The Unemployable Herman Melville

After all this time, we are still learning a little more about Herman Melville’s decision to sign on a whaleship rather than to be “pent up in lath and plastertied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks” as Ishmael says in the first chapter of Moby-Dick, “Loomings.”

Melville had held many jobs . . .before then, perhaps as many as Ishmael, who in Chapter 104 of Moby-Dick facetiously presents his credentials as a geologist by listing outdoor or at least subterranean jobs: “. . . in my miscellaneous time I have been a stone-mason, and also a great digger of ditches, canals and wells, wine-vaults, cellars, and cisterns of all sorts.”

When Melville was twelve he had been put to work as a clerk in an Albany bank, and then two years later, in 1834, was taken out to clerk in his brother Gansevoort’s fur store there. Gansevoort lost the store in April 1837 at the start of the Panic, which stretched into a five-year depression. That summer, Herman ran the Melvill [Original spelling of the name.—Ed.] farm south of Pittsfield, presumably without pay, after his Uncle Thomas left for Galena, Illinois; then in the fall he taught in a country school in the Berkshires, nearby. After the term ended early in 1838, he may have held jobs that we do not know about.

We have no idea where Melville had been in a long stretch of time before 7 November 1838, when he arrived at the Melvilles’ new home, a cheap rented house in Lansingburgh, across the Hudson from Albany and a little north. There at the Lansingburgh Academy he took courses in surveying and engineering with the hope of getting a job on the Erie Canal (though the long-term benefits were from his literary papers and declamations, as scholar Dennis Marnon is finding). In April 1839 his uncle, Peter Gansevoort, recommended him to a Canal official in unenthusiastic terms: “He . . . submits his application, without any pretension & solicits any situation, however humble it may be” (Jay Leyda, The Melville Log [New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951], p. 83). No position, “however humble,” was forthcoming.

On 23 May, Melville’s mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville, wrote to Peter that “Herman has gone out for a few days on foot to see what he can find to do” (Log, p. 85), and the next day Gansevoort, who had been at home in Lansingburgh sick for several months, reported that Herman had “returned from his expedition, without success” (Log, p. 85). Leaving his mother frantic about unpaid bills, Gansevoort returned to New York, taking with him his brother Allan, the next younger after Herman, who had just quarreled with his employer, Uncle Peter, and left his law office. Gansevoort promptly wrote his mother that Herman should come down and sign on a “Vessel.” (Allan soon returned to work in a different Albany law office.)

In the first volume of my biography, I began chapter 8 this way: “On 31 May 1839 Gansevoort summoned Herman from Lansingburgh down to Manhattan, sure that he could get him on some sort of vessel, whaler or merchant” (Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography, 1819–1851 [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1996, p. 143]). That letter is known only from the reply Maria Melville wrote on 1 June for Herman to carry down to New York. On blank spaces of the letter, as William H. Gilman first pointed out in Melville’s Early Life and “Redburn” (New York: New York University Press, 1951, p. 128), Gansevoort plotted out the distances between New York and two Long Island whaling ports—Sag Harbor 109 miles away by the “lower road” and River Head 81 miles away by the “middle road” (p. 332). Gilman said that from the “figures that Gansevoort jotted down” it was “possible to conclude that Herman had some intention of going to sea as a whaleman” (p. 128). If so, he continued, Herman “was reasoned out of his folly.” Unlike Gilman, I take it that the brothers seriously considered Herman’s striking out across Long Island to a whaling port, perhaps “on foot” again. It seems to me likely that the brothers rationally considered the options, a whaleship or a merchant vessel. I speculated this way (p. 144): “Herman and Gansevoort weighed the possibilities with perturbation—the time, expense, and uncertainty of getting to the whaling ports influenced their decision to settle on a merchant ship sailing from Manhattan. Maybe in a few months’ time (rather than the years a whaling voyage might last) more jobs around Albany would be open.” Herman signed on a merchant ship for a voyage to Liverpool.

