county, southeastern Massachusetts,
U.S. It lies at the mouth of the Acushnet River on Buzzards
Bay, 54 miles (87 km) south of Boston.
site, settled by Plymouth colonists in 1652, was originally part of Dartmouth.
A fishing community was established there in 1760. By 1765 it had
a small whaling port and shipbuilding center. The Dartmouth, which
in 1767 was the first ship launched there, was one of the
"tea-ships" involved in the Boston
Tea Party (1773).
Because the town's deepwater harbor was used by American privateers
during the American Revolution, it was attacked (Sept. 5, 1778) and burned
by British forces. Following a rapid recovery, it was separately
incorporated (1787) as the town of New Bedford.
1820 New Bedford was one of the world's leading whaling
ports; in the mid-19th century three-fifths of the U.S. whaling fleet,
which totaled more than 700 vessels, was registered there. The site was
immortalized by Herman
Melville in Moby Dick.
the decline in whaling, New Bedford turned to the manufacture of cotton
fabrics but was adversely affected by the movement of the textile industry
to the American Southeast during the 1920s. A diversified economy now
prevails with the manufacture of electrical equipment and machinery,
rubber goods, textiles and clothing, photography supplies, golf balls, and
metal goods. Services and trade are also important. The city is a sailing
point for the Cape Cod area and continues to be a major fishing port.
New Bedford Whaling Museum, the 19th-century fishing schooner Ernestina,
and the Seamen's Bethel (Whaleman's Chapel) reflect the city's historic
and seafaring past. A 13-block section of the city was designated as New
Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in 1996. (For an excerpt from
Melville's novel, which [in part] features the whaling town and its
Whaleman's Chapel in the mid-19th century, see New
Bedford in Moby Dick.) Inc. city, 1847. Pop. (1990) city,
99,922; New Bedford PMSA, 175,641; (1996 est.) city, 96,903; (1994 est.)
New Bedford PMSA, 172,000.