Whaling Items from Across the Centuries

This blog highlights interesting items from the Sturgis Library Archives. Today’s highlight is a selection of whaling items from across the centuries. 

Earlier this month, Sturgis hosted a lecture by Curtis Martin, Ph.D. titled, “American Whaling in the Age of Sail.” Dr. Martin traced the historical development of the whaling industry from the 1600s to the early twentieth century. He explored the economic importance of whaling; the risks associated with the hunt, capture, and processing of whales; the experiences of the crew; and the leisure arts of whale men among other key topics. Dr. Martin’s talk was informative and entertaining; we all learned so much. Thank you Dr. Martin!

Curtis Martin, Ph.D. with whaling harpoon
Sturgis’s foyer display case

In conjunction with this lecture, Sturgis Library displayed several whaling-related items from the archives in our foyer display case. These items include photographs, correspondence, documents, journals, whaling logs, postcards, a whaling lance, and a mid-nineteenth century walking cane made from whale ivory. If you did not get a chance to see it in person, you can view some of the items here:

This is only a small sampling of the whaling-related items in Sturgis Library’s archives. These items, like all of Sturgis’s archival material, are fully accessible to the public for in-library use. If you are interested in viewing anything from the archives call the Library at (508) 362-6636 or send an email request to reference@sturgislibrary.org.

Have you noticed the whales sprinkled throughout the Library? This is not only because we serve as a regional archive and research center for the study of Cape Cod history and maritime culture, it is also because we have a special connection to the famed author of Moby-Dick, Herman Melville. Melville married the sister of one of Sturgis Library’s first trustees four years before the publication of Moby-Dick. Melville’s wife, Elizabeth Shaw Melville was the sister of Sturgis trustee Lemuel Shaw Jr.

Contributions from very special friends of the Library enhanced the foyer whaling display this month. Library Director Lucy Loomis brought in antique containers of Nye’s whale oil and a genuine whale tooth with scrimshaw by maritime art and artifacts dealer, and friend of the library, Ryan M Cooper. Another friend of the library, Robert Parke shared the beautiful replica scrimshawed whale bone that he won at auction.