TwHP Lessons

The Penniman House: A Whaling Story

[Photo] Edward Penniman House, Cape Cod National Seashore.
(From the collection of Cape Cod National Seashore)


aptain Edward Penniman steps outside his house on Fort Hill in Eastham, Massachusetts in the late summer of 1881. He can feel the chill of the winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. He can smell and taste the salt air. By habit, he scans the white-capped horizon in search of a whale's spout. Soon he would leave on his fifth voyage across the world's oceans, to hunt these "leviathans of the deep." The voyage could last for four years. Would his wife Gustie come along this time? Would any of their children accompany them? Where would he find his crew? Would this whaling voyage be successful? It was the whaling industry, or "whale fishery," as it was known then, that satisfied Captain Penniman's adventurous spirit and offered him an opportunity to earn enough money to support a family and to construct an impressive home in Eastham.

Captain Penniman built his French Second Empire style house on Cape Cod in 1868. Today, over 100 years later, the Penniman House is a National Historic Site owned and interpreted by the National Park Service as part of Cape Cod National Seashore. The house holds the Penniman family's written records and artifact collections, which provide glimpses of the places and people that the family visited on their whaling voyages. Theirs is a true life whaling story representative of hundreds of other whaling captains and their families that traveled the globe to pursue whale fishery.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
 2. Modern world map showing 19th-century
 whaling grounds

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Whaling in Southeastern Massachusetts
 2. The Pennimans: A Whaling Family
 3. Cultural Connections
 4. The Penniman's House

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Captain Penniman's House, French Second
 Empire style, built in 1868

 2. Atwood-Higgins House, a typical Cape Cod

 3. Captain Penniman in his northwest parlor,
 circa 1890

 4. Scrimshaw

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. The Penniman House revisited
 2. Preserving the Night Sky
 3. A New Age, A New Way of Thinking
 4. Community History

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Cape Cod National Seashore

The lesson is based on the Edward Penniman House, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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