Monday, June 19, 2017

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket (Part 3)

. . . and her name is Helen Marshall! Greetings from Nantucket. The year is 1861. I am Helen Marshall. I guess you could say I'm of Nantucket but not from Nantucket. 

Until I was 9 1/2 I lived on board a whaling ship! My grandfather is the famous Nantucket whaling captain Seth Pinkham, who died in Brazil before I was born. My mother was his daughter Malvina. My father, Joseph Marshall, is also a whaling captain. 
My father (left)
Me (right)

My mother refused to stay behind though she was soon to be delivered of a child-me. I was born in the Azores, a group of islands off the coast of Portugal. I spent my first eight years on board a whaling ship.

Nantucket whaleships stopped in the Azores for provisions and crew. That is where I was born..

We sailed around the Pacific with my father, visiting many exotic locales and returning with a full cargo of sperm whale oil. I loved learning about the places we went and the people we met.

Liverpool Creamware for the American market

Liverpool Creamware- some of the less exotic treasures we brought home. (Your modern day sensibilities would be offended if I showed you our finest treasures). I like how each jug is personalized with patriotic American images and the name of the ship. Sometimes even the name of the captain or family is included.

My toys
I had many toys to amuse myself during the long voyages. I used this set of carte-de-visite featuring images of kings and queens of France and England to learn history. I wrote genealogical notes on the back of each card.  Second Mate George B. Hussey of the Aurora made this jump rope for me. It has whale bone handles and fancy sailors' knots. I also learned to tat lace with this tattling shuttle you see above.

This is my doll, an Izannah Walker doll 

I stitched this little quilt for my doll. I tried to trade it to a sea captain for a dog. 

I save photographs of friends and family in albums. The top photographs are my little cousins. The bottom photographs are my half-brother's children.

My grandfather's desk. He wrote many letters home with long-winded advice.
Now my father is retired and we are back in Nantucket for good.
Nantucket vs. the world.
Let me show you what the town of Nantucket looks like.
Nantucket- the center of the whaling industry for many years



One of the most important buildings in town-the lighthouse. The light keeps ships from running aground. This is the new light from 1849. It is a Fresnal lens created by a Frenchman. The light is built around a central piece of glass (the bull's eye). It is surrounded by concentric rings of glass projecting beyond one another. This type of light allows 5 times more light to shine than a traditional convex lens.

There are many industries in Nantucket. Each one has a distinct odor. Over 200 women and some girls like me braided straw into hats and bonnets. 

Behind me you see the newest American flags. The flag had 30 stars when my father left on his first whaling voyage in 1849. The stars represent the states including Wisconsin. Now our flag has 31 stars. California is the newest state.

In the distance you see a homeward bound pennant. Flags served as long distance communication tools at sea. A red homeward bound pennant shows a whaleship is heading home. 

Local businesses 

Nantucket 1850s

The whaling industry is still king here but it is not what it used to be. I will spare you the gruesome details of a whaling voyage. Behind me is a sperm whale skeleton. This is the type of whale my father and his crew sailed after. They are clever and cunning beasts. The blubber and bone of whales is highly prized for oil and other things. 

A barrel we used to store whale oil

The sperm whale has a waxy oil found inside a mysterious organ in their heads. We call it spermaceti.

This oil can be used to make odorless candles- a big improvement over tallow (pig fat). It can also be used to grease machines.
Spermaceti oil and candle molds
Hawden & Barney are the leading oil and candle firm here in Nantucket. Last year they produced 4,000 boxes of candles and 450 gallons of refined sperm whale oil. They also own a whalingship named Alpha. The whaling business is in decline now. Hawden & Barney use this building mainly as a warehouse.
That concludes my tour of Nantucket. I hope to see you in New Bedford some day to pick up the story where I just left off.                


Editorial note:
Pinkham-Marshall Family

 Helen Marshall went on to study at Vassar College. Helen set off on a grand tour of Europe in 1876 with her friend Ann Mitchell Macy, sister of Maria Mitchell. Upon her return, she taught at Nantucket High School and later at the Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut. She died in 1939.

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket (Part 2)

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket (Part 2) . . .

. . . and her name was Maria Mitchell. It's not women's history month anymore but it is always a good time to learn about women's history. Maria (Ma-RYE-uh just like Lydia Maria Child) Mitchell is a lady astronomer! The first ever in the United States. She grew up here in Nantucket. 


