Braintree was the birthplace of presidents John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, as well as statesman John Hancock. Gen. Sylvanus Thayer, the "father of West Point", was also born in the town. The academy, conceived in 1871 at the bequest of General Thayer, who was also founder of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, was established in 1877.
Braintree was also the site of the internationally famous/infamous case in which Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian-born American anarchists, were controversially convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920 armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree. They were convicted and executed.