How long has there been steamboat service to Nantucket from the mainland?

In 1818 the Eagle was the first steamboat to cross Nantucket Sound. In 1828 the Hamilton visited Nantucket but was too underpowered to be put into regular service. The Connecticut also made an unsuccessful visit to Nantucket in 1828. In 1829 the Marco Bozzaris, built for a Nantucket investor, went into service between New Bedford and Nantucket. All of these vessels were wood-burning. An attempt to convert the Marco Bozzaris to burning coal was unsuccessful, and she ended her service in 1832.

That same year the Nantucket Steamboat Company put the Telegraph into passenger service between New Bedford and Nantucket. The Telegraph employed John, an African-American fiddler, to distract passengers from anxiety about rough seas or the potential for catastrophic boiler explosion. In 1842 the company added the Massachusetts. In addition to providing passenger service, both vessels provided towing for ships in the “camels” crossing the sandbar at the mouth of Nantucket Harbor. The Telegraph and the Massachusetts were wood-burning.

The Island Home, delivered in 1855, was the first coal-powered steamboat serving Nantucket. Outfitted with marble-top tables, mirrors, velvet upholstery, and stewardesses attending in the ladies’ cabin, she was a luxurious vessel. The Island Home ran between Hyannis and Nantucket, and another steamer, the Eagle’s Wing, took over the New Bedford-Nantucket route.

Later in the 1800s the island was served by the steamers Monohansett, River Queen, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The first Uncatena was also a steamboat.

The names of these vessels were re-used for newer-style steamboats such as the Nobska (re-named the Nantucket for many years) and the Martha’s Vineyard. The later Uncatena was not even a steamer.

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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