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 in 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.

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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

Whaling: An Introduction & A Statement

We’re transitioning into the next three month subject in our series on 19th Century American Maritime. Whaling.

Realizing this can be a debatable subject, I thought it might be good to clarify why I’m choosing to write about it, explain my views, and detail the types of blog posts you’ll see in the coming weeks. I hope you find the history fascinating while, at the same time, realizing that it was harmful and dangerous maritime industry which is no longer practiced in modern America. Continue reading

Colonial Maritime Trade

19th-century-american-maritimeContinuing with our examination of the American maritime origins, the Colonial era stands as important time in the development of the trade routes, maritime industries, and the regional industry differences of the United States. (But remember – it’s not the United States yet. It’s still just the Thirteen Colonies.)

Colonists arrived in American by ship. Ocean going vessels remained their connection with the mother country – England – and a link to European culture, society, and…stuff. Throughout the colonial era, more Europeans continued to arrive; cities were built, usually near good harbors. The Atlantic bordered all the colonies, making it a relatively easy avenue for transportation. Trade routes made triangular shapes across the Atlantic, supplying European markets with raw materials and bringing back manufactured goods or slaves. However, toward the end of the Colonial Era, those trade routes and independence of the harbor cities would open contention between America and England.

Today’s blog post looks at facets of maritime history in the Colonial era: inter-colony transportation, triangular trade routes, fishing (and whaling), and the mercantile theory. Continue reading