Quick facts for kids
New Bedford Harbor
The Whaling City
Lucem Diffundo (Latin)
I Diffuse Light
Location in Bristol County in Massachusetts
|• Total||24.1 sq mi (62.5 km2)|
|• Land||20.0 sq mi (51.8 km2)|
|• Water||4.1 sq mi (10.7 km2)|
|Elevation||50 ft (15 m)|
|• Density||4,754/sq mi (1,835.4/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (Eastern)|
02740, 02744, 02745, 02746
|Area code(s)||508 / 774|
|GNIS feature ID||0613714|
New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 95,072, making it the sixth-largest city in Massachusetts. New Bedford is nicknamed "The Whaling City" because during the 19th century, the city was one of the most important, if not the most important, whaling ports in the world, along with Nantucket, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut. The city, along with Fall River and Taunton, make up the three largest cities in the South Coast region of Massachusetts. The Greater Providence-Fall River-New Bedford area is home to the largest Portuguese-American community in the United States.
- See also: Timeline of New Bedford, Massachusetts
Before the 17th century, the Wampanoag, who had settlements throughout southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, were the only inhabitants of the lands along the Acushnet River. Their population is believed to have been about 12,000. While exploring New England, Bartholomew Gosnold landed on Cuttyhunk Island on May 15, 1602. From there, he explored Cape Cod and the neighboring areas, including the site of present-day New Bedford. However, rather than settle the area, he returned to England at the request of his crew.
Europeans first settled New Bedford in 1652. English Plymouth Colony settlers purchased the land from chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe. Whether the transfer of the land was legitimately done has been the subject of intense controversy. Like other native tribes, the Wampanoags did not share the settlers' concepts of private property. The tribe may have believed they were granting usage rights to the land, not giving it up permanently.
The settlers used the land to build the colonial town of Old Dartmouth (which encompassed not only present-day Dartmouth, but also present-day New Bedford, Acushnet, Fairhaven, and Westport). A section of Old Dartmouth near the west bank of the Acushnet River, originally called Bedford Village, was officially incorporated as the town of New Bedford in 1787 after the American Revolutionary War. The name was suggested by the Russell family, who were prominent citizens of the community. The Dukes of Bedford, a leading English aristocratic house, also bore the surname Russell. (Bedford, Massachusetts had already been incorporated by 1787; hence "New" Bedford.)
The late-18th century was a time of growth for the town. New Bedford's first newspaper, The Medley (also known as New Bedford Marine Journal), was founded in 1792. On June 12, 1792, the town set up its first post office. William Tobey was its first postmaster. The construction of a bridge (originally a toll bridge) between New Bedford and present-day Fairhaven in 1796 also spurred growth. (Fairhaven separated from New Bedford in 1812, forming an independent town that included both present-day Fairhaven and present-day Acushnet.)
In 1847 the town of New Bedford officially became a city; Abraham Hathaway Howland was elected its first mayor. At approximately the same time, New Bedford began to supplant Nantucket as the nation's preeminent whaling port, thanks to its deeper harbor and location on the mainland. Whaling dominated the economy of the city for much of the century. Many families of the city were involved with it as crew and officers of ships.
Immigration to New Bedford
Until 1800, New Bedford and its surrounding communities were, by and large, populated by Protestants of English, Scottish, and Welsh origin. During the first half of the 19th century many Irish people came to Massachusetts. In 1818, Irish immigrants established the Catholic mission that built St. Mary's Church. Later in that century, immigrants from Portugal and its dependent territories of the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira began arriving in New Bedford and the surrounding area, attracted by jobs in the whaling industry; many had family members who had worked on whaling ships. As the Portuguese community began to increase, they established the first Portuguese parish in the city, St. John the Baptist (1871). French Canadians also secured a foothold in New Bedford at about the same time, and they built the Church of the Sacred Heart in 1877.
Similarly, Polish immigrants began arriving in the late 19th century and established the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1903. A number of Jewish families, arriving in the late 19th century, were active in the whaling industry, selling provisions and outfitting ships. During the years leading up to the First World War, a sizable eastern-European Jewish community joined them in New Bedford. Some became prominent merchants and businessmen, mainly in textiles and manufacturing.
