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The Making of Nantucket

Family Lives and Fortunes in the Nineteenth Century 


by Everett U. Crosby


Softcover ~ isbn 978-0932027-351  • $27.00
256 pages  •  7.25” x 10”  •  125 photos


A New Perspective on Nantucket’s History
and the People Who Forged Its Future

   Anyone 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 a unique portrait of nineteenth-century Nantucket. In these pages, the history of the island coalesces in the life of Captain Matthew Crosby, a successful, community-minded merchant-mariner. The author’s perceptive analysis based on Matthew’s personal papers—which reflect the gains and losses of a career spanning most of the century—brings 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 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 come to know the men who gambled on long whaling voyages, and those who stayed at home to outfit more ships and tend to the needs of the community. We meet bankers and lawyers, shopkeepers and tradesmen, sons and daughters—people in Matthew’s circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. We learn about 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.

About the Author

Everett U. Crosby is Emeritus Professor of
History and Chairman of the Medieval Studies Program at the University of Virginia. Born in Philadelphia, he was educated at the Germantown Friends School, Yale University (B.A. in history) and the Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D).

Although his research and publications have dealt largely with medieval Europe, the history of Nantucket—a unique off-shore community with a richly variegated past—has always been of interest as a subject for further study. He can claim a long acquaintance with the island, inasmuch as he first disembarked from the steamer Naushon in 1934, and members of his family have been summer, as well as year-round, residents for more than a hundred years.

 

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