Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum

Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum Sag Harbor was the 6th largest whaling fleet in the nation, and the largest in New York State. Come AHOY! We are NOW OPEN for the season! See you soon!

We will be open THUR-MON 10am-4:30pm, with last entry at 4pm. (Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

Visit us at for exhibit information and other up to the date news.

Operating as usual

T-MINUS 24 HOURS AND COUNTING!The big event is almost here!  We’re less than 24 hours from the start of our holiday part...


The big event is almost here! We’re less than 24 hours from the start of our holiday party: Food, drink, live music, live carolers, and a silent auction with over 40 items – a fantastic opportunity to score a great deal some holiday loot for you or your loved ones. Or you. Did we mention you? You!

Last chance to get tickets at the reduced reservation price! Get ‘em now!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm

$40 with reservation; $50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call 631-725 - 0770

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYDecember 5, 1886Dashing Through The SnowBefore fleets of snowplows, tons of road salt and...

December 5, 1886

Dashing Through The Snow

Before fleets of snowplows, tons of road salt and powerful internal combustion engines could conquer all but the most severe weather, travel to and around Sag Harbor in winter was often interrupted by snowstorms. Trains were unable to pass through the huge drifts, and ice would block the harbor. Even reaching South or East Hampton might prove impossible.

Happily, for travelers at the time, the winter of 1886 began with almost no weather to speak of at all. Until December it felt more like fall than winter, with flowers still blooming and the grass as green as it was in summer.

Then, on this date, the first storm of the season rolled in, bringing alternating spells of snow, rain and hail, all of which froze into an impassable sheet of ice some six inches thick making any sort of travel - even walking - almost impossible.

Two days later a second big storm him, and no doubt the village residents sighed deeply, resigned to being trapped for who knows how long.

But - miracles of miracles - the second storm laid down a bed of fresh snow that, rather than making things worse, created the most perfect sledding conditions that the east end had seen in years. Quickly taking advantage, a large party of villagers (described as "lovers of the ever-merry jingling bells") took to their sleighs and (dashing through the snow, one assumes) met up with their Hampton friends at a hotel for an oyster dinner and dancing, the good time lasting until "the wee hours."

They were smart to take advantage. By the next Sunday a rainstorm had turned the perfect snow into a sea of slush that made "either wheeling or sledding tough on horse flesh."

[pictured: Main Street in the Snow by William W. Tooker c1890; Kevin J. McCann Collection]

HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY OR NICE?Spoiler alert – we’re not keep track.  But what we ARE doing is offering a chance to grab ...


Spoiler alert – we’re not keep track. But what we ARE doing is offering a chance to grab some great gifts at great prices during our Holiday Party! Clothing, games, books, housewares, jewelry and much, much more, all from some of your favorite local merchants!

It’s all here – and it could be yours!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm

$40 with reservation; $50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call 631-725 - 0770

DON'T MISS THE BOAT!!!You see this guy?  That's Burt.  Why is Burt so sad?  Because he's missed the boat.  He forgot to ...


You see this guy? That's Burt. Why is Burt so sad? Because he's missed the boat. He forgot to make a reservation for our Holiday Party.

Don't end up like Burt. Make a reservation today!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm

$40 with reservation; $50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call 631-725 - 0770

TODAY - - YOU CAN MAKE HISTORYOur Holiday Party is fast approaching (we’re looking at you, December 3rd), but if you can...


Our Holiday Party is fast approaching (we’re looking at you, December 3rd), but if you can’t join us in person, there is still a way for you to support the Museum.

Today is Giving Tuesday, when people around the world help support the causes and organizations dear to their heart. We hope you’ll take a moment to help support the SHWHM. By making a donation today,

You can make history safe - - your donation helps us preserve and protect the one-of-a-kind pieces of village history in our collection.

You can make history available - - your donation helps fund our exhibits, bringing Sag Harbor’s fascinating history to our thousands of visitors each year.

You can make history come alive - - your donation helps fund our live events, such as author lectures, musical performances, historical reenactors, and other “live exhibits.”

But most of all, you can make history - - a part of the future. The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum has been open for over 80 years. That’s been possible only with the support of people like you – people who care about their village, about their community.

Please take a moment to make a donation to your museum – and make some history of your own!

We thank you, and hope to see you soon!

Are You Ready To Have A WHALE OF A GOOD TIME?Our Holiday Party is just FIVE DAYS AWAY!Saturday, December 3rd  5 pm - 7 p...

