New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford,
—  City  —
New Bedford Harbor

Nickname(s): The Whaling City
Location in Bristol County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 41°38′10″N 70°56′05″W / 41.63611°N 70.93472°W / 41.63611; -70.93472Coordinates: 41°38′10″N 70°56′05″W / 41.63611°N 70.93472°W / 41.63611; -70.93472
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Bristol
Settled 1640
Incorporated 1787
 - Type Mayor-council
 - Mayor Scott W. Lang (Dem)
 - City Council
David Alves
Debora Coelho
Brian Gomes
Denis Lawrence, Jr.
John Saunders
Ward Councilors by Ward#
1. Linda Morad
2. Steven Martins
3. Kathy Dehner
4. Bruce Duarte
5. Jane Gonsalves
6.Joe Lopes
 - Total 24.0 sq mi (62.2 km2)
 - Land 20.1 sq mi (52.1 km2)
 - Water 3.9 sq mi (10.1 km2)
Elevation 50 ft (15 m)
Population (2010[1])
 - Total 95,072
 - Density 4,545.5/sq mi (1,753.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02740, 02744, 02745, 02746
Area code(s) 508 / 774
FIPS code 25-45000
GNIS feature ID 0613714

New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located 51 miles (82 km) south of Boston, 28 miles (45 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and about 12 miles (19 km) east of Fall River. 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 it was, during the 19th century, one of the most important whaling ports in the world.[2] The city, along with Fall River and Taunton, is one of three cities on the south coast of Massachusetts.



Early history

Before the 17th century, the Wampanoags, 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 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. 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 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. The name was suggested by the Russell family who were prominent citizens of the community. It comes from the fact that 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), came into being in 1792. On June 12, 1792, the town set up its first post office with William Tobey as 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.) The town of New Bedford officially became a city in 1847; 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.

Immigration to New Bedford

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, however, a large wave of 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, largely because of the whaling industry. As the Portuguese community began to increase, they established the first Portuguese parish in the city, St. John the Baptist (1871). The French (chiefly French-Canadian) 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-Americans 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, many of whom became prominent merchants and businessmen, mainly in textiles and manufacturing.

African-American history in New Bedford

Paul Cuffee in 1812.

Paul Cuffee, a whaling captain active in the New Bedford whaling industry, 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.[3][4][5] 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 ante-bellum 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.

Bishop "Sweet Daddy" Grace, a native of Brava, Cape Verde Islands 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.

Other historical instances

In 1847, the New Bedford Horticultural Society was begun by James Arnold.


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).[6] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 62.2 square kilometers (24.0 sq mi). Of the total area, 20.1 square miles (52 km2) is land, and 3.9 square miles (10 km2)(16.23%) 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.

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 Palmers 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 Palmers 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.



The Port of New Bedford serves as a break-bulk handler of perishable items, including fruit and fish;[7] the port also handles other cargo. For 2006, the port expected upwards of 30 cruise ship calls.[8] 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.[9]

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.


Highways I-195 and US 6 run from east to west through the city. 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 is the southern terminus of MA 140, which is a freeway from MA 24. MA 18, also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, 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.[10]

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.[11] Private carrier Peter Pan Bus Lines no longer offers bus service to Boston.


The MBTA has proposed providing commuter rail service to the city.[12] 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.[13] CSX Transportation (formerly Conrail) provides freight rail service to New Bedford, terminating at the New Bedford Rail Yard in the port area.[7] Until 1959 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad provided train service to New Bedford from Boston and from 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 to New Bedford and Fall River.[14]


City Government and Services

New Bedford City Hall

New Bedford is governed by a Mayor-Council form of government. The mayor is currently Attorney Scott Lang, who was elected over incumbent Frederick Kalisz in 2006. He is a Democrat and was reelected in 2008 and 2010. He is not seeking a fourth term.

The New Bedford Police Department patrols the city from four stations. The main station is located on Rockdale Avenue in a converted supermarket plaza and replaces the former headquarters located downtown). There are also branches in the North End (at the intersection of Tarkiln Hill Road and Ashley Boulevard), South End (along Cove Street near the end of Route 18), and Downtown (on Pleasant Street near City Hall). The Chief of Police is Currently Ron Teachman The ranking of the police is Chief of Police Deputy Chief of Police Captain Lieutenant Sergeant Police Officer

The Fire Department is full-time, and has seven firehouses distributed around the city. The Fire Department headquarters (sta. #2) is located on Purchase Street in the downtown district which houses administrative offices of the department as well as personnel.

