kids encyclopedia robot

New Bedford, Massachusetts facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
New Bedford, Massachusetts

Accushnet
New Bedford Harbor
New Bedford Harbor
Official seal of New Bedford, Massachusetts
Seal
Official logo of New Bedford, Massachusetts
Nickname(s): 
The Whaling City
Motto(s): 
Lucem Diffundo (Latin)
"I Diffuse Light"
Location in Bristol County, Massachusetts
Location in Bristol County, Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts is located in Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Location in Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts is located in the United States
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Massachusetts
County Bristol
Settled 1652
Incorporated (town) 1787
Incorporated (city) 1847
Government
 • Type Mayor–council
Area
 • 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)
Population
 (2020 United States Census)
 • Total 101,079
 • Density 4,189/sq mi (1,617.3/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
02740, 02744, 02745, 02746
Area code(s) 508 / 774
FIPS code 25-45000
GNIS feature ID 0613714

New Bedford (Massachusett: Accushnet) is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. It is located on the Acushnet River in what is known as the South Coast region. Up through the 17th century, the area was the territory of the Wampanoag Native American people. English colonists bought the land on which New Bedford would later be built from the Wampanoag in 1652, and the original colonial settlement that would later become the city was founded by English Quakers in the late 17th century. The town of New Bedford itself was officially incorporated in 1787.

During the first half of the 19th century, New Bedford was one of the world's most important whaling ports. At its economic height during this period, New Bedford was the wealthiest city in the world per capita. New Bedford was also a center of abolitionism at this time. The city attracted many freed or escaped African-American slaves, including Frederick Douglass, who lived there from 1838 until 1841. The city also served as the primary setting of Herman Melville's 1851 novel, Moby-Dick. From 1876 to 1900, New Bedford served as the initial home port for the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction, the precursor of the United States Coast Guard Academy.

As of the 2020 United States Census, New Bedford had a population of 101,079, making it the state's ninth-largest city and the largest of the South Coast region. The city is also known for its high concentration of Portuguese Americans. New Bedford remains known for its fishing fleet and accompanying seafood industry, which as of 2019 generated the highest annual value of any fishing port in the United States. The city is also home to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

History

See also: Timeline of New Bedford, Massachusetts

Early history

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

PurchaseStreetNewBedfordMA
North Congregational Church, Purchase Street, 1906

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

See also: list of mills in New Bedford, Massachusetts

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.

Geography

New Bedford is located at 41°39′06″N 70°56′01″W / 41.651803°N 70.933705°W / 41.651803; -70.933705 (41.651803, -70.933705). According to the 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.

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.

Climate

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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
(19.4)
69
(20.6)
80
(26.7)
96
(35.6)
98
(36.7)
102
(38.9)
103
(39.4)
107
(41.7)
94
(34.4)
90
(32.2)
79
(26.1)
74
(23.3)
107
(41.7)
Average high °F (°C) 37.5
(3.06)
37.8
(3.22)
45.1
(7.28)
54.6
(12.56)
65.4
(18.56)
74.4
(23.56)
80.0
(26.67)
78.6
(25.89)
72.2
(22.33)
62.5
(16.94)
51.8
(11)
41.1
(5.06)
58.4
(14.67)
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.5
(-0.83)
30.7
(-0.72)
38.1
(3.39)
47.1
(8.39)
57.4
(14.11)
66.4
(19.11)
72.3
(22.39)
71.2
(21.78)
64.6
(18.11)
54.9
(12.72)
44.9
(7.17)
34.9
(1.61)
51.0
(10.56)
Average low °F (°C) 23.5
(-4.72)
23.5
(-4.72)
31.1
(-0.5)
39.5
(4.17)
49.3
(9.61)
58.3
(14.61)
64.7
(18.17)
63.8
(17.67)
57.1
(13.94)
47.3
(8.5)
38.1
(3.39)
27.5
(-2.5)
43.6
(6.44)
Record low °F (°C) -10
(-23.3)
-12
(-24.4)
4
(-15.6)
16
(-8.9)
31
(-0.6)
39
(3.9)
47
(8.3)
39
(3.9)
30
(-1.1)
20
(-6.7)
8
(-13.3)
-11
(-23.9)
-12
(-24.4)
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.0
(102)
3.5
(89)
4.2
(107)
3.8
(97)
3.2
(81)
3.3
(84)
2.9
(74)
4.2
(107)
3.3
(84)
3.3
(84)
4.0
(102)
4.1
(104)
43.8
(1,113)
Snowfall inches (cm) 9.5
(24.1)
9.7
(24.6)
5.9
(15)
1.2
(3)
0.9
(2.3)
7.5
(19.1)
32.7
(83.1)
Avg. precipitation days 11 10 11 11 11 10 9 9 8 8 10 11 119

Transportation

Water

The Port of New Bedford is a major harbor for freight and passenger services, generating over $9.8 billion in economic value annually. The port serves as a break-bulk handler of perishable items, including fruit, fish, and a variety other cargo. The port is also a frequent stop for cruise ships, expecting an upwards of thirty cruise ship calls in 2006. One public and several private marinas offer limited transient dockage for recreational boats.