Are You Ready To Have A WHALE OF A GOOD TIME?

Our Holiday Party is just FIVE DAYS AWAY!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm

$40 with reservation; $50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call 631-725 - 0770

AHOY!Don't forget to make your reservations for our Holiday Party!  Friends, Food, Fun, Drinks, Live Music, Christmas Ca...


Don't forget to make your reservations for our Holiday Party! Friends, Food, Fun, Drinks, Live Music, Christmas Carolers - and of course our silent auction, where you can score some seriously fantastic Holiday gifts!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm
$40 with reservation $50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call 631-725 - 0770

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYNov 24, 1864Giving Thanks.Days of giving thanks have been practiced in the United States ...

Nov 24, 1864
Giving Thanks.

Days of giving thanks have been practiced in the United States long before it was even a nation, with the date for the celebration and even the reason why it was being held varying over the centuries. Having the holiday on the last Thursday of November became the custom for most of the States by the beginning of the 1800s.

Towards the end of the Civil War, A Proclamation (issued October 20th, 1864) by President Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as a national day of giving thanks (that “Almighty God [has prolonged] our National life another year…”) which finally set a single date for the entire nation, though due to the war it wouldn’t be until the 1870s that the country celebrated it as a whole.

So how did Sag Harbor celebrate its first “modern” Thanksgiving?

It seems that on this date businesses were “pretty much suspended” for the day, and the forenoon observed by “the church going people.” The remainder of the day was passed in “sober, rational enjoyment” and feasting on “the goodies provided for the occasion.”

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday, full of goodies to feast on!



THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYNov 11, 1869Trouble Finds Betsey Jose (or is it the other way around?)In 1869, Mrs. Betse...

Nov 11, 1869
Trouble Finds Betsey Jose (or is it the other way around?)

In 1869, Mrs. Betsey Jose was the proprietor of a boarding house/oyster saloon located on Meadow Street. It was by all accounts a lively place, perhaps because of incidents such as the one recounted here.

On this date, just before daylight, Betsey pounded on the door of policeman Harris’ home, urging him to come quickly. Some of her boarders had been robbed, and the robbers were now locked in their own room. Policeman Harris raced to the scene to find one of Betsey’s co-workers was standing by the robber’s door with a stick of wood in his hand that – in the pre-dawn hours – they had mistaken for a gun and barricaded themselves in their room in fear of getting shot.

Harris entered the room, found the stolen money, and made sure the thieves were on their way out of town on the 8am boat. Exactly why they weren’t arrested is unknown, but one imagines Policeman Harris warned them to never show their faces in the village ever again.

A year later, as the Long Island Railroad was buying land to lay tracks to the village, Betsey refused to sell. She barricaded herself in her boarding house and flew a flag of defiance from the roof. The place became known as “Betsey’s Fort,” and for several weeks she held out until the railroad finally agreed to pay the very exorbitant sum of $3,000 for the place. Betsey moved out, the structure was moved, the tracks were completed, and train service to the village could finally begin.

$3,000. That’s a lotta clams for an oyster house.

Pictured: “Betsey’s Fort” (conjectural)

AHOY THERE!  WE'RE BACK!Our World-Famous Holiday Party is back!  Please join us at the Museum for an evening of fun, fri...


Our World-Famous Holiday Party is back! Please join us at the Museum for an evening of fun, friends, and festivities!

Saturday, December 3rd
5 pm - 7 pm

$40 with reservation
$50 at the door

You can make your reservation through:

or call us at 631-725-0770

We can't wait to see you!

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYNov 10, 1881Warner’s Somber Scenes For SaleOn July 2, 1881, Charles J. Guiteau shot Presi...

Nov 10, 1881
Warner’s Somber Scenes For Sale

On July 2, 1881, Charles J. Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield. Having suffered through the assassination of Lincoln less than 20 years before, the nation was shocked. After more than 2 months of what could only be called inept medical care, Garfield finally died on September 19th. The nation mourned, Sag Harbor included, which marked the occasion with a public service at the Presbyterian Church, much of the interior tastefully – almost elegantly - trimmed and draped in black.

Sag Harbor photographer Mr. J. Warner took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the church interior– this at a time of course when taking and developing photographs were a laborious and complicated process, best left to professionals. Photography for the masses would have to wait another couple of decades or so for the introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera. Warner’s photographs were turned into stereo cards – an early form of 3-D photography – and by this date in 1881 were announced as available for purchase.

