This Week in Nantucket History

On This Day in Natnucket History CoverNantucketer Amy Jenness shares her research on what happened On This Day In Nantucket History one day at a time for the past seven days. These excerpts offer up quirky and fascinating stories of the people and events that shaped this remote island. Check the NHA home page each day to catch up on what happened today in Nantucket history.

Excerpts from On This Day In Nantucket History
By Amy Jenness
The History Press


  • April 17, 1917
    In 1917, the Navy League of Massachusetts sent a letter to state residents, which was published in the Inquirer & Mirror. It said, “The American flag has been fired upon only a short distance from the shores of the United States by a German submarine – the first act of war on this side of the Atlantic."
  • April 16, 1944
    A German submarine located south of Nantucket torpedoed the Pan Pennsylvania.
  • April 15, 1838
    Nantucket public high school opened in 1838 with 59 students and Cyrus Peirce as its first principal.
  • April 14, 1912
    Matt Tierney was working the night shift at the Marconi wireless station in ‘Sconset in 1912 when he heard a faint distress signal from the Titanic. He relayed the message to New York and then worked for four days straight, relaying other messages that provided key information about the survivors of the ocean liner tragedy. 
  • April 13, 1918
    The military architects of World War I used patrol planes to spot German submarines. Stationed at Naval Air Station in Chatham, the first hydroplane landed in Nantucket harbor near Commercial Wharf on this day in 1918. 
  • April 12, 1699
    While some sources list Elihu Coleman's birthday as February 12th, it is possible that his birthday was in fact this day, April 12th. This is because before 1753, Quakers used a calendar in which March was the first month of the year, meaning April, not February, would be the second month. Elihu was born on Nantucket, a predominantly Quaker island.
  • April 11, 1825
    In 1825, a classified advertisement in the newspaper referred to the African School for the first time, an indication that the African Meetinghouse was used as a school and a church from the time it was built in 1824.
  • April 10, 1850
    Fourteen-year-old James Athearn Folger and his two older brothers left Panama City on board the Pacific mail steamer Isthmus. They were headed for California to strike it rich in gold.

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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