Maritime History of Massachusetts

Why the Maritime History of Massachusetts is So Important to U.S. History

The United States has a rich and far-reaching maritime history that spans from the Age of Exploration to the modern era. But it’s impossible to discuss our maritime history without mentioning one of the most important regions to contribute to it: the area we now know as Massachusetts.

Massachusetts played a central role in helping establish the country’s maritime trade system. It was also central to George Washington’s naval campaigns during the Revolutionary War.

If you’re thinking about moving to Massachusetts, here’s a quick history of the state’s life at sea.

European Colonization

Before Europeans ever established the first colonial settlement in Plymouth, the coasts of Massachusetts were inhabited by Native American tribes like the Nauset and Wampanoag. They fished along the coasts and first inhabited important historical areas like Nantucket and Cape Cod. European colonization began in the early 1600s and was heavily dependent upon shipping routes across the Atlantic. 

Like the indigenous people who inhabited the coasts before them, many of the colonists also depended upon fishing as a way of life. Massachusetts’ fishing tradition is known around the world, and it continues to be an important part of the state’s economy today.

Shipbuilding and maritime commerce soon became two of the most important economic activities for the colonists. Early on, the colonists often built wooden boats themselves, but this eventually transformed into a shipbuilding industry that became essential to the Revolutionary War and America’s trade efforts.

According to The National Park Service, “Shipyards in Essex and Suffolk counties are credited with the invention of the traditional American dory and built those that comprised the renowned Gloucester fishing fleet, helped free the colonies from British rule, strengthened the merchant and naval fleets that made the United States a world power and played pivotal roles in World War I and World War II.”

The American Revolution

The North Shore region of Massachusetts is often accredited as being the founding location of America’s Navy. Although there is some dispute as to which town can claim that title, there is little doubt that Massachusetts was integral to the Revolution’s naval campaigns.

The Continental Navy was formed by George Washington in 1775, but at the time it was heavily dependent upon privateers. These were privately owned vessels that were permitted by the new American government to wage war against the British and capture their vessels. Salem, Massachusetts was home to several privateers who claimed British vessels in the Atlantic. 

In one of then-General Washington’s first actions against the British, he commanded three schooners to leave the coast of Massachusetts and intercept enemy supply lines. 

A Global Hub of Maritime Trade

After the revolution, many of the privateers that sailed from Massachusetts ports shifted their focus to maritime trade. Owned and commanded by wealthy and powerful merchants in places like Boston and Salem, these vessels helped the country establish itself as a global trade hub, reaching places like Russia and China.

Massachusettes is still an important place for maritime commerce. However, much of the goods imported to and exported from Massachusetts travel by large container ships.

A Globally Recognized Fishing Industry

Maritime enterprises became the defining feature of many of Massachusetts’ iconic towns. Historic places like Nantucket and Gloucester are known around the world for their maritime traditions as well as their contributions to the fishing industry. For years, Nantucket itself was known as the “whaling capital of the world,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Aside from the historic whaling industry, the codfish industry is perhaps what Massachusetts is most well-known for. Between 1768 and 1772, fish accounted for 35% of all the money New England made overseas. Marblehead, Gloucester, Salem, Beverly, Cape Cod, Ipswich, and Plymouth were some of the most important fishing ports in America at the time.

Today, Massachusetts is still well-known for its seafood industry. In 2019. Massachusetts remained one of the top seafood-producing states in the Union. It exported almost 350 million pounds of sea scallops and over 16 million pounds of lobster.

Buy a Home Where History Was Made

There’s much more history to explore in coastal Massachusetts. You could spend a lifetime at the state’s museums, parks, and historical sites. 

If you walk through coastal towns and cities and Massachusetts, you’ll find evidence of the state’s maritime history. Coastal Massachusetts is a great place to visit; it also happens to be a wonderful place to live.
If you’re interested in moving to Massachusetts soon, we can help you find the perfect home for your needs. Contact us at GoldCoast Mortgage today to learn more about our services.