A handful of private ferry services also originate from New Bedford. One such company, SeaStreak, offers catamaran fast ferry service to Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, both in Martha's Vineyard, as well as Nantucket. A separate passenger line, the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company, runs scheduled ferry services from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk Island. The neighboring town of Fall River is served by seasonal services to Newport and Block Island, both in the state of Rhode Island. The history of ferry service from New Bedford dates back to May 15, 1818, when a steamboat entitled The Eagle carried six hundred passengers across the Nantucket Sound.

New Bedford has historically been a major city for whaling and commercial fishing, and remains an important site for the latter to this day. As of 2020, the Port of New Bedford is the number one fishing port in the United States, in terms of dollar value of catch. New Bedford fisherman landed 124 million pounds of fish in 2015, valued at $322 million, and the fishing industry accounts for the vast majority of the Port's annual economic value.

Air

New Bedford Regional Airport (EWB), a towered Class D airport offering two 5,400-foot (1,600 m) runways and a precision Instrument Landing System, is located in the central portion of the city with easy access to major highways.

Frequent scheduled passenger service is provided to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard by Cape Air and Southern Airways Express. As of 2020, New Bedford Regional Airport serves as the New England Fleet Base for Southern Airways Express, providing maintenance, storage, and offices for the airline.

In addition, the airport provides a wide range of general aviation and corporate jet services, including aircraft maintenance, fuel, and part 61 flight instruction.

Roads

Interstate 195 is the main freeway through central New Bedford, traveling from Providence, Rhode Island, 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.

Bus

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.

Rail

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.

On March 15, 2017, MassDOT filed a notice of project change in order to advance South Coast Rail service serving both New Bedford and Fall River using the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Commuter Rail Line.

Demographics

New England ancestry by county - updated
Largest self-reported ancestry groups in New England (2000 U.S. Census). Americans of Portuguese descent plurality shown in grey.
Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 3,313
1800 4,361 31.6%
1810 5,651 29.6%
1820 3,947 −30.2%
1830 7,592 92.3%
1840 12,087 59.2%
1850 16,443 36.0%
1860 22,300 35.6%
1870 21,320 −4.4%
1880 26,845 25.9%
1890 40,783 51.9%
1900 62,442 53.1%
1910 96,652 54.8%
1920 121,217 25.4%
1930 112,597 −7.1%
1940 110,341 −2.0%
1950 109,189 −1.0%
1960 102,477 −6.1%
1970 101,777 −0.7%
1980 98,478 −3.2%
1990 99,922 1.5%
2000 93,768 −6.2%
2010 95,072 1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

New Bedford and surrounding communities are a part of the Providence metropolitan area. The Greater Providence-Fall River-New Bedford area is home to the largest Portuguese-American community in the United States.

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 people of any race were 16.11% of the population. The city is very multi-cultural and diverse. 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.

Library

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.

Culture

Entertainment

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.

Sports

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

Museums

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.

Historic districts

New Bedford Historic Downtown William Street
William Street in winter, looking west

New Bedford has nine historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. They are:

Sister cities

New Bedford pano
The port of New Bedford

New Bedford is a sister city of these municipalities:

Economy

Early history

New Bedford, Massachusetts-old harbor
View of historic New Bedford harbor

The economy of the Pilgrim settlement in the New Bedford area was initially based around a few farming and fishing villages. The early Bedford Village quickly became a commercial zone and from there became a major whaling and foreign trade port. In the early 18th century, the Russell family purchased this area and developed it into a larger village (Joseph Russell III having made the most significant contributions). Age of Sail ships built in New Bedford include the schooner Caroline and whaleship Charles W. Morgan. By the 18th century, entrepreneurs in the area, such as whaling merchants from Nantucket, were attracted to the village and helped make it into one of the top whaling cities in the country. The most significant of these merchants was Joseph Rotch, who bought 10 acres (four hectares) of land in 1765 from Joseph Russell III on which he and his sons ran the family business. Rotch moved his business to New Bedford since it would be better for refining whale oil and manufacturing candles made from whales. As these parts of the whaling industry had been monopolized by a merchant cartel in Boston, Newport, Rhode Island, and Providence, Rhode Island, Rotch felt that it would be better for business to handle these himself by moving to the mainland.

