Nantucket in New England

Monday, 23 March 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

© Don Ramey Logan/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Don Ramey Logan/cc-by-sa-4.0

Nantucket is an island about 30 miles (50 km) by ferry south from Cape Cod, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the Town of Nantucket, and the conterminous Nantucket County. Part of the town is designated the Nantucket CDP, or census-designated place. The region of Surfside on Nantucket is the southernmost settlement in Massachusetts. The name “Nantucket” is adapted from similar Algonquian names for the island, perhaps meaning “faraway land or island” or “sandy, sterile soil tempting no one.” Nantucket is a tourist destination and summer colony. Due to tourists and seasonal residents, the population of the island increases to at least 50,000 during the summer months. The average sale price for a single-family home was $2.3 million in the first quarter of 2018. The National Park Service cites Nantucket, designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966, as being the “finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town.”

In October 1641, William, Earl of Stirling, deeded the island to Thomas Mayhew of Watertown, Massachusetts Bay. In 1659 Mayhew sold an interest in the island to nine other purchasers, reserving 1/10th of an interest for himself, “for the sum of thirty pounds … and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife.” Each of the ten original owners was allowed to invite one partner. There is some confusion about the identity of the first twenty owners, partly because William Pile did not choose a partner, and sold his interest to Richard Swain, which was subsequently divided between John Bishop and the children of George Bunker. Anxious to add to their number and to induce tradesmen to come to the island, the total number of shares were increased to twenty-seven. The original purchasers needed the assistance of tradesmen who were skilled in the arts of weaving, milling, building and other pursuits and selected men who were given half a share provided that they lived on Nantucket and carried on their trade for at least three years. By 1667, twenty-seven shares had been divided among 31 owners. Nantucket’s settlement by the English did not begin in earnest until 1659, when Thomas Mayhew sold his interest to a group of investors, led by Tristram Coffin. The “nine original purchasers” were Tristram Coffin, Peter Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swain, Thomas Barnard, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swain and William Pike. These men are considered the founding fathers of Nantucket, and many islanders are related to these families. Seamen and tradesmen began to populate Nantucket, such as Richard Gardner (arrived 1667) and Capt. John Gardner (arrived 1672), sons of Thomas Gardner.

Pacific Club Nantucket © DanielPenfield/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Don Ramey Logan/cc-by-sa-4.0 © flickr.com - Tim Sackton/cc-by-sa-2.0 Nantucket-Bobak_Ha'Eri-cc-by-sa-2.5 Great Point Light © Arwcheek Main Street © Andre Carrotflower/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Pacific Club Nantucket © DanielPenfield/cc-by-sa-4.0
In his 1835 history of Nantucket Island, Obed Macy wrote that in the early pre-1672 colony, a whale of the kind called “scragg” entered the harbor and was pursued and killed by the settlers. This event started the Nantucket whaling industry. A. B. Van Deinse points out that the “scrag whale”, described by P. Dudley in 1725 as one of the species hunted by early New England whalers, was almost certainly the gray whale, which has flourished on the west coast of North America in modern times with protection from whaling. Nantucket’s dependence on trade with England, derived from its whaling and supporting industries, influenced its leading citizens to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War, favoring neither the British nor those supporting revolution. Herman Melville commented on Nantucket’s whaling dominance in Moby-Dick, Chapter 14: “Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires”. The Moby-Dick characters Ahab and Starbuck are both from Nantucket. The tragedy that inspired Melville to write his famous novel Moby-Dick was the Final Voyage of the Essex. By 1850, whaling was in decline, as Nantucket’s whaling industry had been surpassed by that of New Bedford. The island suffered great economic hardships, worsened by the “Great Fire” of July 13, 1846, that, fueled by whale oil and lumber, devastated the main town, burning some 40 acres (16 hectares). The fire left hundreds homeless and poverty-stricken, and many people left the island. Another contributor to the decline was the silting up of the harbor, which prevented large whaling ships from entering and leaving the port, unlike New Bedford, which still owned a deep water port. In addition, the development of railroads made mainland whaling ports, such as New Bedford, more attractive because of the ease of transshipment of whale oil onto trains, an advantage unavailable to an island. The American Civil War dealt the death blow to the island’s whaling industry, as virtually all of the remaining whaling vessels were destroyed by Confederate commerce raiders.

As a result of this depopulation, the island was left under-developed and isolated until the mid-20th century. The isolation kept many of the pre-Civil War buildings intact and, by the 1950s, enterprising developers began buying up large sections of the island and restoring them to create an upmarket destination for wealthy people in the Northeastern United States. In the 1960s, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard considered seceding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which they tried in 1977, unsuccessfully. The secession vote was sparked by a proposed change to the Massachusetts Constitution that reduced the islands’ representation in the Massachusetts General Court.

Nantucket has several noted museums and galleries, including the Maria Mitchell Association and the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Nantucket is home to both visual and performing arts.The island has been an art colony since the 1920s, whose artists have come to capture the natural beauty of the island’s landscapes and seascapes, including its flora and the fauna. Noted artists who have lived on or painted in Nantucket include Frank Swift Chase and Theodore Robinson. Artist Rodney Charman was commissioned to create a series of paintings depicting the marine history of Nantucket, which were collected in the book Portrait of Nantucket, 1659–1890: The Paintings of Rodney Charman in 1989. Herman Melville based his narrative in Moby Dick on the Nantucket whaling industry. The island is the site of a number of festivals, including a book festival, wine and food festival, comedy festival, daffodil festival, and a cranberry festival.

Read more on Town & County of Nantucket, Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, massvacation.com – Nantucket, Wikivoyage Nantucket and Wikipedia Nantucket (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.










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