A pole marks the directions for New Bedford, Paris, the North Pole, and Denmark.
Directions from Utqiagvik, Alaska. Photo courtesy: NPS

The site of today's New Bedford was purchased from the Wampanoag people in 1652. In 1699, the Quakers erected a meetinghouse, the first English establishment there. Through the mid-1700s, Joseph Russell, Joseph Rotch, and Isaac Howland built up the whaling industries with a tryworks for rendering oil from blubber, whaling ships, and a candle factory. New Bedford's deep harbor and access to Boston and New York markets spurred its rise as the whaling capital in the 1800s.

Today, the port supports the city's primary industry, fishing, instead of whaling. A hurricane barrier has protected fleets since 1965, while ferries transport tourists to Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. Author Herman Melville once called New Bedford "a queer place," but admitted that he found it "perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all New England."


Last updated: February 2, 2022

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