The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia

Companion Exhibition – Enlightened Encounters: The Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama

International Gallery
Exhibition Opening Date: October 8, 2017

This companion exhibition to Enlightened Encounters focuses on the broader connections between the eastern seaboard of America and Asia. Drawing from its permanent collections, the Museum presents a deep look at relationships built between American whalers and merchants and the East.

The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia explores the lucrative trade in hard goods between New Bedford merchants and the treaty ports of China, route finding through the East Indies, and the story of American whalers and the opening of commerce with Japan. Several American seaports specialized in trade with Asia. Merchants in Salem, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore all had significant investments in China, India, and the East Indies. By the 1830s prominent New Bedford and Fairhaven whaling merchants expanded their interest beyond the whaling industry and engaged in the China Trade. Come learn about the fascinating connections between Asian and Pacific maritime cultures and New Bedford in this exhibition.

2017 Lecture: The East Unlocks its Gates – American Whalers and Trade in Asia 


Top banner caption: (detail) Houqua’s Garden.  Anonymous Chinese Artist, c. 1850. Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 26 x 44 in. 


The Voyage of the Ship Horatio, 1850-51 – a story map based on Horatio Hathaway’s logbook from his first voyage as a merchant in the China Trade – Christina Sewall, Geographic Information System (GIS) consultant.