The local paper judged that “while the side view of the church and pulpit, and the organ view, are very fine as stereoscopic pictures, the full view of the pulpit, with the Garfield portrait in bold relief, is most excellent.”

While the first two views are easily found on the internet, the third view with Garfield’s portrait is proving more elusive. So put on your “history detective” hats, everyone! A gold star to whoever can locate the image!

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYOctober 30, 1920Halloween HooligansAlthough it doesn’t seem to be much of a thing these d...

October 30, 1920
Halloween Hooligans

Although it doesn’t seem to be much of a thing these days, village Halloween celebrations in the past also included the night of October 30th when all sorts of low-level mischief occurred. The tradition has several different names, such as Mischief Night, Devil’s Night, Cabbage Night, Goosey Night or - quite fittingly as we will see – Gate Night. The earliest references to it (in England) are found in the 1790s. It was a night that, over the years, the village had evidently grown accustomed. Boys will be boys, as they say.

But October 30th, 1920 was a bit different. While a number of gates around the village were indeed lifted off their hinges, a few actually had their hinges battered off completely, and would need the services of a metal worker to repair. The victims included the Reverend J. A. Macmillan, Miss Virginia Keese and Mrs. Florence Harris.

The local newspaper printed a warning: “As the names of some of the boys are known, it would be well for their parents to step up and settle before legal proceedings add to the expense. Boys will be boys, but when they show vicious tendencies, it is time to call a halt.”

Evidently the warning was taken to heart, as a year later it was reported that Halloween was celebrated “boisterously, but without damage.”

Happy Halloween!

AHOY! NOW HEAR THIS!WE ARE NOW CLOSED FOR THE SEASONWe thank all our members and visitors for your support!Happily, ther...


We thank all our members and visitors for your support!

Happily, there's still ONE MORE CHANCE this year to visit your favorite Museum: Our world-famous Holiday Party is back! Please join us for food, friends, fun and festivities! We'll be posting details shortly, but save the date! Saturday, December 3rd, 5-7pm.

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYOct 15, 1900Sag Harbor Goes To See Sag HarborAmerican playwright James A Herne created so...

Oct 15, 1900
Sag Harbor Goes To See Sag Harbor

American playwright James A Herne created something of a sensation with his 1890 play “Margaret Flemming.” Many historians cite it as the first modern American drama, in that its story focused on the psychological complexities of its characters rather than melodrama. An actor before turning his hand to writing, Herne often took a lead role in his plays as well.

Having achieved some financial success, in 1895 he built himself a summer house on the Peconic Bay in Southampton called “Herne Oaks.” He must have enjoyed soaking in the local flavor, as by 1899 it was reported he was working on a new play that would introduce a new type to the stage: “The shore folk of Long Island.”

In 1900 the new play was ready; a sentimental comedy entitled – “Sag Harbor.” It opened in New York at the Republic Theater on September 27th, 1900.

Some three weeks later, a “committee of representatives” from the village itself, about a dozen in all, traveled to New York to see the play for themselves. Among them were 85-year-old ex-whaleman John Homan (said to the be model of the character “William Turner”), the brothers Len and Will Vaughn (said to be the models of the “Turner brothers”), and Edwin Bill (said to be the model for “Dan Marble”). Marble was played by none other than Herne himself.

Upon their arrival, the Sag Harbor contingent was taken to the theater to be photographed, after which a special dinner was held in their honor at a nearby hotel. Put in box seats for the show itself, they were reportedly a bit wary at first, uncertain if the play would portray them as “yokels,” but within ten minutes they were enjoying themselves immensely, laughing and nudging each other at each local reference.

Old John Homan (who after his whaling career was the agent of the steamship Manhasset), even provided some unintended merriment for the crowd when in the second act the whistle of a steamboat sounded and he yelled out “Here comes my little boat!”

As the curtain came down the crowd gave the play thunderous applause, and three cheers rang out for Mr. Herne. Perhaps more importantly, the Sag Harbor contingent was pronounced “well pleased.”

A rave review from the yokels!

Pictured: the opening scene from "Sag Harbor," with Herne himself (center) as "Cap'n Dan."

