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city, Middlesex county, northeastern Massachusetts, U.S. It lies along the Mystic River just north of Boston. It was founded in 1630, when Mathew Cradock settled a plantation there; its English place-name is descriptive of a "middle ford." Farming and fishing were early enterprises. Shipbuilding in Medford began in 1631 with Blessing of the Bay, one of the first oceangoing ships to be built in America. Later, the city's merchants were active in the triangular trade by which rum made from West Indian sugar was traded for African slaves, who in turn were sold to the West Indies. Medford's economy is now based on services and trade. It is the site of Tufts University, founded in 1852. Several colonial buildings are preserved, including the Isaac Royall House, which was built in the 1730s, and the 17th-century houses of Jonathan Wade and Peter Tufts. The Mystic River Reserve is a popular area for fishing and hiking. Inc. town, 1695; city, 1892. Pop. (1990) 57,407; (2000) 55,765.