In “The Pacific,” chapter 111 of Moby-Dick, Ishmael declares “. . . the long supplication of my youth was answered,” on greeting that ocean. Perhaps Herman in the 1830s made such a supplication many a time, perhaps not, but after his return from Liverpool in 1839 his efforts to support himself (while not contributing to the support of his mothers, sister, and youngest brother) continued to be miserably unsuccessful. He found a teaching job at the Greenbush & Schodack Academy but was not able to pay his board because the school was not paying his salary. On 3 April 1840, Gansevoort summed things up as they then stood: “Herman is becoming more & more indebted for his board, & should he in the end be disappointed in receiving the sum that is due him for his winter services, will be so much the more difficult to pay” (Log, pp. 103–4). The Academy failed, without paying Herman all that he was owed, and he taught for a while at a school in Brunswick, northeast of Troy, but was not paid the six dollars he had earned.

Despite these disappointments, Herman did not yield to any longing to see the Pacific. He and a close friend, James M. (Eli) Fly, who for years had been Peter Gansevoort’s clerk, decided to follow his Uncle Thomas in making their careers in the American West, on the Mississippi. Why not? Wasn’t his uncle now a prominent citizen of the flourishing lead-mining town of Galena, Illinois? Of course Herman would not have written his uncle about his intention to visit him: the fun would be in surprising his uncle, aunt, and cousins.

We do not have a letter from Herman declaring that he was determined to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill. Happily, we do have explicit statements from his friend Fly, the letter he wrote his employer, Peter Gansevoort, on 2 June 1840 (Log, p. 105):

I have had, for some weeks past a very strong desire to try my fortune in the Western territories of this country.—I believe that a young man, with temperance & perseverance joined with my knowledge of the legal profession, will succeed much better in a new state, than in this . . . . I am aware that I am taking a very singular step, and it may be a fatal one,— but I am prepared for the worst. 

Around 4 June, Fly left Albany “for the West,” accompanied by Herman Melville. There is no reason to think that Herman did not share his friend’s “very strong desire” to try his fortune in the Western territories. They would make their fortunes together.

In 1840, Fly’s hopes for trying his fortune in the “Western territories” were dashed very rapidly, and that fall he took the bar exam in New York, as I mention later. Two and a half years later, on 25 January 1843, Fly wrote to Peter Gansevoort (Log, pp. 161–62): “In the Summer of 1840, I left you—whether wisely or not, time will determine—to act alone & for myself. Since that time I have had to struggle with many difficulties, incident to the life of a young attorney during the first few years in this City,—have been in trouble & in want, and am now just supporting myself by my profession—& nothing more.” In 1843, he wanted Peter’s help in gaining the appointment as “commissioner of Deeds” for New York City. Ironically and a little contemptuously, Peter declared that the request was beyond his power to fulfill (Log, p. 162): “Well, Fly, this is very pretty—mental perception—a real touch of abstract mathematics—but if you will doff your gown & slippers & step into the world of the metropolis—you will find 10 candidates for every vacancy who all booted & spurred with Petitions Letters &c have actively anticipated the fees of many months in a circuitous Journey to the Capitol & there have been encouraged by nothing more than a mere shake, of the Governors hand.”

Herman’s hopes to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill, also were dashed. Stanton Garner’s “The Picaresque Career of Thomas Melvill, Junior, Part II” (Melville Society Extracts, No. 62 [May 1985]) is the most detailed investigation of Melville’s uncle’s life in Galena. Sure that the Galena Melvills were prosperous and active in the town, Garner was a little perplexed that Thomas Melvill was not more involved in the raucous political campaign: “This summer a presidential campaign was in progress, though the part the major played in it, if any, was not prominent” (p. 6). The reason for Major Melvill’s not helping Herman find a job in Galena was not apparent to Garner.

Garner had found in a historical journal an account of the major’s being caught stealing from the till in his employer’s store. A daughter of Hezekiah Gear, the store owner, had put on record the appalling story replete with this quintessentially melodramatic dialogue (p. 8):

Thomas Melvill Jr: “Oh, Captain, spare me.”
Hezekiah Gear: “You must make some restitution.”
Thomas Melvill Jr: “I can’t, for the money is spent. It’s been going on for years.”
Hezekiah Gear: “There is nothing to do. I could send you to prison for life, but that would not bring back the money. [He pauses for a moment then continues.] Major, for the sake of your good family and for the sake of your gray hair, I’ll not punish you, but I never want to lay eyes on you again.”