New Bedford and its textile industry garnered national headlines in 1928 when it was hit with a strike of 30,000 workers. The walkout of mostly immigrant workers was given critical support by the Workers (Communist) Party and was the precursor of a more tumultuous textile strike in North Carolina held the following year.
Industrial development and prosperity
Other historical instances
In 1847, the New Bedford Horticultural Society was begun by James Arnold.
The Ash Street Jail, which houses inmates from Bristol County, is located in New Bedford. It opened in 1829 and is the oldest continuously operating jail in the United States.
Fort Taber and Fort Rodman (also called the "Fort at Clark's Point") were built during the American Civil War and are now in Fort Taber Park. Both forts are often called Fort Taber, including in some references.
New Bedford is located at United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.1 square miles (62.5 km2). Of the total area, 20.0 square miles (51.8 km2) is land, and 4.1 square miles (10.7 km2), or 17.13%, is water. New Bedford is a coastal city, a seaport, bordered on the west by Dartmouth, on the north by Freetown, on the east by Acushnet and Fairhaven, and on the south by Buzzards Bay. From New Bedford's northern border with Freetown to the Buzzards Bay coast at Clark's Point the distance is approximately 14 miles (23 km). Across New Bedford east to west is a distance of about 2 miles (3.2 km). The highest point in the city is an unnamed hill crossed by Interstate 195 and Hathaway Road west of downtown, with an elevation greater than 180 feet (55 m) above sea level.(41.651803, -70.933705). According to the
New Bedford Harbor, a body of water shared with Fairhaven, is actually the estuary of the Acushnet River where it empties into Buzzards Bay. The river empties into the bay beyond Clark's Point, the southernmost point of the city. To the west of Clark's Point is Clark's Cove, which extends landward approximately one and a half mile from the bay. Just south of Palmer's Island, beginning near Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven, lies a two-mile-long hurricane barrier, constructed in the 1960s to protect the inner harbor where the fishing fleet anchors. Along with Palmer's Island, the city also lays claim to Fish Island and Pope's Island. Between these two islands lies one of the three sections, the central section, of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge. The central span, a swing bridge, connects the two islands as well as allowing boats and ships passage to the upper harbor. Two conventional bridges connect each of the islands to the nearest mainland, Fish Island to New Bedford and Pope's Island to Fairhaven. In addition to the harbor, there are several small brooks and ponds within the city limits.
There are several parks and playgrounds located throughout the city, the largest being Brooklawn Park in the north end, Fort Taber Park (also referred to as Fort Rodman, the name of another fort built there) at Clark's Point, and Buttonwood Park, directly west of the downtown area near the Dartmouth town line. Buttonwood Park is also the site of a lagoon which feeds into Buttonwood Brook, and the Buttonwood Zoo. In the northwest part of the town, extending into Dartmouth, lies the Acushnet Cedar Swamp State Reservation.
New Bedford has a cooler than normal version of a humid subtropical climate that in many aspects resembles a humid continental one, but with slightly milder winters. In spite of being influenced by continental winds with large differences between seasons, temperatures are somewhat moderated compared to areas farther inland. There is high precipitation year-round, with winter being split between rainfall and snowfall.
|Climate data for New Bedford|
|Record high °F (°C)||67
|Average high °F (°C)||37.5
|Daily mean °F (°C)||30.5
|Average low °F (°C)||23.5
|Record low °F (°C)||-10
|Precipitation inches (mm)||4.0
|Snowfall inches (cm)||9.5
|Avg. precipitation days||11||10||11||11||11||10||9||9||8||8||10||11||119|
The Port of New Bedford serves as a break-bulk handler of perishable items, including fruit and fish; the port also handles other cargo. For 2006, the port expected upwards of 30 cruise ship calls. One public and several private marinas offer limited transient dockage for recreational boats. As of November, 2005, the port is the top U.S. fishing port in terms of dollar value of catch.
