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History of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Nantucket Island is located off the southeast coast of Massachusetts, southeast of Martha's Vineyard. Nantucket prospered with the whaling industry and, following its decline, made the transition to a tourist destination. The town of Nantucket is the seat of Nantucket County, which is the same island. Nantucket Island was discovered by Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602, at which time the Indian population was about 1,500. The island was purchased by Thomas Mahew in 1641, but was not settled until 1659 when Thomas Macy led a group of Quakers to found a settlement near Capaum. The Jethro Coffin House is the oldest house still standing on Nantucket Island and was built in 1686. At first, the island was under the authority of New York, but control was transferred to Massachusetts in 1692. In 1695, the name of the settlement was changed from Sherburne to Nantucket. Between 1690 and about 1840, Nantucket was the foremost whaling port in America. In 1830, Nantucket was the third largest city in Massachusetts, trailing only Boston and Salem. The Whaling Museum, built in 1847 as a candle factory, contains relics of the whaling era. The first American woman astronomer was Maria Mitchell, born in Nantucket in 1818. The Maria Mitchell House, where she was born, is now a museum. The Nantucket Historical Association operates its museum in the Friends Meeting House, which was built in 1838 to serve the local congregation of Quakers. The island's hospital is Nantucket Cottage Hospital, so named because when it was started in 1911, it was housed in three cottages on West Chester Street. The Inquirer and Mirror has been Nantucket's newspaper since 1821. The Nantucket Atheneum, incorporated in 1834, was opened as a free library in 1900.