Maria Mitchell was born in this house in 1818. She was the third child in a large family. The house was kind of old by then. It was built in 1790! It is typical Nantucket architecture. It has an off-center front door and a small window above to let light in the hall when the door was closed. Her family moved here just before she was born. Maria's father had to add a new kitchen to the old house to make the house bigger. The new kitchen has a back staircase, a warming alcove and plaster walls painted to look like wood.


Can you spy the roof walk on top? That's for putting out fires in chimneys. Did you know that? 

Maria attended a school for young ladies. Her father also taught her astronomy and things only boys learn. Maria soon opened her own school for girls to learn the same subjects as boys. In the future this type of school might be called STEM (or just the science and math parts in my day).  Maria loved astronomy, just like her father. When she was 12, Maria helped her father calculate the position of their home by observing a solar eclipse. By 14 she was calculating navigational computations (whatever that means) for sailors leaving on whaling journeys.


This is the Nantucket Atheneum. Miss Mitchell was a librarian here from 1836 to just recently in 1858. She read everything she could when she wasn't working.

This is the Pacific National Bank where Mr. Mitchell is a cashier in 1836. He was in charge of the entire bank.

This is the side door to the upstairs apartment where the Mitchells lived. 

Maria and her father put a telescope up on the roof. On October 1, 1847 there was a party Maria did not feel like going. She went up on the roof with her telescope. What did she spy with her telescope? A fiery ball flying through the air- a comet!

She wrote down what she saw and the exact time to send her finding off to a society that keeps track of scientific discoveries. There was a storm in Nantucket the next day. The mail could not go out. A man in Italy claimed he saw the comet first. Maria persisted. She insisted she saw the comet first and her notes proved she was right. She was given an international gold medal from the King of Denmark. The comet is named after Miss Mitchell.

Maria Mitchell soon became famous. She was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848. The U.S. Coastal Survey paid her $300 a year as a celestial observer. She helped predict weather patterns using math to compute distances. This is very important on an island. We can't leave our island except by boat and most people are employed in the whaling industry.

Maria is no longer officially a Quaker but she believes in many of the Quaker principles. She refused to wear cotton before the war because cotton was picked by slaves. She always wears a black silk dress.

She is now Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College and studies the surfaces of Jupiter and Saturn. She is the first lady professor and ignores silly rules about ladies not going outside at night.

Ignore the observatory behind me until you time travel forward to the early 1900s.

Meanwhile, back at the bank in 1849, Mr. Mitchell put this stone here to measure the varying angle between magnetic north and true north. This helps sailors. This stone is the first one here in the United States.

This is what Nantucket looks like outside of the center of the village. The island is one giant sand dune created by a glacier in the ice age. wow!

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket (Part 1)

There Once Was a Girl From Nantucket (Part 1)

Greetings from the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts! I'm here time traveling to the mid-1800s- the Golden Age of Nantucket. There's lots to see and to share so come on and follow me,

A monument to men who died in the Civil War

This Civil War monument is so tall! You can't see me AND the monument at the same time. It's in the center of the town of Nantucket. 

The whaling industry (more on that later) has made many men very rich. They built large homes for their families.  The home above me was first built in the 1700s. It was very small. In 1836 the owners made the house big and fancy.

This is William Hawden's house. It was built in 1846 after the great fire. He is a whale oil merchant and silver seller. The firm of Hawden & Barney is the main producer of whale oil and spermaceti candles. William Hawden was born in Newport. He moved to Nantucket in 1820. He married a lady from one of the first whaling families in Nantucket and built this big house.

Hawden Silver

The next stop on my tour through town is the jail. Nantucket has a lot people passing through and causing trouble. This jail (or gaol) was built back in 1806. It is very sturdy to keep prisoners in. If they wanted to escape, they had to come up with creative ways to do it. Willa's friend can tell you more. I will ask Willa to write a guest post. (She didn't want to time travel-just hang out at the beach).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Women's History Month: Lydia Maria Child

Women's History MonthLydia Maria Child 

Part II

Lydia Maria (Francis) Child 1802-1880

In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist from Boston, started publishing a newspaper called The Liberator. Maria read it and became a reformer. She joined the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. She wrote anti-slavery papers after that. In 1833 she published

An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans. It made her very unpopular. She had to shut down her children's paper.

