The Athens of America

Charles Swift discovers that Google Books has posted a PDF of the 1886 Bacon's Dictionary of Boston (31-megabyte download). Among other things, it defines "Athens of America" - and interestingly, the original meaning had nothing to do with all our colleges and alleged erudition:

The epithet applied to Boston for many years, often in irony it must be confessed; of which the origin seems to be in one of the letters of William Tudor, describing the city in 1819, in which he says, "This town is perhaps the most perfect and certainly the best-regulated democracy that ever existed. There is something so impossible in the immortal fame of Athens, that the very name makes everything modern shrink from comparison; but since the days of that glorious city, I know of none that has approached so near in some points, distant as it may still be from that illustrious model."