Whaling... The industries of the island are unimportant; there is considerable cod and scallop fishing. Sheep-raising was once an important industry. Nantucket was long famous as a whaling port. As early as the beginning of the 18th century its fleets vied with those of eastern Long Island. In 1712 a Nantucket whaler, Christopher Hussey, blown out to sea, killed some sperm whales and thus introduced the sperm-oil industry and put an end to the period in which only driftand shoreor boat-whaling had been carried on - the shore fishery died out about 1760. In 1757 whaling was the only livelihood of the people of Nantucket; and in 1750-1775, although whaling fleets were in repeated danger from French and Spanish privateers, the business, with the allied coopers and other trades, steadily increased. In 1775 the Nantucket fleet numbered 150, and the population was between 5000 and 6000, about 90% being Quakers; but by 1785 the fleet had been shattered, 134 ships being destroyed or captured during the war. Tallow candles as a substitute for whale-oil had been introduced, and the British market was closed by a duty of �r8 a ton on oil; a bounty offered by the Massachusetts legislature (�5 on white and � 3 on yellow or brown spermaceti, and �2 on whale-oil per ton) was of slight assistance. During the war of 1812 the Nantucket fleet was the only one active; it suffered severely during the war, and in the decade1820-1830Nantucket lost its primacy to New Bedford, whose fleet in 1840 was twice as large. Nantucket's last whaler sailed in 1869. Subsequently the island has been chiefly important as a summer resort.
Kathleen A Pearlman