There are four post offices, the Central (a scaled replica of New York's Penn Station Post Office) located downtown, one located in the South End, and two more located in the North End.

The city formerly operated a trash dump located in the Mount Pleasant area of town between the regional airport and the Whaling City Golf Course. However, owing to pollution concerns, the dump was closed in the 1990s. The city now provides weekly trash and recycling pickup.

State and National Government

New Bedford is represented by four state representatives, representing the Ninth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth districts. The Ninth includes Dartmouth, as well as parts of Freetown and Lakeville; the Thirteenth includes parts of Freetown, Lakeville and Middleborough; and the Eleventh and Twelfth are both entirely within New Bedford. The city is represented in the state senate, by Senator Mark C.W. Montigny, in the Second Bristol and Plymouth district, which includes the towns of Acushnet, Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Mattapoisett.

The Third Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police, located nearby in Dartmouth, patrol New Bedford.

The city is part of Massachusetts's 4th congressional district, represented by U.S. Representative Barney Frank. The state's senior (Class I) U.S. Senator, re-elected in 2008, is John F. Kerry. The state's junior senator is Scott Brown, elected in a special election in 2010.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 15, 2008[15]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
  Democratic 28,625 51.81%
  Republican 3,482 6.30%
  Unaffiliated 22,640 40.98%
  Minor Parties 499 0.90%
Total 55,246 100%


During the 2006-07 academic year, the New Bedford school district (then under the direction of Superintendent Michael Longo) was one of several in Massachusetts labeled as "underperforming" under the state's MCAS guidelines.[16] The school system, like that of nearby Fall River, is also in the process of major school upgrades and consolidations, having rebuilt several of its schools in recent years. The most recent, Keith Middle School, made headlines for the problems involved in the cleanup of the polluted soil on the site.

The school district, headquartered in the former high school building on County Street, is made up of twenty-eight schools, including:

Elementary Schools

  • Charles S. Ashley Elementary
  • Elizabeth Carter Brooks Elementary
  • Elwyn G. Campbell Elementary
  • Sgt. William H. Carney Academy
  • James B. Congdon Elementary
  • John B. DeValles Elementary
  • George H. Dunbar Elementary
  • Hookah Pillah Elementary
  • Ellen R. Hathaway Elementary
  • John Hannigan Elementary
  • Hayden-McFadden Elementary
  • Horatio A. Kempton Elementary
  • Abraham Lincoln Elementary
  • Mucho Grande Elementary
  • Carlos Pacheco Elementary
  • John Avery Parker Elementary
  • Phillips Avenue Elementary
  • Casimir Pulaski Elementary
  • Thomas R. Rodman Elementary
  • Jireh Swift Elementary
  • William H. Taylor Elementary
  • Betsey B. Winslow Elementary
  • Alfred J. Gomes Elementary

Middle Schools

  • Keith Middle School - serving the central part of the city.
  • Normandin Middle School - serving the North End, named for a French doctor from the school's area
  • Nativity Prep.- serving the New Bedford area - Nativity Prep is an independent, tuition-free, all boys middle school run by volunteer teachers.
  • Our Sisters' School - serving girls from the Greater New Bedford area
  • Roosevelt Middle School - serving the South End

High School
New Bedford High School is one of the largest high schools in the state.

Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School New Bedford is also the home to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, a large vocational high school serving New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven. Its teams are called the "Bears," and wear green and gold.

Other Public Schools In addition, the city operates two alternative junior-senior high schools, Whaling City Alternative School, out of the original New Bedford Vocational High School building, and Trinity Day Academy. There are also two charter schools, the Global Learning Charter Public School [1], which serves grades 5-12 and the Alma del Mar Charter School which currently serves grades K-2.

Other Schools
There are seven Catholic schools within the city. Many of the students who attend these schools go on to attend Bishop Stang High School in neighboring Dartmouth. There are also two preschools and the Nazarene Christian Academy, a school operated by the Church of the Nazarene. 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.

Higher Education
New Bedford is also home to one of Fisher College's neighborhood campuses. Located on Church Street in the north end of the city, they serve 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. Nearby Dartmouth is home to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, as well as the UMass Dartmouth Law School, the first public law school in the state.

Closed Schools Two Catholic high schools closed recently: Saint Anthony High in 1978, and Holy Family High School, which closed in 1984. Both schools were small in registrations but were considered by some to be influential in New Bedford's 20th century culture. As of the end of the 2006/2007 school year, Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel, located on Crapo St in the city's South End, had closed down because of financial difficulties.


