• Historic buildings and the waterfront in New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

    New Bedford Whaling

    National Historical Park Massachusetts

History & Culture

Communities of Whaling Online Exhibit
The online component of the park's Communities of Whaling exhibit is now up and running. The online exhibit features an interactive map that explores a diverse 1800s New Bedford neighborhood found Behind the Mansions. The exhibit also features a Faces of Whaling flip book that highlights individuals representing New Bedford's many ethnic groups with ties to the whaling industry. More

 
Compass Rose

New Bedford's geographic location influenced its development into the world's foremost whaling port in the nineteenth century. More

 
A corset advertisement. from the 19th century
Whales provided important and valuable products, and the hunt for them fostered the development of highly specialized technologies and supported the economic base of New Bedford and the nation. More
 
Men dancing on a whaleship.

Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The nature of a whaling voyage, requiring long separation from home and family, contributed to the development of unique cultures on shipboard and ashore. More
 
Scene of the Azores from Benjamin Russel and Caleb Purrington's Panorama: Whaling Voyage Round the World.

The Azores, from "Whaling Voyage Round the World," 1848

New Bedford Whaling Museum

In pursuit of whales, New Bedford's fleet traveled the world's oceans and brought large numbers of Americans into contact with other cultures; in the process, the whaling fleet introduced materials, technology, plants, animals, and diseases, which led to profound changes in the cultures and their environments. More
 
In the critical century following America's independence, when scientific institutions were being founded and U.S. policy was being formed, information and artifacts collected by whalemen greatly expanded America's knowledge of the world. More
 
Humbpack whales
Whale hunting led to a decline in whale populations worldwide. Some species were endangered as a result of the hunt. More
 
William Rotch-Rodman House

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Whaling had an impact on the American imagination and influenced American literature, painting, fashion, and folk art. In New Bedford the whaling economy financed homes, businesses, and public buildings, and influenced the local architecture and landscape. More
 
Ribbon Cutting for Communities of Whaling exhibit opening.
New Bedford today reflects its heritage as the 19th century whaling capital of the world. Many of the communities that participated in the whaling industry continue to contribute to the cultural fabric of the city. The descendents of those who first came to New Bedford aboard local whaleships developed thriving communities, which have collectively grown to become a major cultural and political force in the region. More

Did You Know?

Whaling vessels in New Bedford harbor

In 1857, at the height of whaling, there were a total of 329 whaling vessels in New Bedford's fleet, which employed roughly 10,000 men.