Text For Sight Readers:
19 Inches: Bottlenose Dolphin
4 Feet: Common Minke Whale
5 Feet: Gray Whale
8 Feet: Sperm Whale
10 Feet: Blue Whale
16 Feet: Humpback Whale
By Baylee Browning-Atkinson
Special Guest Contributor
Advertisements offer a glimpse of a woman's 'ideal beauty' achieved through corsetry.
This young woman dips her feathered hat as she walks by. She is holding a long, wrapped package in her gloved hand. We have caught her in passing, the only clues as to where she had been are in her hands and in the shape of her waist beneath her fitted jacket. In the context of this advertisement, she could be leaving after a successful corset fitting. She walks by, satisfied with her purchase. The box in her hands contains her recently purchased Redfern Whalebone Corset. For $15.00 or less she acquired a corset of the purest Arctic whalebone, the ideal material for controlling her figure. This advertisement from the Warner Brothers Company praises the elastic and pliable qualities of the luxurious material as essential for a high end and comfortable corset. Her corset fits her as well as the gloves on her hands. She smiles and moves on. On the wrapping is stamped the praise “A WOMAN HAS・AN・AWFUL LOT・TO・THANK A・WHALE・FOR.”
This source raises a very interesting question; what is this woman thanking the whale for? For what did a woman owe a whale? These four advertisements, selected from the Bridgeport History Center archive, offer some possible answers. Some of the main selling points are comfort, quality, and luxury, though there are certainly others. Do you find these points persuasive? Would your mother, grandmother, or great grandmother?
The Warner Brothers Company produced and promoted whalebone corsets from 1894 until 1912. Redfern advertisements from 1894 to 1912 are rich in detail, explaining why a contemporary woman should purchase a whalebone corset for $15.00 to $3.50 over other, cheaper models boned with plant fibers, steel, feather shafts, or celluloid. At the turn of the twentieth century the necessity, purpose, and impact of corsetry was just as hotly contested then as it is today, though other garments have since replaced them. Advertisements such as the following examples contributed to the longevity of the American whaling industry by sustaining a demand for bowhead baleen in luxurious corsets at a time when the industry’s security in traditional markets, fuel and illumination for example, was threatened by cheaper and more readily available alternatives. Between the 1880s and 1910s, whalebone represented the most stable and secure market for the American whaling industry despite the rising price and unreliable quality of the material. The advertisements will help to explain why women continued to wear whalebone.
This advertisement, published in Vogue in 1911 praises the quality and pliancy of the material. “You can twist, turn or bend a REDFERN CORSET in your hand, and it will spring back into its original shape, because it is boned with whalebone of the best grade, the only boning adapted to stiffening high grade corsets.” Warner’s, needing to secure high quality bone, purchased it as directly as they could without outfitting their own whalers. Redfern whalebone was purchased from New Bedford whalers returning from voyages into the Arctic grounds with holds filled with bowhead baleen. The quality of their bone, described as the “best,” “purest,” “genuine,” and “rarest” available, was a major selling point. Bowhead baleen secured from the Arctic grounds was the standard by which other whalebone was measured. The shape of a bowhead’s mouth and the length of its baleen are special adaptations to its Arctic home. The price for Arctic whalebone was typically listed as a dollar or so more on average than other types of whalebone, an indication of its commercial value. Corset companies like Warner’s used the bone as a selling point, an indication of quality, status, and luxury. Contemporary sources generally agree that it was from the bowhead whale that the most, the longest, and the finest quality whalebone available to commercial whalers and dress or corset makers was harvested. According to Warner’s advertising, these properties made it better for shaping and keeping the form desired without restricting movements or creating discomfort. The pliancy of Arctic bone was one of the Redfern’s most important selling points because pliancy implied comfort. In securing a steady supply of high quality bone, Warner’s promised a comfortable, high quality corset.
Corset advertisements make it clear that a woman owed thanks to the whale for her beautiful figure. The corset, as the foundational garment beneath flowing gowns and tailored suits, was largely responsible for the fashionable fit. A woman at the turn of the century was beautiful if she had fashionable lines. Beautiful forms were smooth, symmetrical, and so aesthetically pleasing. These ideals applied to fashion, art, objects, and bodies. The idealized beauty of the nineteenth century was the Venus de Milo, however, while advertisements praise the beautiful form, their models are Parisian, not Grecian. A woman in a Redfern was beautiful because her figure was modeled by her corset “into the contour which is the mode.” The Fashionable Woman depicted here as an artist’s model is a work of art. The aesthetic design was continuously in flux, dictated by the whims of Parisian fashion couture.