Historical populations
Year 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%
2001* 93,831 +0.1%
2002* 93,835 +0.0%
2003* 93,685 −0.2%
2004* 93,060 −0.7%
2005* 92,067 −1.1%
2006* 91,433 −0.7%
2007* 91,150 −0.3%
2008* 90,996 −0.2%
2009* 91,053 +0.1%
2010 95,072 +4.4%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

New Bedford and surrounding communities are a part of the Providence metropolitan area.

At the 2000 census[28], there were 93,768 people, 38,178 households and 24,090 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,660 per square mile (1,799/km2). There were 41,511 housing units at an average density of 2,063/sq mi (797/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.86% White, 4.39% African American, 0.62% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 9.51% from other races, and 5.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.21% of the population. The ethnic makeup of the city is estimated to be 38.6% Portuguese, 9.1% French, 8.0% Cape Verdean, 7.9% Irish, 7.3% English, and 7.1% Puerto Rican.

There were 38,178 households, of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.5% were married couples living together, 18.9% 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 $27,569, and the median family income was $35,708. Males had a median income of $31,388 versus $22,278 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 north end of the city closest to Rt. 18 is notorious for drug activity and also infamous for the 1983 gang rape at Big Dan's Bar on Belleville Ave. On March 6, 1983, Cheryl Araujo was gang raped at Big Dan's Bar in New Bedford. The film The Accused was based on this incident.

In 2000, crime had dropped to a 20-year low with 3,166 total crimes tracked by the Crime Reporting Unit of the Massachusetts State Police, of which 789 were violent crimes (the lowest violent crime rate since 1975), and 2,377 were property crimes.[29]

On February 2, 2000, drug dealer Matthew C. Cleary was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after he fired a sawed-off shotgun into a door of a house, allegedly following a drug deal gone bad. After his arrest, police found approximately 13 bags of cocaine in his apartment residence. In March 2002, while incarcerated for an unrelated crime, he pled guilty to two felony counts relating to his arrest.[30]

On December 8, 2001, New Bedford was the site of the biggest cocaine drug arrest in Massachusetts history with a total of 260 kilograms. The leader was Rafael Yeje Cabrera.[31]

According to witnesses and police, on February 1, 2006, Jacob D. Robida attacked and seriously wounded three patrons of Puzzles Lounge, a New Bedford gay bar.[32] He fled to Arkansas where he murdered a female companion and a police officer and later died from wounds (seemingly self-inflicted) received in a shootout.

New Bedford appeared on America's Most Wanted on February 11, 2006, for three unsolved murders: that of Marcus Cruz in 2001, Cecil Lopes III in 2004 and Dana Haywood in 2005, run as part of a report on the Stop Snitching phenomenon that has hindered police investigations nationwide. New Bedford is called "The Secret City" because of the Stop Snitching phenomenon. The show, broadcast on February 11, received good ratings, but "almost no" calls, being one of the first episodes, the first for such to happen. New Bedford has thirty unsolved homicides since 2000. Most stem from the ongoing feuds between the United Front and Monte Park neighborhoods. The gangs are located in the south and west ends of the city.

On December 12, 2006, gunman Scott Medeiros shot and killed a doorman and a manager at the Foxy Lady strip club, shot a patron and two police officers and then killed himself.[33]

On March 7, 2007, Michael Bianco, Inc., a leather products factory, was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 361 illegal immigrants were arrested by approximately 300 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. About 90 were transported to Texas in preparation for deportation, some without being contacted by the Department of Social Services regarding infants and toddlers without care. About 20 DSS case workers were sent to Texas.[34]

In recent years over 80 gang members from UFP, Monte Park and Latin King/MS-13 members have been detained, indicted and imprisoned curbing violence in 2007 and 2008. In May, 2010, it was reported that " Not a single person arrested in the roundups since 2007 has yet been acquitted in the state superior or federal courts" and "gang-related shootings and homicides are down from the violent levels seen before 2007."[35]

The Ash Street Jail, which houses inmates from Bristol County, is located in New Bedford and is currently the oldest continuously operating jail in the United States.


Economic history

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 more powerful than Nantucket, thus making it the most powerful city in the 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 a popular 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.[36] The New Bedford firm J. & W. R. Wing Company, the largest whaling company in the United States, sent out its last whaleship in 1914,[37] 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

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 an 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. 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.

