New Bedford – The 19th Century American Whaling Capital

Last week we mentioned that Nantucket didn’t dominate the market for the entire era of American Whaling. In fact, during the “Golden Age” of American Whaling, the port city of New Bedford got the place of prominence in money making and records. And there was a reason for it’s nickname “whaling capital of the world.”

Today, we’ll learn a little more about this town and its influence┬áin the whaling world. Continue reading

Whales, Nantucket Island, & The Quakers

Last week we talked about the earliest beginnings of the American whaling industry during the Colonial Period, including off-shore whaling. At the end of that blog post, I promised to spend the next article in the series discussing Nantucket and the Quakers.

I don’t know about you, but for some strange reason I thought Nantucket was the only place where whalers lived and whale ships sailed from. I’m not even sure how I got to that conclusion, but it was sure wrong. (I can already see the New Bedfordians and Bostonians coming after me – run!)

Now, seriously, Nantucket Island was not the only only whaling homeport, but it was incredibly influential – particularly during the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Fascinatingly, Nantucket Island became a society created, influenced, and driven by the whaling industry. Today, we’ll take a closer look at that culture and it’s farther reaching influences on the American whaling industry in the 19th Century.

Continue reading

The Earliest American Whaling

The earliest American whaling on the east coast. Let’s be sure to clarify the location!

This month Gazette665’s Wednesday blog posts will continue to explore whaling in 19th Century maritime, and we’ll be tracing some of the developments and communities surrounding the industry. To start understanding the complex picture, today we’ll journey back to the foundations of American whaling – back to the 1600 and 1700’s and delve into the early attempts which laid the ground work for the late 18th and early 19th Century’s activities. Continue reading

Whaling: Oil & “Bone” – Making A Profit

In the last few weeks, I’ve vaguely referred to whale oil and the profits made through a successful 19th Century whaling voyage. Now it’s time to get a little more specific. After-all, a two year voyage, all that hard work of whale hunting, and the trip home should have been worth something.

It was. In fact, the industry was so profitable that the hunting continued endlessly, in an attempt to supply the market with the raw materials.

Today, we’re going to talk a little about the numbers and monetary value of the whaling industry. It’s not an attempt to justify over-hunting or glorify the pain and suffering; rather, it’s an attempt to understand why this was acceptable in the past. Continue reading

Whaling: Hunters & Hunted

We can’t talk about historical whaling without talking about the the hunt. A whale ship and crew often made a lengthy voyage, searching for whale pods. What happened when they sighted their prey and their fortune?

Today, we’ll explore the chase, battle, and aftermath of whale hunting from a historical, mid-19th Century perspective. We’ll also discover that the whales weren’t always the victims; sometimes, the hunted became the hunter. Continue reading

A Whaling Voyage

We’re launching into our blog feature on American whaling during the 19th Century. (Catch the introduction here, if you missed it!) And it seems the best place to begin is at the beginning of a voyage.

Whale hunting was an industry – a business – in 19th Century America. Ship owners intended to make a profit on the whale oil brought home. However, sending a whale ship to sea was a risky venture. Unlike a merchant ship that would sail quietly along, ideally weathering the storms, and (hopefully) return with a profitable cargo and no lives lost, a whale ship was like a battleship.

Sending a whaling ship to sea was almost a game of chance or like betting on a gladiatorial combat. The captain, crew, and sometimes the ship itself would fight the largest known animals on the planet. It would be a struggle for life and death between two foes – one, massive and powerful, the other, armed with small, deadly metal implements and long, long ropes.

Today’s blog post focuses on getting a whale ship to sea and its voyage to the hunting grounds. Though I’m certainly thankful that whaling isn’t a common practice anymore, it was a fascinating chapter in American maritime and business. Continue reading