Virtual NHA

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During these unprecedented times, the Nantucket Historical Association is sharing digital resources weekly to enrich the lives of our members and friends at home through video lectures, kids activity kits, our transcription program, history articles and more! All the information in our newsletters is being gleaned from the resources presented below. We hope you’ll dive in, enjoy, and give your mind a rest from thinking about today’s challenges.

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Today we share another house history for 8 Chester Street.

Decorated with flags and bunting most likely for the 1895 Centennial of Nantucket celebration, this elaborate house was built by Edward G. Thomas, circa 1892. Mr. Thomas, born in 1858, worked for the H. Paddack & Co. paint store located at the foot of Main Street. He started as a young man and later became a partner in the business in 1904.

He married Florence Chase, both of Nantucket in 1880. He was one of the Directors of the Nantucket Union Store, and an Officer of the Nantucket Institution for Savings, and the Pacific Bank, as well as a member of the Masonic Lodge.

Although the house, recently known as The Centerboard guest house, had the tower removed it is still a grand structure. In fact, singer Carly Simon, from the Big Island (Martha’s Vineyard) honeymooned there, as part of her wedding trip in 1988.

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Look closely and zoom in! Notice anything interesting about this portrait of Peter Ewer (1800-55)?

Painted by William Swain (1803-47), originally of Newburyport, he was the most prolific and sought-after portrait painter on Nantucket during the second quarter of the nineteen century. He established his first studio here in 1824 and worked on island until his death in 1847.

Swain’s portrait of Ewer presents his sitter’s remarkable four-pointed diamond tattoo. The exact origin of the tattoo is unknown. It has been conjectured that the twenty-five-year-old Ewer may have acquired the tattoo on a whaling voyage, perhaps on his father’s whaleships, but no record of such a voyage exists. The diamond-like figure in the middle of Ewer’s brow resembles the Southern Cross, the ever-present cluster of stars in the southern latitudes.

Later owners of the painting had the tattoo painted over, not to be discovered until conservation on the painting was undertaken in 1997.

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Distant view of Great Point Lighthouse with an abandoned dingy in the foreground, circa 1960s.

This historic photo and many others are now available to purchase as a print in our online museum shop-click the link in our story to shop and explore!

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Don’t miss out! This is the last week to view our partner exhibit with @ackartists on display in the Whaling Museum McCausland gallery.

An Island Seen: The Artists Association of Nantucket and the Women Who Built It celebrates the 75th anniversary of AAN’s founding.

From the early days of the Art Colony the AAN has been overwhelmingly the province of talented, ambitious women, in the tradition of Nantucket’s whaling wives. The women who built the AAN were running businesses, purchasing and protecting historic and arts-focused properties, funding and leading non-profit operations, identifying teachers and mentors, acting as patrons and collectors and, above all, painting their vision of the island and its residents.

This exhibit is a long look into the storehouses of Nantucket art, showing works rarely seen and exploring a long, successful chapter of Nantucket history. It celebrates the hard work, time and treasure committed by these extraordinary women, and the men that worked alongside them, to provide a safe haven for artistic expression on the island.

The Whaling Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm (closed Sundays). We hope to see you before this special exhibition closes!

Image: Painting: Arabesque, Elizabeth Saltonstall, courtesy Artists Association of Nantucket.

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Today we share another new and exciting acquisition to our collection, painting: Nantucket Harbor from the Southwest Looking Over Brant Point, 1972, by John Stobart.

Did you know ships were once built at Brant Point?

This painting depicts from left to right: Brant Point Lighthouse, the Brant Point Shipyard with an unnamed ship on the ways; the whaleship Ganges in the marine railway; Monomoy Point, in the distance; bark Atlas leaving port; Old South Wharf with two unnamed whaling barks and an unnamed schooner tied alongside; and the sloop Nancy, in the right foreground.