This advertisement, appearing in Harper’s Bazaar in 1911, credits the craftsmanship of a Redfern for giving the illusion of a natural, corsetless figure. In the absence of a hard corset line, “there is no sense of a corsetted form, but a feeling of figure buoyancy and youthfulness regardless of the age of the wearer.” The corset created the fashionable, youthful figure so sought after.
All Redfern Corsets were boned with whalebone, but only those of the highest quality used imported silks, coutil, ribbons, laces, and other finery, artfully applied by Redfern designers. This attention to detail in design and material was the same paid to couture design, and gave the Redfern the status of a couture corset. “The firm, soft, silky fabrics, with the exquisite laces or embroideries applied by the artist’s hand, create a model that adequately serves as a foundation for the most delicate evening gown, as well as the severely tailored dress.” Advertisements for Warner’s Redfern Whalebone Corset promised quality, luxury materials and a comfortable, fashionable form. In essence, they promised the quality of a custom made Parisian corset at half the price.
Before Warner’s could market a luxurious couture quality corset, they had to first be able to produce one affordably. As The Fashionable Woman said quite succinctly: “You may pay from Fifteen Dollars to Thirty-five dollars for a corset that is custom made - the trimming may please your eye - but the actual shaping and wearing do not compare with the Redfern Whalebone Corsets which cost from $15.00 down to $3.50 per pair.” This was accomplished through the industrialization of corset manufacture.
In 1912 Warner’s stopped using whalebone. Speculation based on a knowledge of the trends of demand and supply between the whaling and corset industries leads to the conclusion that prices had gotten too high, imports too scarce, and the quality of the bone too unreliable. One of the key features of a Redfern was the quality of its whalebone. The Warner Company went to great lengths to secure their whalebone, but once the quality could no longer be reliably secured the company turned to alternative boning, likely their patented Rust-Proof Steel.
Advertising played a crucial role in securing a market for whalebone by sustaining demand and generating desire for the material, for fashionable couture quality whalebone corsets, into the twentieth century. In the case of the Redfern Whalebone Corset, desire for the whalebone product was produced by an appeal to period conceptions of quality, luxury, and aesthetics. A Redfern woman was beautiful because her form conformed to Parisian models without too much undue constraint. A woman in a Redfern had the whale to thank for her beautiful, fashionable figure.
Baylee recently completed her Master's in History at Stony Brook University. This blog post is adapted from a paper she completed about the mutual relationship between the American whaling and ready-made corset industries. She is a member of The Whaling Museum.
By Elizabeth Marriott, Collections & Exhibits Coordinator
The Whaling Museum's archives offer insight into the process of purchasing a vessel for use as a whaleship.
In 1843, Cold Spring Harbor was in need of an additional whaling ship. Its ships were all at sea, and the Cold Spring Whaling Company was looking to expand.
At this time, few ships were built for whaling; instead whaling companies bought trading vessels such as packet ships and retrofitted them for whaling. (Of Cold Spring Harbor's 9 vessels, only 1 - the NP Tallmadge - was originally built for whaling.)
The best converted whaleships maximized speed and carrying capacity. Packet ships were designed to hold large, heavy cargo and could be easily adapted to hold oil casks. Typically the biggest modification needed to convert a trading vessel to a whale ship was adding the tryworks - a brick furnace with giant cast-iron kettles used to render blubber into whale oil.
The Cold Spring Whaling Company rehired Captain William H. Hedges, a captain from East Hampton who successfully led several whaling voyages for Cold Spring Harbor. He met some feisty whale in his lifetime: a whale he harpooned struck the head of his whaleboat and tossed him into the water, where his boat crew hauled him to safety. Hedges traveled to New Bedford to inquire about vessels for sale. At the time, New Bedford was one of the busiest ports in the country and it wasn’t unusual to find 4 or 5 vessels for sale at any one time.
This 1843 letter to Walter R Jones (part-owner of the Cold Spring Whaling Company) from Captain Hedges gives us insight into the process, where he describes ships for sale including cargo space, speed, and major repairs in the ship’s history.
