Frederick Douglass Abolitionist and Orator
Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist and Orator

Courtesy of Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

Frederick Douglass

Born a slave in Talbot County Maryland, in 1818, Frederick Bailey would escape his chains in 1838 and become Frederick Douglass, one of the most notable men of the nineteenth century and the ideal of an American self-made man. His escape route on the Underground Railroad would take him finally to New Bedford, MA where he received the help of Nathan and Polly Johnson, well known African American abolitionists. It is in New Bedford that he rose quickly to prominence as a favorite abolitionist and anti-slavery speaker, on this "peculiar institution." More

Photo of a young Hetty Green
Hetty Green "The Witch of Wall Street"

Courtesy of the New Bedford Public Library

Hetty Green

Henrietta (Hetty) Howland Robinson Green was born Henrietta Howland Robinson on November 21, 1834 and died, on July 13, 1916 with an estimated fortune, in today's dollars, worth $17,000,000,000. She was recognized as the richest woman in the world at that time, also known as "the Witch of Wall Street", and in her own right a financial genius in the areas of real estate, railroads and money lending.
Author Herman Melville
Herman Melville author of "Moby Dick"

Herman Melville

On December 30, 1840 Herman Melville signed on to the crew of the whale ship Acushnet out of the whaling port of New Bedford. During the next 18 months Melville would learn the whaling trade. Eventually, Melville would write a complex narrative that many critics consider the greatest American novel ever written called Moby Dick. More

Whaling Merchant William Rotch Jr.
William Rotch Jr.

Courtesy of Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum

William Rotch Jr.

William Rotch Jr. was for decades the wealthiest man and whaling merchant in New Bedford. He built and owned whaling vessels and transported and sold whale oil and bone in national and international markets. He was also one of the earliest and staunchest abolitionists in the city, and was a charter member of the Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery (1789) and the first president of the New Bedford Anti-Slavery Society (1834). More

Statue of Lewis Temple
Lewis Temple, inventor of the Temple toggle iron

NPS Photo

Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple was born in Richmond, Virginia, but whether he was enslaved or free at birth is not known. After his arrival in New Bedford in 1829 he began working as a blacksmith. In his Walnut Street shop in 1848, Temple invented what is now known as the Temple toggle iron. Earlier "irons," or harpoons, once sunk into a whale's flesh, often worked themselves loose in the fury of the fight, but the Temple toggle iron had a pivoting head so that the point would turn once the harpoon struck and embed itself more securely. This tool revolutionized the whaling industry in the nineteenth century. More

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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