REMINDER!Free Book Lecture!Saturday, October 15th, 3pm-4pmWe will be hosting a talk by Montauk resident Ms. Gaelin Rosen...

Free Book Lecture!
Saturday, October 15th, 3pm-4pm

We will be hosting a talk by Montauk resident Ms. Gaelin Rosenwaks on her new book: S***M WHALES – THE GENTLE GOLIATHS OF THE OCEANS (Rizzoli Press, 2022)

In the 1980s, a young s***m whale became trapped in the shallow waters off Oak Beach, Long Island. Nicknamed Physti (a play on the s***m whale’s scientific name - Physeter macrocephalus), he captured the heart of Gaelin Rosenwaks, and started her on a career path in marine science.

S***M WHALES: THE GENTLE GOLIATHS OF THE OCEANS is the result of that life-changing encounter, and a stunning portrait of these magnificent animals. During several weeks-long expeditions off Dominica, Rosenwaks came eye-to-eye (literally) with these amazing animals, observing the close bond between mother and child, the matriarchal family units that stay together for generations, their vibrant lives, their social structures, and their caring for one another. Through her breathtaking photography and inspiring words, readers can join Rosenwaks and the whales, and be inspired to help save them for future generations.

AHOY THERE! LAST CALL!JUST ONE WEEK LEFT!We will be closing for the season in one week - Monday, October 17th, at 4:30 p...


We will be closing for the season in one week - Monday, October 17th, at 4:30 pm.

If you haven't had a chance to visit us recently, now's the time!

Our last lecture for the season is also coming up: Join us on Saturday October 15th, 3-4 pm, as marine biologist/ photographer/ author Gaelin Rosenwaks talks about her new book "S***m Whales: The Gentle Goliaths Of The Oceans."

We'll see you there!

THIS WEEK IN SAG HARBOR HISTORYOct 7, 1870Gilbert’s GrapesGilbert H. Cooper was one of the more notable residents of the...

Oct 7, 1870
Gilbert’s Grapes

Gilbert H. Cooper was one of the more notable residents of the village. Born in 1819, after completing his education at the noted Clinton Academy in East Hampton, he made a whaling voyage on a ship under the command of his uncle Captain Huntting Cooper. However, after just one voyage, young Gilbert seemed to have enough of the sea, and turned his attention to the mercantile arts.

Working his way up from clerk, he eventually started a business, “Cooper & Jennings,” with P. R. Jennings as his partner. By 1856, he became a whaling agent – this was the person hired by a ship’s owners to oversee the business affairs of the voyage; hiring a crew, buying provisions, readying the ship, and so on. He was also, eventually, an insurance agent and trustee of the Sag Harbor Savings Bank.

But his personal passion seems to have been horticulture. In 1870, aside from being known for his “varied and choice, delicious pears,” he produced in his own “grapery” a bunch of white grapes (White Muscat of Alexandria) that rivaled any seen in the vicinity. He had one bunch that was over twelve inches in length, and 17 in circumference, the individual grapes being half again as large as regular grapes. All in all, they were a marvel, which is why it was suggested he enter them into the upcoming Agricultural Fair in Riverhead.

Since 1852, the Suffolk County Agricultural Society held an annual fair, where farmers, machine makers, home makers, craftspeople, and others from all over the County would exhibit their wares – not only for sale, but for contest prizes as well. Ostensibly the idea was to promote Suffolk County agriculture, but mostly it was just great fun. Despite the rainy and cold conditions the fair drew a large crowd on this day, and they were not disappointed.

A pumpkin raised by J. Brill of Mattituck weighed 130 pounds. The show of beets, squashes and carrots was “large and fine.” The cabbages grown by O. P. Smith of Patchogue were so large it took only two of them to fill a flour barrel. The sweet potatoes were thought to be the best ever displayed, and the same was said of the apples and pears. The grapes were thought to be of excellent quality, with Gilbert’s sitting amongst them. But how did they stand up to the competition?

Drum roll, please…

He won first prize.

Well done Gilbert!


200 Main Street
Sag Harbor, NY

Opening Hours

Monday 10am - 4:30pm
Thursday 10am - 4:30pm
Friday 10am - 4:30pm
Saturday 10am - 4:30pm
Sunday 10am - 4:30pm


(631) 725-0770


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April 20, 1784
Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

The American Revolution caused immense pain and upheaval on Long Island. Coming under British occupation after the Battle of Brooklyn (August 1776) it remained so until the end of the war (September 1783). Those who could fled Long Island to escape life under British rule. Many moved to Connecticut and lived there for the rest of the war, slowly building a new life.