Garner dated the incident to the summer of 1841. Since Herman had sailed for the Pacific in January 1841, Garner did not see the incident as having any significance for whatever occurred when Melville and his friend arrived in 1840 to make their fortunes in the West.

After I took over The New Melville Log in 1987, as Jay Leyda was dying, I needed to date Garner’s 1985 discovery so I could confidently place it in the Log. I inched through microfilms of unpublished letters in the Shaw Papers I had first handled in 1962. On 26 June 1840 Melvill wrote Shaw:

Here, as elsewhere, the effects of the policy & measures, of the past & present administrations, are most severely felt—Not the less so, for being more tardy— Few houses, doing business in 1834.5.6. & 7. have been able to withstand it. The one, with which I was, is among the Number. In March last, I found it necessary, and for the interest of both parties, to retire—& with some (to me,) considerable loss, or its equivalent, delay— You may have observed by the Papers—that I have made an agency establishment—which in the present state of things, seemed to be the only kind of business to which, I could turn my attention. . . .. . . such is the situation of this place at present, that money is almost unobtainable in any manner, or at any rate—It may be said, not to exist. . . . The political excitement here, is great—In fact, it is almost the only business of the present times—There will be a large majority for Harrison in Illinois—(MHS-S)

So in March 1840, Melville “found it necessary” to “retire” from the business where he had worked—a masterful transformation of the scene which Gear’s daughter recounted decades later. On 2 July, Melvill Jr. wrote Shaw again at the foot of the original of his letter of 26 June, the copy of which he had mailed by mistake. In this new passage he did not mention his nephew Herman, so presumably Herman and Fly had not yet arrived, although they probably did within a very few days. Melvill’s letters in the Shaw Papers from 1840 until his death in 1846 show that he never had a job in a store in Galena again, so this evidence conclusively ties the thievery to early 1840, to March, if Melvill reported the month accurately.

This discovery put a different light on Melville’s arriving in Galena for a surprise visit, hoping to rise in the West with the help of his uncle, Major Melvill. If his uncle had been successful in Galena and the town had been flourishing, Herman might indeed have stayed there indefinitely. On Herman’s arrival, the major was not only jobless but disgraced, unable to help even himself and his sons, and certainly not a mere nephew. It is possible that no one in the family confessed to Herman that the old man had been caught stealing. Whatever he learned, Melville was disappointed, although we do not know just what ingredients went into the bitter mix. Herman found no reason to linger very long in Galena, contrary to what had been thought. In his 1951 Herman Melville: A Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), pp. 36–37, Leon Howard had decided that Herman “was to stay with his uncle long enough to see the silks of the prairie corn turn brown in the autumn and to receive the impressions later incorporated in his poem, ‘Trophies of Piece,’ but there was little for him to do. . . . At the beginning of autumn there was nothing for Melville and his companion to do but turn homeward with the hope of finding some sort of employment in New York.” No, much sooner than Howard had thought, Melville returned home, with consequences for literature—his signing on a whaling voyage.

Good researchers sooner or later experience the high excitement of discovering unknown episodes of their subjects’ lives. That excitement does not necessarily make the biographers the best narrators of what they discover, although it sometimes assures that they will make a more comprehensive and sensitive narrator than anyone else could do, at least in the first telling. Stanton Garner told a good story about Uncle Thomas’s being  caught stealing in the store in Galena while Melville was in the Pacific. I told a truer story, and one directly involving Melville, since I had discovered that the theft and the firing had occurred shortly before Melville showed up unannounced in Galena. When I wrote the episode I was in a wrought-up state because for many months I alone had known and sympathized with what I foresaw would be Melville’s disappointment at finding his uncle jobless and unable to help him. That sounds peculiar, but you can know something previously unknown is going to happen in your narrative but not focus on it acutely until you actually start writing it. Melville understood this when in chapter 33 of Moby-Dick he has Ishmael look ahead to “what shall be grand” in Ahab, in the narrative.

