New Bedford Whaling Museum awarded $25,000
for new book: The Art of the Yankee Whale Hunt

Grant from Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation

NEW BEDFORD, Mass – The New Bedford Whaling Museum (NBWM) has received a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation in the amount of $25,000 to publish, The Art of the Yankee Whale Hunt, by NBWM Senior Maritime Historian Michael Dyer. The book ties together the maritime culture of Long Island and New England and draws on the Museum’s extensive collection of whaling logbooks, journals and manuscripts from America’s 19th century whaling industry.

Buried deep within the logbooks, journals and manuscripts are watercolor paintings and other drawings and representations of the hunt, rarely if ever seen by the public. With the collection of the Whaling Museum at his disposal, an unparalleled opportunity existed for Senior Maritime Historian Michael Dyer to bring these hidden artworks into the public eye. The Art of the Yankee Whale Hunt will highlight artworks and scrimshaw that capture the essence of whaling, its culture, the vessels used in it, the geographical locales of where it took place and the animals commonly pursued. Publication of the book is expected in spring 2017.

“Long Island has as a rich maritime history shared with the entire eastern seaboard states. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a treasure trove of material culture reflecting the whaling industry. This book offers our regional historians a look into the journals and logbooks documenting the actual experiences and life aboard ship,” said Kathryn M. Curran, Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation Executive Director.

This project serves as a vehicle to tie the maritime culture of Long Island and New England together. From the second half of the seventeenth-century, colonial settlers from Long Island to Martha’s Vineyard, and as far afield as Wellfleet on Cape Cod, engaged in commercial whaling. The eighteenth-century commerce of eastern Long Island itself was connected also to the ports of New London, Boston and Newport. Robert Morden’s 1690 map of the English Empire in North America shows a whaling scene off Long Island, and in 1722 another map of the region shows whaling off Gardiner’s Island. The communities at the east end of Long Island were among the earliest to take advantage of the migrating whales that passed their shores. Long Island whalemen filled out Nantucket crews. These early views of whaling off Long Island are the precursors to what evolved into a powerful tradition of American whaling art. Whaling was a way of life for Long Island and southern New England communities, and by the 1830s this culture emerged in a glorious outpouring of art. Almost none of this art was public. It was to be found in whalemen’s private journals and in the scenes of the hunt engraved on whale’s teeth, baleen and bone.

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, established in 1987, primarily supports the study of New York State history, with an emphasis on Suffolk County. Robert David Lion Gardiner was, until his death in August 2004, the 16th Lord of the Manor of Gardiner’s Island. The Gardiner family and their descendants have owned Gardiner’s Island since 1639, obtained as part of a royal grant from King Charles I of England. The Foundation is inspired by Robert David Lion Gardiner’s personal passion for New York history.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world’s foremost and largest cultural institution dedicated to whales and whaling. One of the oldest museums in Massachusetts, it has remained in continuous operation since 1903 under its founding organization, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society. The NBWM’s mission is “to educate and interest all of the public in the historic interaction of humans with whales worldwide; in the history of Old Dartmouth and adjacent communities; and in regional maritime activities.”

Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 129 (office)

Click on the images below to view, copy and paste high-res versions. 


Top: Austin M. Lester, master of the bark Congress of Mystic, Connecticut, 1844–1846, drew this starboard portrait of the Congress proudly flying a long pennant at the main mast, a Union Jack on the fore mast, and an American ensign. The long pennant is commonly described in naval parlance as a “homeward bound pennant,” or a “paying-off pennant.” In the case of whaler’s portraits of their vessels, especially where these appear as a frontispiece to their journals, the image is most likely a combination of seamen’s pride, patriotism and a hopeful desire to be homeward bound from a successful voyage.

Bottom: Second mate James Carter painted a whole series of finely composed, full-page individual illustrations separate from the text in his journal kept onboard of the ship St. Peter of New Bedford, William H. Almy, master, on a sperm whaling voyage to the Indian Ocean, 1849–1852.