The summer visitor would be the catalyst for Nantucket’s recovery [from the demise of whaling]. As early as 1828 island entrepreneurs were touting “the necessary, invigorating, and delightful indulgence of Sea Bathing.” By 1845 several large hostelries had been established, and that summer the editor of the Nantucket Inquirer wrote “We see by the papers that Nantucket is becoming quite a fashionable place . . . and that a larger number than usual have resorted to the island the present season, in quest of health or pleasure … . If suitable accommodations were provided, both in town and at Siasconset, [the island] would take a prominent station among the watering places, which collect their crowds during the summer months.”
The selling of Nantucket began in a big way in the 1870s. Mainland newspapers carried advertisements for the big hotels, several of them still here today. Respected monthly magazines of the day—Scribner’s, Harper’s, Lippincott’s—sang the praises of the faraway island in lengthy feature articles. The war behind them, Nantucket women opened their homes to summer boarders, providing “large airy rooms” and “nicely cooked bluefish” as attractions. The town got behind the effort, advertising “two boats a day” and printing a flyer titled “Nantucket Island, An Ideal Health and Vacation Resort.” The Season was created, and Nantucket has never looked back.
Now one of the most popular and attractive destinations in the world, Melville’s little “elbow of sand” has become a new nation of Nantucket, unparalleled in the distinction of its architecture and its historical ambience.
Excerpt from “Nantucket in a Nutshell” by Elizabeth Oldham, Historic Nantucket, Winter 2000, Vol. 49. No. 1