The first teller of a new story gets the privilege of choosing, but to a great degree the manner of telling should be controlled by the amount and the nature of the documentary evidence available. I see now that I chose to tell this story about Galena pretty baldly in my biography despite my strong emotions, perhaps because I was leery of over-coloring the story with those emotions, and also because I simply did not know how much Herman had learned about the new shame to the family. He learned that hard times had hit Galena, but what, if anything, he learned about his uncle’s disgrace is still not known. There is no hint of the Galena scandal in the memoir Melville wrote of his uncle for the History of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, but neither is there any hint of his uncle’s staying in Lenox jail in earlier decades as a debtor.

On reading my new revelation about his own discovery, Garner in his review of my first volume in Melville Society Extracts, No. 112 (March 1998), p. 28, behaved just the way a fine scholar should behave:

As an editor of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville’s works, Parker has long been close to what is, collaterally, a large biographical project. The experience also seems to have schooled him in the techniques of discovering material where it lies hidden and developed in him a sense of what may remain to be discovered if only one persists. Nor has Parker been reticent in obtaining the assistance of others, thus extending his reach beyond scholarly arm’s length.
The result is stunning. What in the past has been no more than a hint, a reference, or a brief note in Howard becomes an illuminating account of an incident in Melville’s life, and what was an error (in this case, a date in my own report on Uncle Thomas’s disgrace in Galena, Illinois), is corrected, uncloaking a new insight into Melville’s early search for a career and thus into his motive for voyaging aboard the Acushnet. If this is a large volume, it is also one in which questions are answered, misapprehensions set aright, and whole briskets of knowledge added to our hoarded heaps.

This was characteristically magnanimous, and surely Garner was recalling the cooperation behind a footnote on p. 490 of his The Civil War World of Herman Melville (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993). Garner said this about the letter in which John Hoadley described how he, Melville, and others participated in Pittsfield’s celebration of the news from Gettysburg and Vicksburg: “I am indebted to the late Jay Leyda and to Hershel Parker for their aid in reading this almost illegible letter.” It took all three of us, but we got it—got it in time for Garner’s book and in plenty of time for the second volume of my biography and (ultimately) The New Melville Log. Garner died in November 2011 without knowing that I had made a reference to his “largeness of spirit in envisioning Melville” in my Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in 2012).

In the trove of Melliville papers mainly acquired by the New York Public Library in 1983 (NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing Additions), a portion of the papers of Melville’s sister Augusta, was a very damaged letter where the ink was so pale that even in the late 1980s, with only middle-aged eyes, I had to gird myself up to struggle with it under my lighted magnifier. In it Elizabeth Gansevoort, a cousin living in Bath, in western New York, on 2 September 1840, pleaded with Augusta to visit her: “you have a Brother that I know has nothing else to do, and would be willing to come with you.” (Elizabeth’s underlining; the letter is quoted in the first volume of my biography, p. 179.) Once I deciphered the letter, I did a survey of the whereabouts of the four Melville brothers and decided, Tom being far too young and Allan and Gansevoort being at work in Albany and New York, respectively, that the unoccupied brother had to be Herman, home already from Galena, and home for some time, unlike what Howard had thought.

So Herman was at home with his mother in early September, and had been home long enough for Augusta to have written her cousin about his return from the West and for Elizabeth to have replied with the letter of 2 September. We know that the cousins did not usually answer letters by return mail, even if they did not have to wait for someone to carry the letter to the recipient: Herman could have returned as early as July. He was unlucky, not lazy, and would have been looking for work, I thought, whatever his cousin in Bath thought. I am wary about taking anything in Melville’s fiction as autobiography, but I have learned not to blind myself with skepticism. While working on the first volume of my biography I paid attention to the passage in “Loomings,” where Ishmael explains that when he goes to sea as a simple sailor the officers order him about in a way that is “unpleasant enough.” He goes on: “It touches one’s sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor. . . .” Melville’s mother, of course, was a Van Rensselaer, and his sister Augusta was so regular a visitor to the Manor House that she had her own room there. Knowing from Elizabeth Gansevoort’s letter that Melville had returned from Galena much earlier than we had thought, I decided that in late 1840 Melville, like Ishmael, might have gone more or less directly from schoolmaster to whaleman: perhaps “just previous” meant “just previous.” In the first volume I ventured a guess (Parker 1:179) “Late that summer, for all we know, he may very well have looked for another job teaching school around Lansingburgh.”