At least three private ferry services originate at New Bedford. As of 2010, Seastreak offers fast catamaran ferry service between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard; and the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company runs scheduled ferry services to Cuttyhunk Island. Ferry service from New Bedford dates back to May 15, 1818, when the steamboat The Eagle carried 600 passengers across the Nantucket Sound.
New Bedford Regional Airport (EWB), a towered Class D airport offering two 5,000-foot (1,500 m) runways and a precision instrument landing system, is located in the central portion of the city with easy access to highways. Frequent scheduled passenger service is provided to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard by Cape Air. Charter services, including seaplane charters, are available for destinations throughout the southern New England / New York region. In addition, the airport provides a range of general aviation and corporate jet services including aircraft maintenance facilities and flight instruction.
Interstate 195 is the main freeway through central New Bedford, traveling from Providence, RI to Wareham. Additionally, U.S. Route 6 runs from east to west through the city as well. US 6 leaves the city toward Cape Cod over the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, a swing truss bridge, and the Popes Island Bridge. New Bedford also serves as the southern terminus of MA Route 140, which is a freeway that connects to MA Route 24 in Taunton on the road north to Boston. MA Route 18, the extension of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (which travels through downtown), is a freeway for the short stretch connecting I-195 to US 6 and the port area.
The city bus terminal offers local and long distance bus connections. A free shuttle bus connects the bus terminal and the ferries. The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) provides bus service between the city, Fall River, and the surrounding regions.
Peter Pan Bus Lines makes a New Bedford stop on a New York City to Hyannis (Cape Cod) route. As of October, 2006, private carrier DATTCO provides daily commuter bus service to Boston via Taunton. Private carrier Peter Pan Bus Lines no longer offers bus service to Boston.
As of November, 2008, Yes! We Van, the only commuter vanpool of its kind in the United States, makes five runs daily to Boston.
The MBTA has proposed renewing commuter rail service to the city. As of May 14, 2006, total capital costs for commuter rail service to New Bedford were projected to be $800 million, and the project has not yet been funded by the state; which is still reeling financially from the financial excesses of the Big Dig project in Boston. CSX Transportation (formerly Conrail) provides freight rail service to New Bedford, terminating at the New Bedford Rail Yard in the port area. Until 1959, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad provided train service to New Bedford from Boston and Providence via Taunton.
As of April 6, 2007, Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a 1.6 billion dollar plan called South Coast Rail to bring commuter rail service back to New Bedford and Fall River.
|* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
New Bedford and surrounding communities are a part of the Providence metropolitan area.
At the 2010 census, there were 95,072 people, 39,204 households and 24,990 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,760 per square mile (1,799/km2). There were 42,781 housing units at an average density of 2,063/sq mi (797/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 72.17% (66.1% Non-Hispanic) White, 9.69% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.00% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 13.51% from other races, and 3.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.11% of the population. The city is very multi-cultural and diverse; 46.7% of residents are Luso-American (Portuguese or from a Portuguese territory). The ethnic makeup of the city is estimated to be 33.8% Portuguese, 10.1 Puerto Rican, 9.1% French, 8.8% Cape Verdean, 6.9% Irish, 5.3% English.
There were 39,208 households, of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 20.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.01.
Age distribution was 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.
The median household income was $37,569, and the median family income was $45,708. Males had a median income of $37,388 versus $27,278 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,602. About 17.3% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.1% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.
The New Bedford public library was established in 1852. In fiscal year 2008, the city of New Bedford spent 0.82% ($1,841,038) of its budget on its public library—some $20 per person.
New Bedford has had a sporadic history of successful musicians. During the 1970s, the Tavares, a soul music group made up of five brothers from New Bedford, became a chart topping success with such songs as "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" and "More Than a Woman". In 1999, the pop group LFO (Lyte Funky Ones), whose group member Harold "Devin" Lima is from New Bedford, had a hit single with their song "Summer Girls". Have Heart, a Straight-edge hardcore band, were formed in New Bedford in 2002, before breaking up in 2009. Most recently, the hardcore punk band A Wilhelm Scream has gained some success, having been added to the 2005 Warped Tour lineup. New Bedford natives Hector Barros and Scott Ross were members of the hip-hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, led by actor Mark Wahlberg. They achieved success with their 1991 single, Good Vibrations, which reached number one in the U.S., Sweden, and Switzerland. Josh Newton from the band Every Time I Die was born in New Bedford.
