“Business is Extremely Dull”: Whaling and Manufacturing in Wartime New Bedford

Earl F. Mulderink III

in New Bedford's Civil War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823243341
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823243389 | DOI:

Series: The North's Civil War (FUP)

“Business is Extremely Dull”: Whaling and Manufacturing in Wartime New Bedford

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This chapter explores how the Civil War disrupted New Bedford's maritime economy. Whaling's decline was poignantly illustrated by the sinking of the so-called Stone Fleets in Southern harbors in 1861, and by the ample destruction wrought by Confederate raiders as the war progressed. Depredations by the CSS Alabama and Shenandoah and increased competition from petroleum dealt a double-whammy to New Bedford's whaling economy. To understand local business leaders and the wartime context in which they worked, the chapter examines whaling agents and outfitters who persisted (and even prospered) through the war years. Other entrepreneurs turned to textile manufacturing and to new modes of industrial production that included twist drills, shoes, and bakeries. Despite slowdowns to the Wamsutta Textile Mills and the New Bedford Cordage Company, their directors and investors still received dividends during the war and kept their businesses intact. After providing an overview of the Stone Fleets, the chapter looks at Confederate privateers and raiders, whaling during the Civil War, New Bedford's business health and R. G. Dun credit reports, and new manufacturing in New Bedford.

Keywords: New Bedford; whaling; maritime economy; Civil War; Stone Fleets; raiders; privateers; manufacturing; credit reports; Wamsutta Textile Mills

Chapter.  9464 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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