The River and the Rail: A Symposium on Enterprise & Industry in New Bedford

Thank you to all presenters, sponsors and participants for contributing to the success of the conference.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum  convened a conference February 15th and 16th, 2014, addressing the historical evolution of the port of New Bedford as a manufacturing and commercial center. The keynote speaker was New Bedford native Kingston Heath, Ph.D., author of The Patina of Place, a study of the New Bedford architectural house style commonly called the “triple-decker,” and how and why this iconic New England structure came to be and it’s links to immigration, industry and urban landscapes.

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From its famous origins as a whaling port to its equally famous rise as a center for the production of textiles, glass and silver wares, cordage, drill bits, toys, copper products, carriages and other manufactured products, New Bedford is renowned today as a fishing port. The city’s survival and growth through wars, depressions, fluctuating markets, and diverse labor demographics depended largely upon its financial acumen, natural resources and the vision of its business leaders. It also depended upon immigrant labor, coal, the railroad and flexibility in the uses of its harbor. Today, the port faces the combined challenges of managing ocean resources, cleaning up a century of pollution in the harbor and mapping a path forward for other maritime related industries bringing the port once again to its best advantages.

Major topics addressed by thirteen speakers included oil and candle manufacture, banking history, New Bedford’s movers and shakers in the 19th century, textile mills and their physical and philosophical effects on the city and its population, the history of the glass industry, the past, present and future of New Bedford’s fresh water supply, the harbor and its issues, the fishing industry and the future for manufacturing in a great American seaport. 



Major support for this program  from


 William M. Wood Foundation

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this symposium do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last Modified: March 5, 2014