New Bedford's Whaling Heritage

Men keep a rowboat steady on the open ocean while others try harpooning a whale.
Harpooning a whale. Image courtesy: New Bedford Whaling Museum
New Bedford's whaling industry not only made it the wealthiest city in the world at its height, but also influenced its shoreside industry, fashion, architecture, and culture. Today, the city's whaling roots are depicted in its art, industry, and demographics.
 
The Custom House, complete with white columns and sitting on the corner of William and N Second streets.
U.S. Custom House. Photo courtesy: NPS
Custom House
The U.S. Custom House in New Bedford is the oldest continually operating custom house in the country. Whaling masters of the past registered their ships and cargo in this building, while today's commercial ships continue to log duties and tariffs here. More information.
 
Photo of statue memorializing Lewis Temple.
Statue commemorating Lewis Temple. Photo courtesy: NPS
Lewis Temple
Working as a blacksmith, African-American Lewis Temple created a tool that revolutionized the whaling industry. The Temple toggle iron secured into whale flesh better than earlier harpoon designs. More information.
 
A sihouette of Paul Cuffee.
Paul Cuffe. Image courtesy: Library of Congress
Paul Cuffe
Born on Cuttyhunk Island to a freed slave and Wampanoag, Paul Cuffe grew to become a successful whaling captain and respected member of his community. More information.

Last updated: August 9, 2018

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New Bedford, MA 02740

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