An island in the Atlantic ocean—town and county. It lies E. of Dukes county, and about 30 miles S. of Cape Cod, or Barnstable county. This island is about 15 miles in length from east to west, and about 4 miles average breadth. It contains 50 square miles. The town, formerly called Shelburne, is in about the centre of the island on the north side, in lat. 41°16'42", W. lon. 70°7'42". It is 100 miles S.E. by E. from Boston, 55 S.E. from New Bedford, 30 S.E. from Falmouth, and 500 from Washington. Population, 1837, 9,048.
Nantucket has a good harbor, with 7 1/2 feet of water, at low tide, on the bar at its mouth. This island was formerly well wooded, but for many years it has not had a single tree of natural growth. The soil is light and sandy; it however affords pasturage for about 7,000 sheep, 500 cows, and other cattle. In 1659, when this county was incorporated, the island contained 3,000 Indians, but now, not one.
The whale fishery commenced here in 1690; and this place is, perhaps, more celebrated than any other for the enterprize and success of its people in that species of nautical adventure. Indeed Nantucket is the mother of that great branch of wealth in America, if not in the world. In the year ending April 1, 1837, Nantucket employed 74 vessels in that fishery, the tonnage of which was 25,875 tons; 1,277,009 gallons of sperm and whale oil was imported, the value of which was $1,114,012. The number of hands employed, was 1,897. The capital invested, was $2,520,000; this includes the ships and outfits only; yet many of the manufactories of the place, are appendages of the whale fishery; altogether, employing a capital of over five million dollars. There are manufactures on the island, of vessels, whale boats, bar iron, tin ware, boots, shoes, oil casks, and candle boxes. The whole amount of the manufactures, for that year, including oil and candles, was $2,524,907. Total tonnage of the district of Nantucket, in 1837, 29,960 tons.
Great attention is paid to education on this island. The men are noted for their sedateness and daring spirit, and the women for their intelligence and beauty.
Nantucket Shoals is a dangerous place, where many a sailor has found a watery grave. They lie S.E. from the island, and cover an area of about 50 by 45 miles.