Nantucket History

From the Island’s earliest settlers to the inspiration for Moby Dick, Nantucket is full of early American history.

–In 1659, nine men invested “the sum of thirty pounds…and also two beaver hats, one for myself and one for my wife” to the [then] owner, Thomas Mayhew, for the purchase of Nantucket Island.

–During its whaling days, Nantucket was the third-largest city in Massachusetts, with a population of 10,000. Only Boston and Salem were larger. From 1881 to 1917, a railroad ran from Steamboat Wharf to Surfside, Tom Nevers, and Sconset.

–Nantucket was the last community in Massachusetts to lift the ban on automobiles (in 1918).

–There are over 800 buildings and structures built before the Civil War (1861) that are still in existence today.

–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.

–Author Herman Melville, while visiting Nantucket in the 1840s, heard the story of the Whaleship Essex from 1st Mate Owen Chase which inspired him to write “Moby Dick.”

–In 1977, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard unsuccessfully attempted to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

–From the mid-1700s to the late 1830s, the Island was the whaling capital of the world, with as many as 150 ships making port in Nantucket during its peak.

–Cobblestones were laid on Main Street in 1838. Despite all rumors, there is no proof that the stones were used as ballast on whaling ships. More likely they were laid to cope with New England spring mud.

–Nantucket has the largest concentration of Native American place names in the country. Nantucket is translated as “far away land” in the Wampanoag dialect.

–R.H. Macy a native Nantucketer born in 1822, was the founder of the Macy’s retail stores.

–James A. Folger, born and raised on Nantucket, founded the Folger Coffee Company in 1872.
Nantucket desegregated its public schools in 1845, more than a hundred years before the rest of the nation.

–Brant Point Lighthouse is the second oldest in America, first constructed in 1746. It was blown down in 1774, burned and was rebuilt in 1782, burned and was rebuilt again in 1783. In 1788, Brant Point Light was again destroyed in a storm.

–The “roof walks” atop many Island homes were used to spot incoming whaleships or for pouring a bucket of sand down a burning chimney.

“roof walk” otherwise known as a “widow’s walk” in Town

Where is Nantucket Island?

Our small Island isn’t easy to get to or to spot out on a map, but that’s why it’s so special.

–The island is located 30 miles (48.3 Km) from Hyannis on Cape Cod.

–Island’s dimensions: 14 miles (20 Km) long, 3 – 5 miles (2-3 Km) wide on average Total land is 47.8 square miles (123.8 Km)

–The Nantucket year-round population is 17,200. At the peak of the summer, there are as many as 56,000 people here with their cars.

Nantucket Nature

We take our wildlife, conservation land, and water very seriously.

–Nantucket’s near proximity to the Gulf Stream makes the island 10˚ degrees warmer in the winter and 10˚ degrees cooler in the summer than the mainland.

–Nantucket has more than 82 miles of beaches. Each year there is a Rock Run in which teams or some very brave individuals circumnavigate the island (fortunately only 52 miles of the 82).

–Nantucket is a Town, a County, and an Island.

–The Milestone Road cranberry bog is one of the world’s largest. The land, over 260 acres, is owned by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.

–About 1,000 deer roam the Island, as well as a host of ring-necked pheasant, rabbits, ducks, and geese. Nantucket is also on the north/south flyway of migrating birds and is a popular venue for serious bird watchers. Endangered species here on Nantucket include the Piping Plover, Least Tern, and Osprey.

Fun Facts

–The eastern coast of Nantucket was the first place in the U.S. to see the first sunrise of the new millennium.

–The Median Household Income 2008-2012 was $83,546.

–There is not a single traffic light on the Island of Nantucket.

Nantucket Memorial Airport is the second busiest commercial airport in Massachusetts after Logan International Airport in Boston.

Pocomo Point