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.

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Nantucket Sound, A Maritime History by Theresa Mitchell Barbo.
An ancient fishing ground, vital shipping passage and final resting place for those unable to navigate its rocky shoals, Nantucket Sound—bordered by M...
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.
In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex--an event as mythic in its own century as the Tita...
Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin.
This is the epic history of the "iron men in wooden boats" who built an industrial empire based in places like Nantucket Island through the pursuit of...
Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890 by Nathaniel Philbrick.
History of Nantucket Island focuses on the real people (great and obscure, famous and infamous) behind one of America’s most extraordinary success st...

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