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While perhaps the simplest description of this work, as it appears on the surface, is a straightforward compendium of the various histories of the early American whaling industry, with special attention paid to the development of the trade on Nantucket Island, its underlying purposes are multiform. First and foremost, I am concerned with the attention paid today with regard to the history of American whaling in common settings, as the focus is most frequently on what most historians would consider its latter era, that is, around the period described foremost in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. I here beseech the reader to consider the many decades of whaling that preceded this “golden age”, and to recognize their importance in the scope of a truly remarkable and enormous chronicle. Secondly, I attempt to approach a subject that is considered tedious and even tepid by many a novice of the subject, yet paradoxically infinite in richness to its partisans, by including a body of illustrations which I hope will produce the desired effect, to coax timid amateurs by introducing a sort of bridge of accessibility to a topic which in outward appearance might seem withdrawn from and irrelevant to the concerns of our modern age. It is my hope that these illustrations—many of which are artistic interpretations of subjects for which there is currently very little, if anything, in the way of a visual compliment—allow for a deeper connection between reader and subject matter, acting merely as stepping stones for the imagination, a timid muscle that so often misses its chance to flex for lack of the slightest measure of supplemental suggestion. Finally, this work attempts to construct a narrative which climaxes at the great turning point of early American whaling, this being the shift from shore-based to deep-sea endeavors, examining the effects of such an abrupt metamorphosis on both the lives of its practitioners, and the methodology of the practice itself, as well as the significance of such techno-centric change from the perspective of the whaling vessels of a nation on the verge of its Early Industrial Era.
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Stetson-Shanahan, Render E., "Burning the Fat from Their Souls: An Illustrated History of the Early American Whaling Industry on Nantucket Island and in The Eastern Colonies, 1640-1775" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 97.