New Bedford March 28th 1843, Noon
Dear WR Jones Esq,
I arrived in this place yesterday and find several ships for Sale – namely – Ship Trident, old New York Ships with 1000 barrels carries want coopering and ... sails- repaired 8 years ago in 4 or 6 years will want new bench... fitting for whaling prices $14,000. The Ship Herald – 303 tons frame owned by A,O, S, Nye thoroughly repaired 4 years ago and pronounced as good as new from the carpenters hands ... otherwise good for 8 years, her moors & rigging mostly new ... looks well priced..."
Based on Hedges' description, compare these three ships for sale:
Hedges was most excited about the possibilty of buying the Roman.
"The ship has all her spars ... the lines, rigging, and all looks good for some years - I have made my inquires from the men who worked on her at building, and who at the Whaling Ship Office and have blinded them as much as possible by telling them she was valued to[o] high for our Company yet all say she is cheap- [illegible] at N. Bedford
They had an offer of $ 16000 cash yesterday by Cap Allen, N London... Mr. Jones is willing for us to have her if we will take her at 17000 $ which he says is the least fraction he will take and thinks if she is not sold to fit her soon for whaling, he then came to this conclusion to suit the others concerned, but says he will not sacrifice any more on her than to do so ... there is one or more people in N London who want her and intend to have her- and probably will in a few days if we do not conclude to take her at the $17,000.
I think her in all respects the cheapest ship in this part that I have heard from if she is sound- and they have not the least doubt of that...
I shall await an answer- hoping that you will write to have the bargain closed and to have Mr. J H Jones come on soon- please inform me of what course to pursue....
Your most obedient and humble servant- W.H. Hedges"
The expense must have been too high in the end, because Captain Hedges left New Bedford without purchasing any ship. Based on the expense account he submitted to the Cold Spring Whaling Company, Hedges arrived in New Bedford on March 27th and returned to Cold Spring in June.
Hedges did recruit a boatsteerer - so the trip was not a complete loss! Ultimately, the company went on to purchase the Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, likely at a good price from the floundering Dutchess Whaling Company in Poughkeepsie, who was trying to stave off bankruptcy. Fully outfitted, this whaler was ready to go.
Hedges commanded the Tallmadge on his last voyage from 1843-1845. Hedges and his crew still faced feisty whales when a whale smashed a whaleboat gunwale. The boat was towed back to the ship with rapid bailing and clothes stuffed into the hole. Hedges retired from the sea and opened a store with his brother-in-law in Plattsburgh.
All together, the Tallmadge made four successful voyages from 1843-1855, bringing in a total of 8,410 barrels of whale oil, 245 barrels of sperm whale oil, and 53,390 pounds of bone before being sold in New York City. The ship carried freight to and from New Orleans; a year later, she was rebuilt as a bark, renamed Norwood, and sold abroad.
Find out more about Cold Spring Harbor's whaling history in Mark Well the Whale by Frederick P. Schmitt - Available in the Museum gift shop
Text transcribed for screen readers for those who are visually impaired:
WHY DID WHALERS CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING MORE THAN ANY OTHER HOLIDAY?
Much of the Thanksgiving "story" is myth. Yet many of the current Thanksgiving traditions were formed in the 1800's.
It Made Most Americans Feel Patriotic
She Told Me to!
Happy Thanksgiving Day!
by Joan Lowenthal
A 1918 call for supplies mirrors the health crisis today. The Red Cross made an urgent plea for masks for the doctors and nurses in quantities and at once. The Cold Spring Harbor branch spread the word that, “A special order for contagious ward masks has been received and the masks are being made at the Red Cross room and every evening in the Library. Members and their friends are urged to help with this work until the order is completed.” (The Long Islander, Huntington, NY, October 04, 1918, Page 7)
In 1918, not only was there a worldwide flu pandemic, but World War I was still being fought. Gas masks for men at the front line were desperately needed and the local Huntington Red Cross encouraged people to collect peach pits, nuts and other fruit pits also called stones and drop them into the receptacles found in several local stores. The government needed 750 tons of peach stones, plum stones, olive pits, and all hard nut shells especially coconut shells to supply charcoal for gas masks each day. The charcoal derived from these stones was forty times as strong as ordinary charcoal. Two hundred peach stones were needed for one gas mask. This was a nationwide nut-gathering campaign. (The Long Islander, Huntington, NY, September 13, 1918, Page 1)
By the beginning of October 1918 Huntington had done very well in saving their peach stones and other nut shells. Barrels and barrels were collected and shipped to a carbon plant where machinery ground up the bits and the material was distilled to uniform-sized carbon pieces.
