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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 highlight an exciting new acquisition to the collection, Herman Melville’s copy of Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket.

This book is believed to be the sole surviving souvenir from Herman Melville’s first and only trip to Nantucket. It is a first edition of Obed Macy’s 1835 History of Nantucket, given by Obed’s son Thomas to Melville. The title-page inscription reads, “Herman Melville / from his friend Tho. A Macy 7 1/m 1852”. Scattered pencil markings throughout the book are probably by Melville.

Herman Melville visited Nantucket just once, eight months after the U.S. publication of his novel Moby-Dick. He accompanied his father-in-law, Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, who had court business on island. “I wish [Herman] to see some of the gents at New Bedford & Nantucket connected with whaling,” Shaw wrote beforehand.

Judge Shaw knew Thomas Macy from previous island visits. Significantly, in 1851, Shaw had acquired a copy of Owen Chase’s Narrative of the Essex disaster from Macy to give to Melville while Melville was writing Moby-Dick. The Essex story was essential inspiration for the novel, and Melville appears to have worked from various second-hand accounts prior to obtaining Chase’s book. Naturally, Melville and Shaw called on Macy during their visit, and the gift of this book resulted.

Gift of the Friends of the NHA, RL2022.32.

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This Giving Tuesday, support the NHA!

Gifts to the Annual Fund support every aspect of the NHA and allow the organization to fulfill its mission through outreach and collaborations.

Every Gift Counts!

Donate today by clicking the link in our bio, visiting, or calling 508-228-1894.

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Happy Thanksgiving week from the NHA!

Pictured here is a watercolor by Tony Sarg, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, with a scene of a turkey being surrounded by Thanksgiving and Christmas symbols.

Tony Sarg (1880-1942) was known popularly for his work as a puppeteer, illustrator, toymaker, window designer, and creator of the original Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Sarg began coming to Nantucket with New York friends in the early 1920s, and purchased a home on North Liberty Street in 1922.

Gift of William Baird, 1984.150.5.

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It’s a busy week of holiday travel! We are wishing everyone safe trips to and from the island.

Pictured here is steamboat Nantucket, a side paddlewheel steamer that was in service to Nantucket between 1886 and 1910. It measured 629 tons and was 190 feet long. The steamboat was beautifully decorated, with the paddle boxes having painted half-circle designs and with copper fastenings. However, it was not designed for travel on the rough waters of the sound.

If you are on island and looking for an inside activity to warm up, stop on down to the Festival of Wreaths at the Whaling Museum (open 10am-4pm) and FREE for all to enjoy! With over 90 community-craft wreaths and a special display of Home for the Holidays, a collection of over 200 mini stained glass houses, it is the perfect way to spend your time this holiday week.

Photo was a gift of Betty and Gardner MacDonald, gpn4031.

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In the log of the ship Mariner, George F. Folger recorded daily entries on the progress of a whaling voyage to the South Pacific from 1840–1844 and included notes on the weather, whales taken, and accidents, as well as sketches of birds, musical instruments, and people.

Learn more about the adventures of the Mariner and enjoy Folger’s drawings by transcribing a few pages of the log -link in story!

Please reach out to Ashley Miller, Assistant Archivist, at with any questions.

Log 143, Log of the ship Mariner, in the Ships' Logs Collection, NHA.

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This stereograph of a floral wreath from our collection is getting us excited about the Festival of Wreaths opening this Saturday, November 19, at the Whaling Museum.

Admission to the Festival of Wreaths is FREE to all, and visitors are encouraged to explore over 90 community-crafted wreaths and bid on their favorite to take home at the end of the Festival (closing November 26). From traditionally decorated greens to unconventional arrangements, the Festival of Wreaths truly captures the creativity of Nantucketers!

Visitors, on-site and remote, can bid on their favorite wreaths in an online auction to benefit our year-round outreach efforts.

▪️On display: November 19–26
▪️Open, Mon-Sat, 10 am-4 pm
▪️Closed Thanksgiving day
▪️FREE for All

Join us for an Evening Celebration:
Friday, November 25, 5-7 pm

Stereograph from Josiah Freeman Studio, sg25005.

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Pictured here is a clothesline winder made by Valentine Starbuck Riddell (1817-1876).

Riddell was captain of the whaleship Japan on its successful 1845–49 voyage, which returned 1,199 barrels of spermaceti, 456 barrels of whale oil, and 5,000 pounds of whalebone (baleen). He was the namesake of Captain Valentine Starbuck, the Nantucket master who in 1824 escorted the king and queen of Hawaii to England on the ship L’Aigle of London for an audience with King George IV.

Captain Riddell made this remarkable clothesline reel during the cruise of the Japan sometime between 1845 and 1849. A unique piece of folk art, this impromptu laundry device was crafted in part from the durable and easily shaped material of whalebone (from the jawbone of the whale—not to be confused with baleen, also known in the period as “whalebone”), which had no commercial value to the whalemen, and was therefore readily available for inventive carpentry projects such as this. The reel is fashioned with a whalebone handle, gear and latch, and shaped ends, set into a frame of green painted pine stamped on the front with the initials “V. S. Riddell.” It descended in the household of Riddell’s sister Harriet and her husband, the well-known whaling captain Albert Wood (who survived falling into the jaws of a sperm whale), and once hung on the side of their 29 India Street home.

Gift of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association, 1989.126.1.

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Love Pollard Parker (1800–1897) was one of eight siblings; her older brother George was captain of the Essex, sunk by a whale in 1820.

She and her husband Robert F. Parker ran several island hostelries; after his death, she personally conducted the Atlantic House in ’Sconset and other boarding houses on island and in Boston. She was the organist of the Unitarian Church and secretary of the Ladies’ Howard Society, a relief fund for the poor.

In whaling-era Nantucket, women worked most commonly in the home or on farms. This labor was unpaid but essential to the prosperity and survival of the community. When women participated in the paid labor market, it was generally as weavers, seamstresses, teachers, clerks, shopkeepers, and boarding house and tavern operators—occupations that extended the family economy into the public sphere. The number of female island business proprietors was modest, perhaps 3–5% of the total. The women-run retail district on Centre Street (known as Petticoat Row) was an entirely post–Civil War institution, which developed in the 1860s and lasted into the 1930s. It comprised between two and twelve businesses at a time and involved about thirty female proprietors in all.

Even with large numbers of island men traveling the globe by the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was no shortage of men at home. While whaling created conditions that led some island women to enter the commercial sphere, it was actually the economic and population disruptions that followed the collapse of whaling that brought Nantucket women into the paid workforce in significant numbers.

See this portrait currently on display in the Whaling Museum’s exhibition, Island People: Portraits and Stories from Nantucket.

Painting by William Swain (1803–1847). Gift of Harriet A. Chase, 1927.1.1.

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It’s a beautiful day to be out on the water! Boats dredging for scallops circa 1950.


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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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