inhabitants the "good old town of"----(whatever its name may happen to be.)
3. Every collection of its inhabitants that comes together to listen to a stranger is invariably declared to be a "remarkably intelligent audience."