The powder was then shipped to the Gas Defense Plant New York located in Long Island City, NY where factory workers assembled gas masks. (Laura Corley. “How peach pits helped American allies win World War I,” The Macon Daily Telegraph, November 12, 2018.)
People in the Huntington area responded so enthusiastically that it was not necessary to ask the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls to canvas for nuts door to door. But these boys and girls were asked to pick up the peach stones in the local orchards. “There should be no peach stones left in the orchards doing no one any good, when they might save some precious life. (The Long Islander, Huntington NY , October 04, 1918, Page 2)
There was an urgent appeal for nurses all over the country to replace the nurses that were sent overseas and to home military camps. The Long-Islander attempted to entice young women to become nurses. “The profession of nursing is one that should appeal to the ambition of young women fitted for the work; the pay is good and it is never overcrowded. In its higher branches it closely approaches the profession of the surgeon in its educational requirements.” The Long-Islander, Huntington, September 13, 1918.
The first wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was fairly mild and many people recovered and the death rate was low. By the end of the summer of 1918 the second wave of the virus was virulent, highly contagious and deadly. In fact, the highest fatality rate of the pandemic was October 1918. Victims of the disease died within hours or days of developing symptoms and many were young adults. Local Long Island newspapers only mention the flu in the spring of 1918 infrequently, but by the fall especially in the month of October there are numerous accounts of local people dying and closings of churches, schools, and cancelling of events. The Jones family whose descendants started the Whaling Company in Cold Spring Harbor lost a member of their family due to the “Spanish Flu.” Philip Livingston Jones died at the Jones Manor Farm in Oyster Bay, NY. He was only 28 and left a wife and young son.(The Long Islander, November 01, 1918, Page 5). Sadly his mother Mary Elizabeth passed away the week before of a stroke at the age of 64 and his older brother Oliver Livingston Jones passed away the previous March at the age of 38. His death certificate lists bronchial pneumonia as the reason for death which were complications of the Spanish Flu.
The devastating second wave of the “Spanish Flu” occurred in the US because returning soldiers infected with the flu spread it to the general population. Especially hard hit were densely populated cities. Many city governments were not ready for the onslaught. Philadelphia went ahead and had a Liberty Loan parade which was attended by tens of thousand of people. The disease spread like wildfire. In 10 days about 1,000 Philadelphians were dead and about 200,000 sick. By contrast citizens in San Francisco were fined $5 if they were caught in public without masks.
The “Spanish Flu” took a toll on the economy. Even mail delivery and garbage collection was impeded and in many places there were not enough farm workers to harvest crops. Nonessential businesses were not mandated to shut down, but they were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Does history actually repeat itself?
For more info check out:
By Joan Lowenthal
We are in unprecedented times. Many of us never thought a quarantine of practically the entire world could happen in 2020. It seems like science fiction.
When did the practice of quarantine as we know it begin?
It actually began during the 14th century as an attempt to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships coming into Venice from infected ports were mandated to sit at anchor for 40 days before anyone could come to shore. The word quarantine was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which means 40 days.
When the United States was first established there was no federal involvement in quarantine regulations. It was not until 1878 that the United States Congress passed federal quarantine legislation. Up to this point protection against imported infectious diseases fell under local and state jurisdiction.
By 1846 all ships coming into New York Harbor had to anchor off near Staten Island for quarantine inspection. The ships were boarded and if any signs of disease were found all the passengers were taken to the Quarantine Hospital on Staten Island which was opened in 1799 and called the Quarantine. First-class passengers were taken to St. Nicholas Hospital at the Quarantine and steerage passengers were taken to smelly, overcrowded bunkhouses stripped naked and disinfected with steaming water.  The ship then had to remain in quarantine for at least 30 days and sometimes as long as six months. There were as many as eight thousand patients in the hospital in a year. It was very dangerous work for the staff and funeral expenses for employees was a category in the accounting books. Many people who lived on Staten Island did not like the nearness of the hospital and in 1858 angry well-prepared vigilantes set fire to the buildings. Two people died that night.
Check out When New Yorkers Burned Down a Quarantine Hospital by Matthew Wills (September 19, 2019) daily.jstor.org.
Quarantine facilities were then moved off-shore to a boat named after Florence Nightingale, then two islands off of Staten Island. The two islands were built with land fill in the Lower Bay - Swinburne Island in 1860 and Hoffman Island in 1873. These small islands were used as quarantine islands until the 1920s. The conditions were horrifying. Today these islands are uninhabited and off limits to the general public although you can go past them in a boat.