The relationship between New Bedford and Nantucket allowed the two cities to dominate the whaling industry. In 1848 New Bedford resident Lewis Temple invented the toggling harpoon, an invention that would revolutionize the whaling industry. This helped make New Bedford the preeminent city in the U.S. whaling industry. Another factor was the increased draft of whaling ships, in part the result of greater use of steel in their construction, which made them too deep for Nantucket harbor. Syren, the longest lived of the clipper ships, spent over a decade transporting whale oil and whaling products to New Bedford, principally from Honolulu, and was owned for several years by William H. Besse of New Bedford. As a result of its control over whaling products that were used widely throughout the world (most importantly whale oil), New Bedford became one of the richest per capita cities in the world.

Many whalers would quit their jobs in 1849, though, as the Gold Rush attracted many of them to leave New Bedford for California. During this time Herman Melville, who worked in New Bedford as a whaler, wrote the novel Moby-Dick and published it in 1851; the city would be the initial setting of the book, including a scene set in the Seaman's Bethel, which still stands today. Despite the power it gave to New Bedford, the whaling industry began to decline starting in 1859 when petroleum, which would become an alternative to whale oil, was discovered. Another blow came with the Whaling Disaster of 1871, in which twenty-two New Bedford whalers were lost in the ice off the coast of Alaska. The New Bedford firm J. & W. R. Wing Company, the largest whaling company in the United States, sent out its last whaleship in 1914, and whaling in New Bedford came to its final end in 1925, with the last whaling expedition being made by the schooner John R. Manta.

Hathaway Mills
Hathaway Mills

In the mid-1840s, New Bedford was the site of the first petroleum fuel refinery in the United States, as newly discovered Pennsylvania crude oil was shipped to New Bedford to be refined for lamp oil and other oil. Standard Oil would ultimately buy this refinery, located on Fish Island. Fish Island was also the site of an early experiment in coal gasification, leading to the explosion of a building.

New Bedford was able to remain wealthy because of its textile industry. Starting in 1881, the textile industry grew large enough to sustain the city's economy. At its height, over 30,000 people were employed by the 32 cotton-manufacturing companies that owned the textile factories of New Bedford (which were worth $100 million in total). The creation of the New Bedford Textile School in 1895–1899 ushered in an era of textile prosperity that began to decline in the great depression and ended with the end of the textile period in the 1940s. The 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.

Tool and die operations also left the area steadily, starting in the 1970s.

Tourism

2019 New Bedford Folk Festival
2019 New Bedford Folk Festival

While accurate figures are hard to come by, tourism appears to be a growing industry. New Bedford tourism centers on fairs and festivals including the Folk Festival, Whaling City Festival, Fourth of July, Jazzfest, Working Waterfront Festival, Polish Fest, New Bedford Day of Portugal, Senhor Da Pedra feast, Holy Ghost of Pico feast, and the Portuguese Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (the largest Portuguese cultural celebration in the nation). Tourism also focuses on the historic whaling industry, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is the only national park unit that focuses on the whaling industry's impact on the history of the United States. The Buttonwood Park Zoo features various species, including two Asian Elephants, Emily and Ruth, the only ones in New England.

Driven in part by increased tourism, a Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel opened in New Bedford in late May 2010, on the edge of the city's harbor. This became the first hotel in the city to open in over 40 years, though it is well-supplied with bed and breakfast establishments. A secondary hotel, New Bedford Harbor Hotel, opened during the summer of 2018.

Fishing

Despite the historical decline of fishing and whaling in New England, New Bedford continues to be a leading fishing port. From 1999 to 2019, New Bedford has been the most valuable commercial fishing port in the United States. In 2019 the port’s catch was worth a total of $451 million. Although New Bedford only brought in the 14th largest total volume of fish among American ports in 2019, its catch was still the highest-grossing because scallops accounted for 84% of the port’s annual fishing revenue. Dutch Harbor, Alaska, has the highest volume, at 763 million pounds, worth $182 million.

