New Bedford Historical Society, Carl Cruz Collection
54th Regiment Civil War Trading Cards
Engraving from William Still's "The Underground Railroad"
New Bedford's Underground Railroad History
In the mid-19th century, New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world. The success and global, exploratory nature of the whaling industry helped to create a bustling, cosmopolitan seaport community, and one of the richest and most diverse cities in the world. Opportunities for individuals and families from all backgrounds to make a living and prosper were readily available at sea, and in the shore-side businesses that supported the whaling industry. New Bedford was attractive to slaves seeking freedom because of the opportunities for employment presented by the whaling industry, a large Quaker population and free population of color, and a coastal trading system that provided escaping slaves opportunities to hide on vessels heading to New Bedford from southern ports. By the 1840s New Bedford had become home to some 300-700 escaped slaves, and, as escaped slave George Teamoh put it, "our magnet of attraction."
Follow in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, Henry "Box" Brown, the soldiers of the 54th Regiment, and others by taking a Ranger-led tour (offered in July and August on Saturdays and Sundays, or year-round by appointment) or a self-guided walking tour using the park's Underground Railroad: New Bedford brochure. Both programs are part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Daniel Drayton and the Pearl Incident
Did You Know?
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.