In the summer of 1892 there was a terrible cholera epidemic and several ships that came from Hamburg, Germany were kept quarantined. Many of the people on board were refugees from Russia fleeing the reign of Czar Alexander III. A cholera epidemic swept through Russia and passengers both in steerage and cabin class died from the disease during their voyage. They were seeking a better life in the United States. What is little known is that the Governor of New York at the time, Governor Flower, authorized the purchase of the Surf Hotel, an aging hotel on Fire Island to be used as a quarantine station for some of the passengers from the infected cholera ships in New York Harbor.
There was tremendous opposition and two hundred deputized officers of the Islip Town Board of Health tried to stop the passengers from getting off the ship. The Islip Town Board of Health disputed the right of the State to use the island as a quarantine station.  Local baymen feared their livelihood was at stake when oyster houses in New York City began cancelling orders. According to Shoshanna McCollum in an article posted February 23, 2020 “600 healthy cabin class passengers of the Normannia were transferred to a day boat to take the passengers to the Surf Hotel. Unfortunately the baymen turned vigilantes and crossed the bay with clubs and shotguns.” The trip should have taken the day boat several hours, but instead took several days. This must have been awful as the boat was overcrowded and did not have sleeping accommodations nor enough food provisions. Troops were sent by Governor Flower to Fire Island to permit the asymptomatic passengers to disembark. The Surf Hotel served as quarantine headquarters until early October of 1892. Amazingly only two documented cases of illness were reported on Fire Island during this time and those two cases turned out not to be cholera at all.
One other interesting note about the Surf Hotel. The owner of the hotel at the time was David Sammis and he sold the hotel to the state for $210,000 which is a value of about $60 million today. This was definitely over-priced. Check out the article by Shoshanna McCollum Plague & Prejudice When Quarantine Came to the Shores of Fire Island. fireisland-news.com
There have been pandemics throughout history, but probably the most famous at least up to this point has been the 1918 Flu Pandemic also known as the Spanish Flu. It lasted from January 1918 to December 1920 and as reported by the CDC it was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It infected about 500 million people which was about a third of the world’s population at the time and killed at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,00 occurring in the United States. cdc.gov 1918 Pandemic (H1N1) virus)
Many people on Long Island were affected by the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Just one page in The Long-Islander, October 25, 1918, Page 6, Image 6 describes the state of affairs. In Huntington Station “Garrett Van Wicklen, who has been with influenza, was improved, but this week suffered a relapse from which he is recovering.” “The influenza is quite prevalent here this week, and in one family there were four ill with it.” “Owing to the epidemic it has been deemed wise to indefinitely postpone the dance of the Huntington Manor Firemen, which was to have been held in Liederkranz Hall Saturday evening.” “In effort to help the health authorities to stamp out the influenza, no churches were open in this section Sunday. In order that his people should not be deprived of worship, the Rev. Francis X Wunsch had an altar erected on the lawn adjoining St. Hugh’s R.C. Church and celebrated mass out of doors.” “The Greenlawn School is closed by order of the Board of Health during the influenza epidemic.
As today, nurses during the Spanish Flu Pandemic galvanized and worked extremely hard putting their own health in peril to save victims of the Spanish Flu.
One of these nurses was the daughter of George W. Barrett of Cold Spring Harbor who trained on Cold Spring Harbor whaling ships, The Alice and The Sheffield. The Long-Islander, December 13, 1918, Page 7, Image 7 states that “Miss Laura G. Barrett, who has been visiting her sister has returned to her work at the Henry Street Settlement in lower New York City. When the dreadful Spanish Influenza struck New York City, Miss Wald, who is at the head of the Henry Street Settlement, offered her large staff of 150 nurses to the city. During the time the epidemic raged the amount of work the Settlement was called upon to do was very heavy and taxed them to the utmost. Miss Barrett had much responsibility in her office and was given a short leave of absence for complete rest and has been much benefited by her stay in Cold Spring Harbor.”
There was good advice in The Long Islander, October, 4, 1918:
“HEALTH PRECAUTIONS: Don’t get frightened after reading that learned dissertation in our columns this week on Spanish Influenza and take to your bed. It is after all the old-fashioned grip and every time you cough or sneeze it does not signify you are going to have it. Keep your courage up and avoid overcrowded cars and other meeting places. Do not get too tired from overwork and eat moderately. Live in the open air as far as possible.” This is probably good advice for today, too.
