was really bad about the guano trade was digging the stuff on the
islands because it ¾
when you broke up this ¾
this compacted bird droppings it was like talcum powder and would
get into your lungs and it was lethal, quite literally lethal.
were used and they were virtually kidnapped. It’s kind of the other
slave trade They were brought there and they worked almost for nothing,
like 4-dollars a month, but they weren’t going to survive because
they would die quickly.
ON THE HIGH SEAS
CRONKITE: One of the first Connecticut maritime ventures was hunting
fur seals in the South Atlantic for trade to China in the late 18th
and early 19th Centuries. Most of the fur sealers sailed
from New Haven or Stonington and traded fur skins for tea, chinaware
and textiles. Vast fortunes were established through the fur seal
trade, which lasted about 10 years.
wealth amassed through fur sealing paled in comparison with the riches
generated from whaling.
Hempsted house, the oldest house in New London, was the home of Joshua
Hempstead, a New London farmer and ship’s carpenter at Coit’s shipyard.
journal provides the earliest surviving record of whaling in Connecticut
-- in 1718. Hempsted
wrote of hiring out his whale boat to locals who pursued the whales
then plentiful off Long Island.
It was a small harbinger of bigger things to come.
Plummer (Norwich City Historian): One of the consequences of the Revolution
was that New London really became cut out of the West Indies trade.
The British controlled much of the West Indies.
I think another factor in the early 1800’s was the rise of New York
as the great transatlantic shipping port.
Trading was not as feasible any more because, you know, much
of the trade was really being drawn off elsewhere.
offered a ¾
a real alternative that was good because no longer did you have to
depend on having something to ship out.
It just required what we had which was skilled sailors, ships,
capital. And after
the War of 1812 New London went into whaling pretty whole hog. So
much so that by the mid 1840’s New London becomes the second largest
whaling port in the world after New Bedford. 78 vessels sailing out
after whales, also seals, sea elephants.
This whole area was lined with wharves associated with the
PETERSON (Senior Curator, Mystic Seaport): There were other Connecticut
ports that were involved from time to time: but it was New London
that was the significant whaling port in the 19th Century.
The whale fishery was probably the most important fishery that
that Connecticut’s ever had in terms of dollars.
cargo of whale oil could be worth as much as a million and a half
dollars in today’s money and so it was worth the risk to send a whale
ship out for two or three years, sometimes longer.
An industry like whaling that was so
important to places like New London also required a lot of supporting
trades and industries. It
brought tremendous prosperity to the city.
Fortunes were made, you know, many of the leading families
in New London became wealthy through the whaling industry.
CRONKITE: Another rather
unique aspect of Connecticut whaling was elephant sealing, known locally
Plummer (Norwich City Historian): New Londoners were known in the
whaling trade as “underwater men” because they spent so much time
in the far north, in the far south where the conditions were so extreme.
One of their favorite ports of call -- if you could call it that,
was Desolation Island in the very south of the Indian Ocean at the
fringe of the Antarctic. Desolation was great because you had humpback
whales that sported about in the bays of Desolation, you had huge
sea elephants that would haul up on shore. You could kill them easily
with clubs, spears, rifles …The blubber would yield an oil indistinguishable
from whale oil. So a lot of the whale oil that was shipped into New
London was actually from these giant seals some of them getting up
to 20 feet long.
the 1880’s the whaling fleet had really reduced to a few vessels.
People are starting to look at the industry with a lot of nostalgia
CITY 4 - WHALE OIL ROW/ACORS BARNS/NEW LONDON LIBRARY
RYAN (New London Municipal Historian): This is what we call Whale
Oil Row. These houses were built in 1834 by Ezrah Chapel on speculation
to sell to people like whaling captains. These were expensive homes.
These homes would have been for people like captains and whaling merchants
who made money. The ordinary
seaman never could have afforded a home like this.
This would be a desirable place to live because they could
walk downtown and be right where the docks were.
is the home of Acors Barns and Acors Barns was what we call a whaling
agent. The whaling agents were the ones who – they more often owned
the whaling ships but they would hire the captain, they would hire
the crew and they would get the supplies, and they are the ones who
were in charge of the whaling voyages.
not only got the profits from the whaling voyage itself but they owned
the warehouses and when the whaling ship came back, if whale oil was
not selling at a high enough profit they could store the oil and then
sell it later. …And so they were the ones who became very wealthy.
is the New London Public Library. This library was a gift from Henry
P. Haven. Henry P. Haven was a whaling agent but he also was involved
in the guano trade … There are many other public buildings in New
London like our hospital and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum and some of
the monuments, our sailors and soldiers monument. That were gifts to the city from people who made their money
from whaling and other maritime pursuits.