After Independence was won, these Long Islanders faced a choice: Stay in Connecticut, or return to Sag Harbor and try to pick up the pieces of their former lives?

One person making that decision was Mr. Benjamin Price. A cooper by trade (that’s a barrel maker) he moved his family to Stonington in 1776, and went on to serve for some time in the American Army.

Weighing his options after the war, Price decided to return home.

On April 20th 1784, Captains John Sandford and David Pierson were requested by the Town Trustees to go to Sag Harbor “at the request of, and the cost of” one Mr. Price, to view a piece of land where he hoped to set up a cooper’s shop.

This was when the Sag Harbor whaling industry began in earnest, so Price probably realized he had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of what can only be called a “growth industry.” Four whaling vessels left the port that year – a sloop, schooner, brig and ship - each needing some 500 to 1,000 barrels, which must have kept Mr. Price very busy indeed.

A few years later, in the records of the Presbyterian Church from 1791, Price is noted as a “merchant,” which certainly feels like a higher status title than “cooper,” so apparently his choice to return to the village and start anew paid off.

Well done Benjamin!

[Pictured: A colonial era cooper at work]
Re: Raising The Roof!

Ahoy! We have a new posting series for you, where we'll highlight museum news, events, behind the scenes happenings and more. Hope you enjoy!

The off-season is typically when we tackle our various renovation and preservation projects. Case in point - our new boat shed roof! The shed was originally built in 1983 and, not surprisingly, after some forty years it was time for some repairs. ☺️

Take a look at the before and after shots - quite the improvement! Many thanks to our Board member Peter Drakoulias for overseeing the project.

And a special shout out and special thank you to all our members and supporters who help make projects like this a reality!

See you all here in May!
April 12, 1800
Something’s Rotten In The Streets Of Sag Harbor

Although there are records of whaling voyages out of Sag Harbor as early as the 1760s, the industry didn’t begin in earnest until after the American Revolution. But even as the whaling industry grew, there was still lots of local farming going on.

Farms mean crops, and crops need fertilizing. In this, Long Island farmers had an ace up their sleeve. The waters around the Island teemed with a fish called menhaden (variously called a mossbunker, or bunker). These could be caught – quite literally – by the hundreds of thousands at a time. Small and oily, menhaden were not much to eat, but they were an excellent fertilizer. Farmers would cover their fields with the fish and plow them into the soil.

So all in all: a valuable resource.

Which is why it is something of a mystery to find this passage in the records of the Town Meeting of April 12th 1800:

“Complaint is made that burying fish on the common land or highway at Sag Harbor is a damage to the public, and dangerous to travelers.” An ordinance was enacted forbidding such burial of fish on penalty of $10 for every offence, with half the fine going to any person who successfully sued the offender.

As it is hard to believe that anyone would ever bother burying a single fish, it seems likely that huge piles of discarded menhaden were the issue. As to why they were discarded, or why public land or village streets were the location chosen for burial, well, that is something of a mystery.

So we are left to ponder this fact: In Sag Harbor c1800, there were evidently enough criminal fish buriers roaming the streets for a law to be passed.

There goes the neighborhood.

[Below: The Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus]


We will be open THURSDAY through MONDAY, 10am-4:30pm, with last entry at 4pm. (Closed Tuesday and Wednesday)

We're excited to open this season with "THE ART OF WHALING," an exhibit of European and American whaling paintings, prints and drawings from the early 1800s to present day.

For the marine artist – indeed, all artists - whaling offers some of the most dramatic themes and compositions available. The first sighting of a whale, the launching of boats, and of course the encounter with the whale itself: A handful of men in a fragile wooden boat putting their very lives on the line to catch an animal that could be some 60 feet long and weigh up to 60 tons.

Come see how artists over the last two centuries have explored, interpreted and portrayed one of the world’s most dangerous professions – and one of the most noble and beautiful animals on earth.
April 1, 1861: Who’s the Fool?

April of 1861 was a very tumultuous time for the nation. Seven southern states had already seceded (four more would follow in the next few months). The questions of slavery, abolition, and civil war were at the forefront of the entire nation’s conscience. Through it all, leading members of society were coming down on one side of the issue or the other. One of these was the preacher Henry Ward Beecher.

