New Bedford's success in whaling not only shaped its economics, but its demographics as well. In its heyday, the city was more diverse than Boston and New York. Learn more about the people that lived in and journeyed to New Bedford, and how they shaped the city.
Escaped slave, abolitionist, orator
Twenty years after escaping slavery, Frederick Bailey adopted the name Douglass and arrived in New Bedford. There, he found his voice to speak out against slavery. More information.
Before crafting the famed Moby Dick, Melville left from New Bedford on a whaling ship. The 18-month voyage inspired the 19th-century American novel. More information.
Heiress & investor
Recognized as the richest woman in the world at the turn of the 20th century, Henrietta "Hetty" Howland Robinson Green was a financial genius in the areas of real estate, railroads, and money lending. More information.
James & Sarah Arnold
Profiting from the whaling industry, James and Sarah Arnold each invested in the community. James opened his gardens to the public, while Sarah spent time with the city's poor. More information.
Blacksmith & inventor
After settling in New Bedford, African American blacksmith Lewis Temple revolutionized the whaling industry with a new harpoon design. More information.
Nathan & Mary Johnson
Abolitionists & entrepreneurs
Nathan and Mary "Polly" Johnson housed several escaped slaves in their Seventh Street home, including famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. More information.
Whaling captain & ship builder
Born on Cuttyhunk Island to a freed African man and Native American woman, Paul Cuffe grew to become a successful whaling captain and respected member of his community. More information.
Escaped slave & Union Army sergeant
Despite enduring intense enemy fire during the Battle of Fort Wagner, William Carney returned the Union Army flag safely. He was the first African American to earn the Medal of Honor for his bravery. More information.
William Rotch, Jr.
Whaling merchant & abolitionist
As an influential and wealthy Quaker, William Rotch, Jr. supported the whaling industry, anti-slavery efforts, and religious education. More information.
Last updated: August 28, 2018