That did not stop her writing about slavery. Her next job was editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, a New York paper from 1841-1843. She was upset by the Compromise of 1850 and offered her support to John Brown for his raid at Harper's Ferry. (He didn't want it).

During the Civil War she collected supplies for "contraband" (runaway slaves attached to the Union Army). She wrote a reading book for newly freed slaves called Freedmen's Book. The book had biographies of black leaders, stories of fugitive slaves and practical advice. Maria published it mostly with her own money. The book was sold cheaply so freedmen could afford it. All profits were went into future editions. Maria edited Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent (Harriet Jacobs) and helped get it published.

After the Civil War Lydia supported women's suffrage but she thought black men should have the right to vote first. She founded the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. She also continued to support Native Americans. She thought they had the right to keep their own language and religion.

Maria's husband died in 1874. She finally had money of her own and donated it to support her personal causes. Maria continued to write and support charities until she died in 1880. She was very, very famous in her day and had many famous friends and fans like Edgar Allen Poe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and the Alcotts. In your day she is mostly remembered for "Over the River and Through the Woods."

Women's History Month: Lydia Maria Child

Women's History Month

Lydia Maria Child 

Part I

Lydia Maria (Francis) Child 1802-1880
"An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves."

March is Women's History Month. My project is to do an oral report on an important woman in American History. I always choose a Rhode Island woman. This year I chose a woman from Maine and Massachusetts instead.

Lydia Francis was born on February 11, 1802 in Medford, Massachusetts. Lydia was the youngest child in a large family. Her parents were not very nice. They raised her in the severe Puritan way. Young Lydia was different from her family. She was imaginative, bright, headstrong and curious. She studied with her older brother. He went to Harvard when she was 9.

Lydia's mother died when Lydia was young. Then Lydia's favorite sister got married. Lydia's father sent her way up north to Maine. Lydia lived with her married sister. She had to help out with household chores. She wrote to her brother. He helped her learn new things.

In 1819 Lydia took a teaching job in Gardiner, Maine. She changed religions to a nicer one. She was baptized in 1821. After that she used her baptism name Maria (muh-rye-uh) as her first name. Maria's brother was a Unitarian minister. This church helped Maria learn to think about people who were different from her. She became a writer. Her books talked about being nice to Indians and freeing the slaves.

In 1824 Maria published her first book. Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times is the first historical novel published in the United States. It was very scandalous. In the story a white lady married an Indian man and has a son. Then her Indian husband told her she would be better off with her own people. She went back to the white people and married a minister. The book was shocking but popular. It was published anonymously but soon everyone knew who wrote it.

 Lydia became part of the Transcendentalist circle and lifelong friends with Margaret Fuller.

Then she published a magazine for children called The Juvenile Miscellany.


In 1828 Maria married David Child. He was a lawyer and journalist. They agreed on personal beliefs. He did not earn much money so they moved around a lot. Because they were poor, Maria wrote a book called The Frugal Housewife (later the American Frugal Housewife). It was a household manual telling people how to live cheaply. This was the first cookbook that did not assume the reader had servants. Children were supposed to do the work instead. (It was very hard to be a kid back then). You can still buy this book in your time.

 It is too hard to cook from it. Cooking was done over an open fire in a fireplace. The cookbook also assumes you have a farm and you know how to cook weird things like calves' feet. It doesn't have much in the way of directions or any cooking temperatures. Women on the frontier (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, western New York and western Virginia) liked this book a lot.

This recipe for lobster salad doesn't tell you to cook the lobster or the eggs. It tells you to use chicken instead for chicken salad.

At this time Maria wrote for women and children. Her next manual was for mothers: The Mother's Book. Then she wrote a book for girls The Little Girl's Own Book. In this book she tells middle class mothers how to raise their daughters to be healthy but still feminine. Girls should play active games like skipping rope and game of graces; children should eat simple food, keep clean, stand up straight and lots more maxims for health and gracefulness.

 It also had quizzes and games.

Can you figure this one out? My guardian didn't get it. I told her to think of the line as the word "under" so "I understand you."

In 1844 she wrote the now-famous song (then a poem) "Over the River and Through the Woods.
It was originally called "The New-England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day" in Flowers for Children.