Lighthouses: Lamps & Lenses

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about lighthouses along the U.S. coasts – New England, Middle Atlantic, Southern and Gulf, West, and Great Lakes. While we talked about architecture features, we didn’t focus on the absolute most important part of a lighthouse. In fact, take this factor away and you’d just have a building, just a house.

I’m talking about light. What produced the light and sent warning beams blazing into the darkness to warn or guide passing ships? That is today’s topic. Continue reading

The Golden Age & Decline Of American Whaling?

The mid-19th Century marks a “Golden Age” in the American whaling industry. Hundreds of ships roamed the seas, searching farther and farther for their valuable prey. Ironically, the “Golden Age” ended a decline. (See the chart at the end of this blog post.)

Today, we’ll explore some aspects of the high point in this maritime trade and the circumstances that started to curtail the hunt for whales. Continue reading

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

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