Although a distant third to New Bedford and Nantucket, Massachusetts, as a center of whaling activity in the 19th century, New London's assumption of the sobriquet "The Whaling City" is not the usurpation a casual student of history might at first think. For 80 years, New London had whaling ships at sea, a record surpassed only by New Bedford and Nantucket. And, it is true that New London sent out many fewer vessels than did New Bedford or Nantucket, but those New London vessels more than made their mark in whaling history.
New London's Bank Street has been described as a "real 19th century seaport street. ... [one] that authentically illustrates the city's whaling and maritime past." Here is a brief list of items reflecting New London's whaling history.
In her history of New London, Frances Manwaring Caulkings quotes an entry in The New London Gazette of 1784 as the first notice of a whaling ship sailing from New London:
She reports nothing further of this vessel, but tells of two vessels, the Lucy and the America returning from successful voyages in May and June 1785. She quotes Thomas Allen who kept the marine lists in The New London Gazette as follows:
Now, my horse jockeys, beat your horses and cattle into spears, lances, harpoons and whaling gear, and let us all strike out: many spouts ahead! Whales plenty, you have them for catching.
As the records show, New London's claim to whaling fame is not entirely misplaced.
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