Little Known Facts About Nantucket

BB_Nantucket_BeachScene1_Summer2015There’s a lot to learn about Nantucket, one of the region’s most historical places. Here are some fascinating facts about this town-, county- and island-in-one.

* Thirty pounds and some pelt. According to a historical account by Nathaniel Parker Willis, the island was originally purchased by Thomas Mayhew for the meager sum of “thirty pounds and two beaver hats” – one for Mayhew and another for his wife.

* Lots of famous faces. Nantucket has been home to many notable people, and attracts many famous repeat visitors. Pop star Meghan Trainor, the mother of Benjamin Franklin Mary Morrill and children’s television star Fred Rogers all at one point lived on Nantucket; while software entrepreneur Bill Gates, football coach Bill Belichick and retail clothing executive Tommy Hilfiger are all frequent visitors.

* A progressive place. The first all-black ship crew, captained by Nantucket-born Absalom Boston, set sail on the whaleship Industry in 1882. But the Civil Rights movement on Nantucket was also bolstered by Frederick Douglas who, in 1841, gave his first anti-slavery speech at the Atheneum’s Great Hall. A few years later in 1845, Nantucket desegregated its schools, over a hundred years before the rest of the nation.

* The ideal commute. Nantucket is roughly 3-5 miles wide, but the average commute to work is about 12 minutes.

BB_Nantucket_BeachLighthouseScene_Summer2015* History beneath the waves. There are over 700 shipwrecks surrounding Nantucket, ranging from pirate ships to whaling vessels. The sinking of the Andrea Doria in 1956 made headlines across the country.

* A little warmer, a little cooler. Because of its proximity to the Gulf Stream, Nantucket is afforded an extra 10 degrees of warmth in the winter and is 10 degrees cooler in the winter compared with mainland Cape Cod.

* Land ho. It is believed that Nantucket was first observed by European eyes as early as the 11th century; however, it was not settled by Europeans until 1659.

* Shelburne Island? The first European settlement wasn’t called Nantucket (which, by the way, is derived from Algonquin). “Shelburne,” or “Sherborn,” was what early settlers referred to it as, paying homage to their hometown in England. It was formally changed to “Nantucket” in 1755.

BB_Nantucket_HinghamSavings_Sothebys_Summer2015* Branded. Nantucket has ties to some of the nation’s top brands. James Athearn Folger, a Nantucket native, started the Folger’s Coffee Company after serving coffee to prospectors in the Gold Rush. William Coleman, of the famous grill and camp-light company, had direct ties to one of the original Nantucket families, the Coffins. After braving storms at sea on a whaleship, Rolland Macy branded his wrist with a red star tattoo (it is said that he was told by his Captain to steer for the red star to guide him home) – he later began his work in the retail business with Macy’s department store. George Swinton Parker of the Parker Brothers (think Monopoly) company is related to the Gardner family, another original island pedigree.

Check out our list of interesting facts about each Cape Cod town!


  1. Nantucket is 14 miles wide not 50!

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