Text Below for Accessibility
Between Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, you probably have hearts on the mind this February. Check out these facts of the heart of the world's largest creature, the Blue Whale.
A Blue Whale Had His Heartbeat Taken for the First Time Ever — And Scientists Are Shocked https://www.livescience.com/first-blue-whale-heartbeat.html
National Geographic: Education Blog – How Big is a Blue Whale’s Heart? https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/2015/08/31/how-big-is-a-blue-whales-heart/
By Nomi Dayan
If you showed a whaler a picture of a contemporary American family celebrating Christmas, he likely would have no idea what holiday he was looking at. Many of the familiar traditions we associate with Christmas today are relatively new. Christmas trees, a rosy-cheeked Santa Claus, and even the seasonal spirit of generosity only took hold in the mid-to-late 1800s. Yet as modern yuletide customs took shape during the Victorian era, Christmas was a different story for whalers at sea.
The Captain decided if and how the day was observed. Eldred Fysh was one of the lucky whalers. He wrote aboard English ship Coronet in 1837: “This being Christmas day, there was no work done and the Capt. gave the men the means of making themselves as comfortable as they could do."
William Morris Davis aboard the Chelsea (1834-36) of Connecticut was left disheartened. “I wish the world a merry Christmas, but there is no use in wishing a merry Christmas to that unfortunate race, generally known and vulgarly called Blubber Hunters. They have not wherewith to make a merry Christmas. This with us is plain Friday, only that occasionally someone bawls out, ‘I wish you a merry Christmas.’”
A more intimate view of Christmas at sea can be found in the diaries of whaling wives. Many remark celebrating Christmas with a special meal (a delight which may not have extended to the lower-ranked crew members). Eliza Edwards, who sailed from Honolulu on the Splendid of Cold Spring Harbor with her husband Eli, the first mate, wrote: “I don’t believe if you were home on Christmas and I at sea that you had any better dinner than I did. We had roast turkey just as tender and nice as it could be besides vegetables, oyster stew, and mince pie.”
Annie Ricketson spent several years aboard the whaleship A. R. Tucker. She must have found herself quite bored on Christmas 1871, because all she wrote for that day was, “This is Christmas Morning. Last Christmas, Husband and I were home and we enjoyed ourselves very much.” The next year she found the day just as unremarkable: “Dec 25. The past two days have been very quiet, seen nothing.” The highlight of the day was wishing others Merry Christmas. “This morning before I was up the boy tip toed down the stairs and wished me a Merry Christmas...Mr. Bourne came and looked down the stairs and wished me. But I wished Mr. Harris and Mr. Vanderhoop. But the cook got a head of me. He looked down the sky light just as I sat down to breakfast and wished me. They all seemed very anxious to wish me first.” Nostalgically, she ends her entry, “I suppose they are having nice times at home now, wish I was there to enjoy it with them.” Christmas the following year was not much more exciting for Annie. “Nothing…worth writing about. But cannot pass Christmas by and not have something to write about. This morning I gave Daniel a present of a Cigar holder that I got him in St. Helena. He was very much pleased with it for he had been wanting one for a long time.” It was then back to work as usual: “Raised whales his forenoon – saw them jump out of water once, but it was so rugged saw nothing more of them. We thought we were going to have a nice Christmas present.”
The captain’s children, if present, expected full stockings, even if at sea. When Clara Ryder on the N. D. Chase told her young son there was no chimney for Santa Claus aboard a ship, he thought “he should come down the stove pipe into the galley.”
Mary Chipman Lawrence, who sailed with her young daughter Minnie on the whaler Addison, described four Christmases during her life at sea, each where she was careful to fill her daughter’s stocking:
Some whaling wives enjoyed making Christmas surprises for crew members. Mary Stickney on the whaler Cicero in 1881 journaled how she sent the Steward to get the cabin boy’s stockings and secretly fill them with “candy, peanuts, coconuts, and a calico shirt” she had sewed.
One Christmas celebration at sea was planned a year in advance among three whaling families who agreed to meet at the tiny Norfolk Island east of Australia on December 25, 1856. And met they did, dining together on board one of the ships. Seventy five years later, three of those children shared the memory again in Nantucket – this time on dry land.
Nomi Dayan is the Executive Director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor.
Upcoming December 2019 Events:
Follow the Whaling Museum's ambition to stay current, and meaningful, and connected to contemporary interests.
Written by staff, volunteers, and trustees of the Museum!