A sidelight on method: how was I to avoid writing parts of my biography from Melville’s more or less autobiographical books? I resolved on extreme measures. I set myself the goal of creating a full first draft of the part of 1842 which Melville described in Typee and Omoo by working solely from other surviving documents (some authentic, some plainly skewed), never quoting those two books. That salutary exercise helped me break the 1920s reliance on Melville’s books as straight biography. Breaking that reliance, I emphasize, requires heroic discipline, and disciplined judgment of another sort is required in acknowledging that Typee and others of Melville’s books are in fact, in passages, something like straight autobiography. I guessed right about Melville’s teaching school when he got home from Galena just because I allowed for the possibility that something in “Loomings” could be straight (or something very close to straight) autobiographical. You have to be imaginative, alert, subtle, and supplied with a kit of phrases like “as far as we know,” and “it just might be,” or my favorite, “for all we know.” Even if reviewers mock you for your “perhapses,” you can take satisfaction in being honest.

In 1999, a new document emerged from a liquor box in Paul Metcalf’s house. These were papers loaned to Metcalf’s mother by her second cousin, Agnes Morewood, and now (with one exception) belatedly rejoined with the bulk of the Morewood documents in the Berkshire Athenaeum. The oldest Melville brother, Gansevoort, had written to Allan on 6 October 1840: “I am very glad that Herman has taken a school so near home.” Hurrah! From the documents available to anyone at the Massachusetts Historical Society I had discovered a story of the poignantly disappointing ending to Herman’s hopeful trip to Illinois (however much or little he learned about his uncle’s disgrace). What I cautiously proposed about Herman’s teaching school was only an educated guess, phrased as such (“for all we know”), one happily verified three years after the volume was published.

“Only an educated guess,” I just admitted. That warrants a comment. Leon Howard, whom I loved like an uncle, and a more helpful one than Herman’s blood uncles, was a shrewd, responsible scholar, who had been browbeaten, as he said, into writing his biography from Leyda’s yet-unpublished Log. He had not spent years in the archives himself. Howard was not a years-in-the-archives man. He was the sort of scholar who would chat up archives man. He was the sort of scholar who would chat up him (the director of course was male in those years), and come to reasonable conclusions about it that more pedestrian workers might plod away for a long time without perceiving. That is what happened at Harvard with the manuscript of Billy Budd. In his biography, Howard made many educated guesses about Melville, which by my tally were without exception wrong. The problem was that given two or more choices the would-be rational Howard always pushed Melville into taking the sensible one. Informed, or I might say beaten down by a much greater mass of evidence, I became predisposed to accept irregular, irrational behavior from Melville. After a time I was never surprised when he ran headlong away from the course that Maria Gansevoort Melville and I both thought represented his own best interests. On the matter of what Melville did after returning from Galena, I merely considered what he would naturally have done once he was back in Lansingburgh. In instances where evidence has later emerged, my record with educated guesses is, I think, perfect, so far, and I would not be surprised to learn that other biographers who have toiled in the archives would bet a few dollars on their own best educated guesses. We are far from infallible, but when we are forced to guess, we may bring an imposing array of evidence to the topic, even if our reasons have to be dragged up from a murky level of consciousness and even if, as in this instance, they involve taking some of the details in a piece of fiction like “Loomings” as possibly autobiographical.

While Herman was teaching school near home, Fly set himself to study for the bar. On 6 October, Gansevoort wrote Allan, who was clerking in Albany, not with Uncle Peter, saying he would be glad if Fly would write him “a detailed account of the examination”
(Berkshire Athenaeum, Metcalf Donation). (On 4 November 1840, Scott Norsworthy recently informed me, the New York American reported that Fly had been admitted to the New York bar at the October term.) Herman’s schoolteaching near Lansingburgh did not last long, for on 26 November Gansevoort wrote Allan (Log, 110):

Herman is still here—He has been & is a source of great anxiety to me—He has not obtd a situation—Fly is still on the lookout—He has so far been entirely unsuccessful—You need not mention this to [John J.] Hill, as his little mind would gloat over Fly’s disappointment—They are both in good health & tolerable spirits—& are living at a cheap rate of $2.50 per week, exclusive of dinner—They dine with me every day but Sunday at Sweeny’s & are blessed with good appetites—as my exchequer can vouch—Herman has had his hair sheared & whiskers shaved & looks more like a Christian than usual. . . .

