The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- Every whaling voyage began with assembling a crew from whatever labor pool was available in a port city at a particular time. In New Bedford in late May 1876, 31 men signed to work aboard the 106-foot bark Bartholomew Gosnold for its next voyage. Less than half were from the United States; the rest were from Portugal, England, Ireland, Germany, France and Scotland. The two Frenchmen and one of the eight Portuguese were listed as blacks; the remaining men were of light or brown complexion. Four each of the crew were in their forties and thirties; 16 were in their twenties, and six were in their teens. Three of these teenagers, all from the New Bedford area, were only 16 years old when they shipped out.
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- National Museum of American History