A New Perspective on Nantucket s History and the People Who Forged Its Future
Anyone who is familiar with Nantucket has heard many stories about its heyday as a world-famous whaling port. Those with a more intimate knowledge of the community have become acquainted with the names of its most celebrated historical families, and may have learned something of the significant events that shaped the future of the island. Yet no one has brought together the pieces of the island s history as Everett Crosby has done in The Making of Nantucket.
Exploring the past through the life of one person, the author has created an intricate mosaic, a portraiture of everyday affairs amidst the struggles and triumphs of Nantucket during the formative period of the nineteenth century. Here, in these pages, the history of the island coalesces in the life of Captain Matthew Crosby, a successful, community-minded merchant-mariner. Through the author s perceptive analysis based on Matthew s personal papers which reflect the gains and losses of a long career spanning most of the century we gain new insights into the events and concerns of those momentous years. Matthew takes us inside the story of running the British blockade during the War of 1812 and the account of rescuing a shipwrecked crew on the nearby shoals. We feel the shock and distress of a family banking scandal, the perils of life at sea, and the sudden terror of the Great Fire in the town.
Along the way, we meet the men who gambled on long whaling voyages to the far corners of the globe and the islanders who stayed at home to outfit more ships and to tend to the everyday needs of the community. We come to know the bankers and lawyers, the shopkeepers and tradesmen, and their wives and children, as well as the less prominent yet nonetheless important people in Matthew s circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. We learn about the sometimes rancorous political issues that engaged the citizens, and hear opinions on the growing tourist industry, new agricultural techniques, mainland travel, and the construction of the great houses that contribute so much to Nantucket s charm.
Meticulously researched, and written from a unique perspective, The Making of Nantucket belongs on the bookshelves of every Nantucket resident and, indeed, anyone who wants to learn more about how this small, isolated community found the resourcefulness to fashion a fortune from the sea, and then, having lost it, to reinvent itself as a prosperous summer resort.