This painting is a preliminary version or study for a later painting by the same artist titled "Sailing Day, Nantucket, in 1841," which was published in an edition of prints in 1974.

See it now on display in the Candle Factory at the Whaling Museum!

Gift of James L. Dunlap, 2020.17.1.

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Scallop fleet at Old South Wharf, circa 1960s.

We hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather and recreational scalloping season.

Skipping the waders and looking for something to do? The Whaling Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm through this weekend (closed on Sundays). Our hours will shift to 10am-4pm starting next week, but remaining open daily, other than Sunday. Stop in and explore!

We also only have one more week of one of our featured exhibitions with our friends at @ackartists An Island Seen:The Artists Association of Nantucket and the Women Who Built It. It will be closing after Saturday, October 24. You don’t want to miss it!

Photo cred: Bill Haddon. PC-Straight-17.

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Melville gave his Pequod a diverse crew, mentioning 44 men from the U.S., northern and southern Europe, South America, Iceland, the Azores, China, and India. He epitomized this diversity in his four “harpooneers”: Queequeg the Pacific Islander, Dagoo the African, Fedallah the Indian “Parsee,” and Tashtego the Gay Head Native American. American whaling crews before the Civil War were in fact diverse, but never this diverse within a single voyage nor among the ranks of the boatsteerers (harpooners).

Nantucket whaling crews of the 1820s to the 1850s comprised of a mix of local and off-island men, mostly Americans but supplemented by Europeans and increasing numbers of Azoreans, Cape Verdeans, and Pacific Islanders over time. Nantucket whaleship masters were nearly always white men from Nantucket; the mates were often but not exclusively islanders. Because seasoned merchant mariners avoided the tedious and dirty life of whaling, the industry hired many landsmen and provided meaningful economic opportunities for otherwise marginalized workers, particularly Blacks, Native Americans, and poor whites.

White stereotypes cast Native Americans as natural hunters, which helped skilled men from the Mashpee and Gay Head Wampanoag communities advance to the ranks of boatsteerers and mates. Melville’s “wild Indian” Tashtego is a poor depiction of this core group of American whalemen.

Black men, both freemen and escaped slaves, often made up between 25 and 40 percent of Nantucket crews. While they earned nearly the same as their white shipmates, they were customarily excluded from specialized roles higher than cook and steward. Notable exceptions include Captain Absalom Boston and the all-Black crew of the Industry in 1822; Peter Green, who commanded the John Adams in 1823 after the captain died and a whale carried off the first mate; and the all-Black crew of the Loper, who harvested a remarkable 2,280 barrels of oil in just 14 months in 1829–30.

(Keep reading-continued in comments below).

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October in New England means spectacular fall colors and marvelous cranberries. In fact, cranberry cultivation began in Dennis Massachusetts in 1816, by Captain Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran.

The berries were picked by hand until the 1890s when the cranberry rake or scoop was invented. Screeners and sorting equipment soon followed, and in 1920 the first mechanical harvester was used. In the 1960s the current water harvesting and sprinkler systems came into use.

Did you know that the cranberry belongs to the heath family? That cranberries are 90 % water, but they do not grow in water. Only 5% of the crop is sold fresh. Best of all they bounce!

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Milestone cranberry bog was once known as the single largest bog in the world. Today they manage 232 acres of bogs. Although the annual Cranberry Festival has been cancelled this year, the Foundation is offering a two-and-a-half-mile cranberry harvest walking tour with advance reservations. The tour guide will discuss the history and challenges of growing “America’s Founding Fruit”. It’s an extremely enjoyable experience, and a fun thing to do this Columbus Day weekend! @ackconservation

Speaking of Cranberries. The Whaling Museum and Museum Shop are participating in @ackchamber annual Cranberry and Cobblestones shop local event this weekend, so be sure to stop in and earn an entry to win one of their many prizes! We will be open Friday and Saturday, 9am-5pm.

Photo: Cranberry Rake, circa 1980.

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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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