1899 NewBedford public library Massachusetts
New Bedford Public Library, 1899

Income

See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

Data is from the 2009–2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Rank ZIP Code (ZCTA) Per capita
income
Median
household
income
Median
family
income
Population Number of
households
Massachusetts $35,763 $66,866 $84,900 6,605,058 2,530,147
Bristol County $28,837 $55,298 $72,018 549,870 210,037
United States $28,155 $53,046 $64,719 311,536,594 115,610,216
1 North (New Bedford) $26,093 $47,536 $57,287 24,830 10,303
New Bedford $21,056 $35,999 $44,607 94,927 39,068
2 02740 $20,649 $34,259 $40,508 43,308 18,028
3 South (New Bedford $18,190 $31,216 $40,635 11,722 4,685
4 02746 $15,948 $25,623 $32,314 14,835 5,954

Education

Public schools

New Bedford Public Schools is the community school district. New Bedford High School is the sole public high school in the city.

New Bedford is also the home to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, a large vocational high school serving the city New Bedford, and also the towns of Dartmouth and Fairhaven.

The city operates two alternative junior-senior high schools, Whaling City Alternative School, out of the original Greater New Bedford Vocational High School building, and Trinity Day Academy. There are also two charter schools, the Global Learning Charter Public School, otherwise known as GLCPS, which serves grades 5–12 and two campuses of the Alma del Mar Charter School, which is growing to serve grades K–8.

Other schools

There are three Catholic schools within the city, operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River.

  • All Saints Catholic School – It was a merger of the St. Mary and St. Joseph-Therese schools, while using the St. Mary Campus, and formed in 2010.
  • Holy Family-Holy Name School
  • St. James St. John School

Some of the students who attend these schools go on to attend Bishop Stang High School in neighboring Dartmouth. There are also two Catholic preschools.

There is also the Nazarene Christian Academy, a school operated by the Church of the Nazarene. Independent schools include Nativity Prep for boys grades 5–8 and Our Sisters' School for girls grades 5–8.

Former Catholic schools:

  • Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School – It opened with grades 1–3 in 1941, with additional levels afterwards. In the 1990s it established a preschool; it was a Pre-K–8 school at the end of its life. It closed in 2007. Joseph Sullivan stated that this was due to the declining enrollment and the increase in expenses. Its final graduating class numbered six.
  • St. Anthony School - It opened in 1896 and closed in 2007.
  • St. Joseph-St. Therese School – It had 225 students in 2000. This declined to 138 in 2005 but went up to 152 in 2010. It merged into all Saints in 2010.
  • St. Mary School – It had 214 students in 2005, which declined to 180 in 2010. It merged into all Saints in 2010.

There is one Non-Collegiate Flight School Located at the New Bedford Regional Airport

  • Colonial Air

Higher education

New Bedford is home to one of Fisher College's neighborhood campuses. Located on Church Street in the north end of the city, it serves adult learners from the greater New Bedford region and the surrounding communities of Taunton, Wareham, and Fall River. Bristol Community College has a satellite campus in Downtown New Bedford in the Star Store Building and 800 Purchase Street. Nearby Dartmouth is home to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, as well as the University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth, the first public law school in the state. However, the city also is the site of the marine campus of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (located at Fort Rodman) as well as its satellite visual art campus located in the former Star Store building downtown.

Bridgewater State University Aviation is based at the New Bedford Regional Airport. The program is one of the only Accredited Part 141 Collegiate Aviation Universities in New England. Bachelor of Science Degree's are offered in Flight Training and Aviation Management.

Library

The New Bedford public library was established in 1852. In fiscal year 2016, the City of New Bedford spent 0.78% ($2,012,820) of its budget on its public library system—approximately $21.20 per person, per year.

  • Main Library
  • Casa da Saudade (Portuguese branch)
  • Howland-Green Library
  • Lawler Library
  • Wilks Library
  • Bookmobile

Notable people

Paul Cuffee4
Paul Cuffee in 1812

Paul Cuffee, a merchant and ship's captain of Native and African (Ashanti of Ghana) origin, was born in nearby Cuttyhunk and settled in Westport, Massachusetts. Many of his ships sailed out of New Bedford.

Lewis Temple was an African-American blacksmith who invented the toggle iron, a type of toggling harpoon, which revolutionized the whaling industry and enabled the capture of more whales. There is a monument to Temple in downtown New Bedford.

