The Last Voyage of the Whaling Bark Progress

New Bedford, Chicago and the Twilight of an Industry


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About the Book

The whaling bark Progress was a New Bedford ship transformed into a whaling museum for Chicago’s 1893 world’s fair. Traversing waterways across North America, the whaleship enthralled crowds from Montreal to Racine. Her ultimate fate, however, was to be a failed sideshow of marine curiosities and a metaphor for a dying industry out of step with Gilded Age America. This book uses the story of the Progress to detail the rise, fall, and eventual demise of the whaling industry in America. The legacy of this whaling bark can be found throughout New England and Chicago, and invites questions about what it means to transform a dying industry into a museum piece.

About the Author(s)

Daniel Gifford, Ph.D.’s career spans academia and public history, including George Mason University, George Washington University, and the Smithsonian Institution. A scholar of American popular culture and museums studies, he currently teaches at several universities near his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bibliographic Details

Daniel Gifford
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8215-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4007-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
One. New Bedford—June 8, 1892 5
Two. New Bedford, 1851 13
Three. Somewhere in the South Atlantic, 1858 23
Four. New Bedford, 1865 40
Five. The Arctic, 1871 51
Six. New Bedford, 1880 67
Seven. Chicago, 1892 82
Eight. Lake Ontario, 1892 96
Nine. Chicago, 1892 115
Ten. New Bedford, 1904 154
Chapter Notes 171
Bibliography 187
Index 193

Book Reviews & Awards

• “The central question Gifford grapples with concerns how a community—whalers in New Bedford, Massachusetts—attempted to fashion a particular narrative about itself for a national audience…Gifford rightly turns our attention to the tricky work of memorializing and remembering an industry and a way of life. As Gifford reminds us, this is not a story unique to Gilded Age whalers, but one shared by all laborers caught up in industrial transitions.”—Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

• “Gifford is one of those desirable authors who expertly combine academic information and study with a style of writing that is inviting and compatible with a reader of any background or education level. He expresses notions about the whaling industry, the history of the Progress itself, and the events surrounding the exhibition at the World’s Fair in a way that is easy to follow, understand, and appreciate…Gifford ‘s book is an excellent addition to any personal or professional library.”—The Northern Mariner

• “Not only is this volume of interest to readers wanting to know more about the whaling industry, but this book is also a case study for museum designers. The Progress‘s history, the story of a whaling ship—how to display and interpret a past that has become more myth than reality, how to provide an educational experience, and make it alive and interesting—offers museum curators a case study to learn from. This book is sure to captivate a variety of readers.”—Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society