The son of Lyman Beecher (who from 1798 to 1810 led the East Hampton Presbyterian Church) and sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most famous clergymen in America. The pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, he was known for his social reform platform; he championed women’s suffrage, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the abolition of slavery. A gifted public speaker, he was a huge draw on the speaking circuit, and lectured all over America.

So it must have been quite exciting for the residents of Sag Harbor to learn that Beecher would be coming to give a talk in the village. To hear Beecher’s thoughts on the state of the Union would have been riveting; the fact that he would give a major lecture in the village was astounding. Handbills were plastered all over the village the Beecher would give his talk on the coming Monday evening. Which, as it turned out, was: April first.


“Some bright chaps, wishing to make as big fools of the good people of this village as they were themselves, posted bills all over the place” the local paper explained. But since the announcements were printed locally, their style, size, print type and paper were identical the other local handbills; Mr. Beecher would have had his printed in Brooklyn and they would have looked quite different. As the paper explained:

“The game did not work… therefore it is considered that the persons with whom the bills originated were the biggest fools.”

[Pictured below: Henry Ward Beecher at about the time of his "talk" in Sag Harbor]

If you're a friendly, bright, outgoing "people person" who would like the chance to work at one of the South Fork's leading cultural institutions - do we have an opportunity for you!

We'll be opening May 1st, and are looking to hire one or two new staff members to work at our admissions/gift shop counter. This entails greeting and admitting guests, explaining the museum layout, answering basic questions about our exhibits, handling gift shop sales, etc.

We will be open from May 1 to October 17th. The job is 6.5 hours a day (10am to 4:30pm with one hour for lunch), Wednesday-Sunday. The pay is $15 an hour. Previous retail or museum experience and familiarity with using cash registers and credit card machines is all a plus (but not required).

If you're interested, please send an email with the subject line "STAFF" to: [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you!
March 26, 1841: Why Go Whaling?

On this date the whaling ship Thomas Dickason, with Captain Wickham S. Havens in command, returned home after a voyage of 21 months and nine days. Her course had taken her across the Atlantic Ocean, down the coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, into the Indian Ocean, through the waters around New Zeeland, across the Pacific, around the tip of South America, up the Brazilian coast and finally back home.

That was nothing out of the ordinary for Sag harbor whalemen of the day; by this time the Atlantic had been “fished out” and more and more ships were travelling to the far reaches of the globe in search of whales, often circling the globe.

What did make the return of the Thomas Dickason out of the ordinary was her cargo. Twenty-four other ships returned to the village in 1841; their average cargo was 2,370 barrels of oil, with a value (in 1841 dollars) of $33,371. Captain Havens did better. Much better. He returned with 4,000 barrels of oil, with a value of some $57,770.

It was one of the largest cargos ever brought into Sag Harbor. In fact, it was one of the largest cargoes brought in by an American whaleship to any port - ever.

So what does $57,770 in 1841 equate to in today’s money? Money can be measured in different ways, with different contexts and variables. The “historical” component adds another layer of complexity, but we will do our best.

One way to look at it is in terms of “Real Price” – this measures the purchasing power of this amount to buy a fixed “bundle” of goods (food, shelter, clothing, etc). In these terms the cargo, in 2021 dollars, was worth $1,770,000.

Another way to look at it might be “Relative Income” – prestige value. If somebody in 1841 said “I’m worth $57,770 dollars,” what would that mean in todays terms? It would be equivalent to someone saying “I’m worth thirty-nine million dollars.” Not too shabby.

And yet a third way to look at it – perhaps the most accurate - is using the “Economic Share,” which measures the value of the voyage as a percentage of total US economy of 1841. Whaling was a business, after all. How important was Haven’s voyage to the economy of its day? In those terms, the voyage was equal to a company that in 2021 made $731,000,000.

You read that right. One voyage. Worth seven hundred and thirty-one MILLION dollars in today’s money.

And now think about this: At its height, in 1845, Sag Harbor has 64 whaling ships.

[Below: Detail of a portrait of Captain Havens (by artist Hubbard Latham Fordham) in the Museum Collection.]

Other History Museums in Sag Harbor (show all)

Eastville Community Historical Society The Bridgehampton Museum Road Rally East Hampton Historical Society East Hampton Historical Farm Museum Parrish Art Museum Pollock-Krasner House di Long Island Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation Southold Historical Museum