In 1838, Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave who became a famous abolitionist, settled in New Bedford. He writes in detail about the life and times of New Bedford in the late 1840s in his celebrated autobiography. A historic building and monument dedicated to Douglass can be found today at the Nathan and Polly Johnson properties. Frederick Douglass was not the only fugitive slave or freedman to see New Bedford as a welcoming place to settle. New Bedford had a small but thriving African-American community during the antebellum period. It was the home of a number of members of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an American Civil War regiment which fought, with considerable distinction, to preserve the Union. The 54th Massachusetts was the first regiment in the country's history formed entirely by African-American troops (who served with white officers). The most famous of these soldiers was William Harvey Carney, who made sure that the American flag never touched the ground during the Union assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, near Charleston. There is an elementary school in New Bedford named in his honor.

Patrick Cunningham was an Irish immigrant who lived in New Bedford. He was an inventor known for building a torpedo which he later fired down a street in the city.

Bishop "Sweet Daddy" Grace, native of Brava, Cape Verde, was a New Bedford resident who founded the United House of Prayer for All People, one of the largest African-American sects in America. He is buried in New Bedford.

  • Clifford Warren Ashley, author, sailor, and artist, most famous for The Ashley Book of Knots, an encyclopedic reference manual, copiously illustrated, on the tying of thousands of knots. Invented Ashley's stopper knot
  • Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, mob hitman
  • Merton J. Batchelder, Marine Corps Brigadier general during World War II, recipient of Navy Cross
  • André Bernier, first meteorologist to appear on The Weather Channel's debut on May 2, 1982
  • Albert Bierstadt, 19th-century German-born artist who depicteds of the American West
  • Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan) civil rights activist best known for participation in the Greensboro sit-ins
  • Franklin Brownell (1857–1946), painter, draughtsman, and teacher
  • William Harvey Carney American soldier during the American Civil War and recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Paul Clayton, folksinger
  • Frederick Douglass, 19th-century abolitionist and editor
  • Lewis Henry Douglass, Union Army African-American Sergeant Major who fought in the American Civil War at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner under the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Also, son of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist
  • William Edgar Easton, playwright and journalist
  • Nelson Eddy, singer and movie star who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, spent part of his boyhood in New Bedford
  • William Greenleaf Eliot, co-founder and benefactor of Washington University of St. Louis; grandfather of T. S. Eliot
  • Elizabeth Piper Ensley, educator, suffragette, and activist
  • Marie Equi, 19th-century doctor, labor activist, anarchist and Wobbly
  • Keith Francis (runner), World class middle-distance runner, NCAA Champion and 7-time NCAA All American at Boston College
  • Hetty Green, businesswoman, one of the wealthiest women in America; amassed a significant fortune from the stock market in the late 19th century
  • Henry Grinnell, businessman who financed the outfitting of two vessels, the "Advance" and the "Rescue", to search the Arctic for the lost Franklin Expedition
  • Carol Haney, choreographer, principal assistant to Gene Kelly, worked on Singin' in the Rain
  • Brian Helgeland, screenwriter of Mystic River, Conspiracy Theory, and L.A. Confidential, director of A Knight's Tale and 42
  • Irwin M. Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm
  • Samantha Johnson, singer
  • Gail Kasper, TV host, author, producer and motivational speaker
  • Tynisha Keli, singer
  • Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association
  • Rebecca Hammond Lard, first poet of Indiana
  • George N. Leighton, United States District Court judge
  • Dave Leitao, basketball head coach for DePaul
  • William Foster Nye (1824–1910), businessman
  • William and Amelia Piper, saved by members of New Bedford, they were abolitionists and conductors on the Underground Railroad
  • Paul Poirier, former New England heavyweight boxing champion
  • Brian Pothier, professional ice hockey player currently playing for the Carolina Hurricanes
  • Ben Powers, actor
  • Benjamin Russell, artist, best known for his accurate watercolors of whaling ships
  • Albert Pinkham Ryder, 19th-century painter best known for his poetic and moody allegorical works and seascapes, as well as his eccentric personality
  • Laurie Santos (born 1975), professor at Yale University and TED speaker
  • Jared Shuster (born 1998), baseball pitcher, first round 2020 MLB draft pick
  • Lois Tripp Slocum (1899–1951), astronomer
  • Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer under Barack Obama
  • Harry Stovey, 19th-century professional baseball player; born in Philadelphia, he became a police officer in New Bedford after his playing days
  • Quinn Sullivan, musician
  • Jordan Todman, NFL player
  • Benjamin Tucker, individualist-anarchist author
  • John Tukey, statistician whose usage of the term "software" and "bit" are believed to be the first in written history
  • Bobby Watkins, professional football player for the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals in the 1950s
  • Benjamin F. White, last governor of Montana Territory
  • William R. Yeschek, Wisconsin businessman and politician

Images for kids

kids search engine
New Bedford, Massachusetts Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.