In 2002, the movie Passionada was filmed in New Bedford, making it the first film to be shot in the city in 45 years. Previously, film director John Huston shot a scene for the movie adaptation of Moby-Dick in front of Seamen's Bethel in 1956. However, all other exterior shots for New Bedford in the film were shot in Youghal instead.
The 2011 movie Whaling City, about the fight of an independent fisherman to save his boat and his way of life, is set in New Bedford and was filmed there.
New Bedford was the town where 100 brides in the 1968-70 TV series Here Come the Brides came from prior to their arrival in 1860's Seattle, Washington. The television series only lasted 2 seasons and all the locations in the series were shot in Burbank, California.
A character named New Bedford appeared on a Family Guy episode (in 2006) as a friend of another girl named Dakota. The fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island is "situated" near New Bedford. Family Guy episode "Lottery Fever" Peter mentions New Bedford while looking at a whale painting
Quinn Sullivan (born March 26, 1999) is a blues guitarist from New Bedford. Quinn has performed on stage with Buddy Guy and B.B. King and has played in venues such as the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC's The Today Show, Lollapalooza and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In April 2013 he played at Madison Square Garden with his mentor Buddy Guy during the first night of the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Since 2009, the city has been home to the New Bedford Bay Sox baseball franchise of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a collegiate summer baseball league operating in New England. The team, which reached the league playoffs in their inaugural season, plays home games at Paul Walsh Field in New Bedford. Since 2005 the New England Football League semi-pro team, The Whaling City Clippers, have played at Walsh Field.
Points of interest
New Bedford is the home of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the centerpiece of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. It is the country's largest museum on the subject of whaling and the history of interaction between humans and whales. The museum has the skeletons of a 66-foot (20 m)-long baby blue whale (obtained in 2000), a 35-foot (11 m)-long adult humpback whale (obtained in 1900), and a 45-foot (14 m)-long sperm whale (obtained in 2004) on display. All whales died in New England waters and were cleaned and assembled for display.
The Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum, is a 28-room Greek Revival mansion that was built for the whaling merchant, William Rotch, Jr., in 1834. Between 1834 and 1981, three prominent families owned the house. It was restored by the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE) in the early 1980s and converted into the house museum it is today, chronicling 150 years of economic, social, and domestic life in New Bedford. Tours of the house and grounds are available; the facilities can also be rented for private events. Weddings in the rose garden are popular. The Rotch-Jones-Duff House also has a summer concert series, and it hosts an annual "cookie contest."
The New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! is located in the heart of New Bedford's historic downtown. The museum offers engaging exhibitions of artwork, both local and international in origin, and offers adult and youth education classes. Not far away is Gallery X, a community art gallery.
The New Bedford Fire Museum is housed in a handsome red-brick building, formerly Fire Station No. 4, which opened in 1867. The fire station was one of the oldest continuously operating fire stations in the state when it was closed in 1979. The museum has a collection of old firefighting equipment and some old fire engines. Visitors can try on old uniforms and slide down the pole. Old city fire records dating to 1890 are available for research and review. Retired and active city firefighters act as docents.
The New Bedford Museum of Glass reflects the city's history as home of the Mount Washington and Pairpoint Glass companies. The museum's collection ranges from ancient to contemporary glass with a large focus on the glass of New England. A research library boasts over eight thousand volumes on glass. The museum is located in one of the historic Wamsutta Mills textile factory buildings.
New Bedford has nine historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. They are:
- Acushnet Heights Historic District
- Buttonwood Park Historic District
- Central New Bedford Historic District
- County Street Historic District
- Howland Mill Village Historic District
- Merrill's Wharf Historic District
- Moreland Terrace Historic District
- New Bedford Historic District
- North New Bedford Historic District
New Bedford is a sister city of these municipalities:
- Barrow, Alaska
- Funchal, Madeira
- Ílhavo, Portugal
- Horta, Azores
- Mindelo, Cape Verde
- Tosashimizu, Japan
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