At its height, though, over 30,000 people were employed by the 32 cotton-manufacturing companies that owned the textile factories of New Bedford (which were worth one hundred million dollars in total).

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

Until the mid-1990s New Bedford was home to a thriving commercial fishing community that fished Georges Bank, but in 1996 action was taken to reduce over-fishing, which devastated commercial fishing in the area.

The modern economy

View of ships docked at New Bedford.

Fishing and manufacturing continue to be two of the largest businesses in the area, and healthcare has become a major employer. The three largest single employers based in New Bedford are Southcoast Hospitals Group, one of the top ten employers in Massachusetts (healthcare), Titleist (golf clubs, balls, apparel, manufacturing), and Riverside Manufacturing (apparel manufacturing).

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 Summerfest Folk Music and Arts Festival, the traditional Blessing of the Fleet, and the 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.

Driven in part by increased tourism, a Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel opened in New Bedford in late May 2010. This became the first hotel in the city to open in over 40 years, though it is well-supplied with bed and breakfast establishments, and its neighbors to the east and west also offer hotel accommodations.

According to a 2001 study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, the three largest employment sectors in the Greater New Bedford area (the area includes New Bedford and Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Wareham) were as follows: services (26% of total employment); wholesale trade (22%); manufacturing (19%). The largest industries by employment in the area were as follows: health services, eating and drinking places, wholesale trade, food stores, and social services.

In 2002, the city received $61,194,358 in taxation revenue, $44,536,201 in local receipts, and $12,044,152 classified as other available.

In 2005 the unemployment rate was 7.3%, having dropped throughout the 1990s from 12.5% to 5.3% in 2000, and then having risen to 10.4% in 2003.

In 2005, the city received $104,925,772 for education, and $22,755,439 for general government from the State of Massachusetts.

New Bedford Public Library, 1899


The New Bedford public library was established in 1852.[38][39] 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.[40]


Main article: Media in Providence and New Bedford

New Bedford is part of the Providence TV market but is the city of license for two TV stations. WLNE-TV Channel 6 is the ABC affiliate for the market, and WLWC Channel 28 is The CW affiliate. The city is also home to several radio stations the most notable of which are WBSM at 1420 AM and WNBH at 1340 AM, both of which have been serving the residents of New Bedford for many decades.



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.[41] 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


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.

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 and chronicles 150 years of economic, social, and domestic life in New Bedford. The house was restored by the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE) in the early 1980s and converted into the house museum it is today.[42] 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 is located in the heart of New Bedford's historic downtown. The museum offers engaging exhibitions of artwork, both local and international in origin. 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 has nine historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. They are:

Notable residents

  • James Arnold, whaling merchant, whose estate is now known as the Wamsutta Club in New Bedford. Donated his fortune to create the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
  • 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. He invented Ashley's stopper knot.
  • Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, Mob hitman.
  • André Bernier, first meteorologist to appear on The Weather Channel's debut on May 2, 1982.
  • Albert Bierstadt, 19th century German-born artist whose depictions of the American West were well known throughout the country.
  • Mike Cejka, meteorologist at WIVB-TV in Buffalo, New York
  • Paul Clayton, American folksinger and folksong collector.
  • Nick Dompierre, American professional skateboarder.
  • Frederick Douglass, 19th century abolitionist and editor.
  • Nelson Eddy, American 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.
  • Marie Equi, 19th century doctor, labor activist, anarchist and Wobbly.
  • Bishop Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace, founder of United House of Prayer For All People.
  • 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, and worked on Singin' in the Rain.
  • Brian Helgeland, Screenplay writer of Mystic River, Conspiracy Theory, and L.A. Confidential fame
  • Irwin M. Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm.
  • Tynisha Keli, Singer
  • William Foster Nye (1824–1910)
  • Paul Poirier, Former New England Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Fought former World Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes in 1993.
  • Brian Pothier, Professional ice hockey player currently playing in the NHL for the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • 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.
  • Harry Stovey, 19th-century professional-baseball player. A strong home run hitter and one of the first to slide feet-first. Born in Philadelphia, he became a police officer in New Bedford after his playing days were over.
  • The Tavares, A soul-disco group
  • 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 who played for the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals in the 1950s.
  • Benjamin F. White, last governor of Montana Territory
  • Taeler Hendrix Professional Wrestler
  • A Wilhelm Scream (band) Band
  • Have HeartBand
  • Every Time I Die Band

Sister cities

New Bedford is a sister city of these municipalities:

See also

New Bedford pano.jpg


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Further reading

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