1790 Massachusetts Newspaper Discussing Nantucket Whalers
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:
Newspaper, The Columbian Centinel. Boston: Benjamin Russell, December 15, 1790. 4 pp.
A detailed article entitled “Observations on the Whale-Fishery and Seal-Catching” appears on the first page. The article explains the growing problem facing whalers. “It has been verified from experience, that Whales change their places of resort in consequence of the continual warfare against them… The present route of Whales is along the Brazil Coast, and they are still tending southward.” The article continues to explain that the growing distance whalers will need to travel will make the trips more and more expensive. With the ever present chance that the trips will be unsuccessful, the increased cost of trips is even more threatening. However, a solution has been presented by the seals populating the southern areas where the whales are moving. “Should the whaling voyage prove successful, the vessel returns home to a sure and certain marker. If only partially successful, or totally unsuccessful, let the vessel run to the Faulkland islands, and undertake the killing of Seals…” The article then gives a brief description of the tactics of sealing, and then discusses how whalers in certain areas are more suited for sealing than others. “The Nantucket and eastern part of Long-Island Whalemen, will find themselves peculiarly adapted for this business, as being accustomed to live ashore as well as follow the seas -- hunting is familiar to them.... Great resolution and alertness is … required, and the latter being a qualification, which ordinary seamen are seldom remarkable for ashore, will prove the superior advantage of our eastern Whalemen, in this particular which is a very essential one.” The uses for seals are also discusses: “The skin of the fur-seal with the fur on, when properly dressed, makes exceeding handsome Waistcoat-Patterns and might be introduced for that purpose…” Another use mentioned is the “the making of oil from the Seals, which are remarkably fat and oily.” The article concludes with the note that “The writer of these observations has been induced to offer them solely from a motive of communicating to his fellow citizens at large, a branch of commerce, that promises considerable benefit to the United States…”
In addition, a report on page 3 states: “The Legislatures of … Virginia and Maryland have granted considerable sums of money towards defraying the expenses of fixing the seat of National Government on the Potowmac.”