The brothers soon concluded that there was no point in looking longer for work in New York City. On December 21, Maria Melville reported to Allan that “Hermans destination” was being decided: “The particulars you will hear when we see you” (Berkshire Athenaeum). She continued: “Fly has a situation with a Mr Edwards, where he has incessant writing from morning to Eveg.” Leaving Fly to Bartleby-like industry, Herman had decided upon a desperate grand physical adventure.

In this glance at Melville’s early job-hunting, I skip over evidence for Melville and Fly’s later relationship, though we know that after his return from the Pacific Melville was able to befriend Fly, who over a period of several years was slowly dying. I skip all the way to a 4 March 1854 letter Maria Gansevoort Melville wrote to Augusta from Longwood, near Boston (NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing Additions). Here the judge is Melville’s father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, and Lizzie is Herman’s wife, and Mrs. Shaw is the judge’s second wife:

The next morning Miss Titmarsh called . . . Lizzie, the Judge & I were alone in the room, & Mrs Shaw very much engaged. So we had all her conversation. The subject happened to be about Hingham. In one of the pauses I enquired if she knew Mr Fly. Oh yes the most interesting man she had ever seen. She did not wonder, that notwithstanding his bad health Miss Hinkley had married him. I then enquired about his death. Mr Fly had left a message to Herman said Mrs Titmarsh, looking at the Judge & something about a Cloake, Sir, I believe which Mr Melville had given him? A post mortem examination had taken place, one lung was entirely gone, of the other but half remained. The widow was inconsolable.

The deathbed scene is Dickensian, we now think, and of course Thackeray actually used the pen name “Michael Angeleo Titmarsh.” Census records show that this real Mary T. Tidmarsh [sic] lived in Hingham all thorough the 1850s. Perhaps this concerned a most mundane fact, but the passage I quote was what you could fairly describe as a deathbed message. Who would not be intrigued by “something about a Cloake” which Herman had given him? For several years I was haunted by the scene, inexplicably moved by Fly’s dying message to Herman Melville.

Then, in the liquor box that Paul Metcalf opened in 1999 was a letter (now part of the Berkshire Athenaeum Metcalf Donation) from Gansevoort to Allan on 14 January 1841, just after Herman had sailed on the Acushnet:

Fly called to see me on Sunday last and dined at Bradford’s. He manages to scrape along on the slender salary which he receives from Mr Edwards. He is very attentive to his duties, & steady & regular in his habits. In the end he will doubtless succeed. Herman sent to Fly as a parting souvenir his vest & pantaloons. The coat was exchanged at New Bedford for duck shirts &c. At sea[,] shore toggery is of no use to a sailor.

Is it possible that Fly, knowing he was dying, remembered that in 1841, if not longer, he had worn the vest and pantaloons of an impoverished young whaleman who would become one of the greatest American writers? Did he glory, as he died, in the memory of that very tangible intimacy with a friend of high genius? It’s possible. Dickens, with what Melville thought was his characteristic over-plotting, would have made this so. I would not put it in a biography as fact, but I like the story I imagine. Something about a vest & pantaloons. . . . Something dating back, perhaps, to the days when Herman Melville was unemployable.

Melville, of course, was unemployable in a government office in 1847, 1853, 1857, and 1861, as Harrison Hayford and Merrell Davis showed in “Herman Melville as Office-Seeker,” Modern Language Quarterly, 10.2 (June 1949), 168–83 and 10.3 (September 1949), 377–88. In 1860, Melville was unemployed, once he had given his last lecture, and he remained unemployed till near the end of 1866, when he gained his appointment in the New York Custom House. For several years now, thanks to databases of newspapers, Scott Norsworthy, Dennis Marnon, and George Monteiro have pointed out that Melville’s nineteen years of uninterrupted employment were achieved only through the intervention of an angel in the Custom House, a man with a Lansingburgh connection, Chester A. Arthur.

This article is from Historic Nantucket Spring 2012, read the entire issue here

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.

> >