Nantucket and the Carter Family

Three generations of the Carter family. Left to right: Mabel Pugh Carter, Isabel Carter Johnston Stewart, Florence Carter Johnston Smith, and Isabel Carter Dackrey, circa 1920s. SC445.

Florence Carter Johnston Smith was a school teacher and entrepreneur. She and her sister Isabel ran a to-go lunch business on Nantucket during the summers called “Florabel Carter’s Boxed Lunch.” At first, the sisters ran the business out of their home, but later, they moved the shop to 23 Federal Street. For 90 cents, customers received a sandwich, cole-slaw and a brownie.

Florence and Isabel grew up largely in Philadelphia and were introduced to Nantucket by their mother, Mabel (Pugh) Carter, a talented dressmaker who first came to the island in 1925 to sew for summer residents. According to Frances Karttunen’s “The Other Islanders: People who pulled Nantucket’s oars,” Mabel was drawn to Nantucket’s beaches because they reminded her of her childhood home in North Carolina. She and her husband, John Carter, decided to build a house, Windsor Cottage, on the island so that their daughters could escape crowded, hot Philadelphia during the summer months.

The Carters’ home was the first black-owned summer residence on Nantucket. Their house offered a community space for black college students and summer visitors, who were turned away from white-owned and dominated spaces.


The Carter family and friends at the Windsor Cottage, ca. 1926. SC439-22g.
Windsor Cottage, 58 Prospect Street, ca. the 1930s. SC642-11-4.

Photos is courtesy of Isabel Stewart.

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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