Written by Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives, New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is one of only a few surviving American moving panoramas. Panoramas were a popular art and entertainment form that reached their peak in the mid-19th century. In many ways, they were predecessors to the massive popularity of World Fairs in the latter half of the century, most notably those of Paris, London, Chicago, and New York. Much like the extraordinary adventure writings of authors like Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, panoramas played to the spectacle of the exotic and the unknown to eager audiences.

Completed in 1848 the Grand Panorama was painted by sign painter Caleb Purrington (1812-1876) and Benjamin Russell (1804-1885), a self-trained entrepreneurial artist and whaleman. It is a grand and rare example of American panoramic folk art, created as a commercial traveling public spectacle.

Painted in water-based paint on cotton sheeting, the Grand Panorama is over 1,275 feet long and 8 feet high, separated onto four spools. Its journey begins in New Bedford harbor and travels the route typical of Yankee whalers in the mid-19th century, landing spectators in the Azores, Cabo Verde, Rio de Janeiro and numerous ports of the Pacific. At one time there was an additional section, but it was lost before the artifact came to the Whaling Museum 100 years ago. The Grand Panorama, as displayed on Digital Commonwealth, and on our dedicated website (https://arcg.is/1fv9mm), was “stitched” together from 240 separate photographs captured over the course of two years, after textile and paint conservation processes had been completed.

The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world
The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world from the New Bedford Whaling Museum

By Jodi Goodman, Head of Special Collections
New Bedford Free Public Library

Cape Verdean Beneficent Association, New Bedford
Cape Verdean Beneficent Association, New Bedford from Oliveira Photograph Collection, New Bedford Free Public Library

This photo of the Cape Verdean Beneficent Association, New Bedford, is in the recently added Oliveira Photograph Collection (New Bedford Free Public Library), which highlights New Bedford’s Portuguese community in the early twentieth century.

Established in 1916, the Cape Verdean Beneficent Association (Associação Beneficente Caboverdeana) in New Bedford, Massachusetts is the oldest Cape Verdean organization in the United States.  It emerged to support members with companionship and emergency financial assistance.

Cape Verdeans, an Afro-Portuguese immigrant community, came to New Bedford in the 19th century aboard whaling vessels which made regular stops at the Cape Verde islands for supplies.  The largest concentration of Cape Verdeans arrived between the 1880s and 1920s.  Entrepreneurial in spirit, Cape Verdeans found work in the packet trade.  Some bought old sailing vessels and outfitted them as packet boats, sailing to the Cape Verde islands with supplies and returning to New Bedford with new immigrants.  In New Bedford, Cape Verdeans worked as longshoremen, fish processors, and merchant seamen.

The majority of Cape Verdeans in the United States have settled in Southeastern New England.  Many will be celebrating Cape Verdean Recognition Week in New Bedford from June 28-July 7, 2019, culminating in the Cape Verdean Recognition Parade July 7 at 11:00 am.


Frank Lewis with baleen bundles
Frank Lewis with baleen bundles from New Bedford Free Public Library


January was a busy month for Digital Commonwealth, in no small part due to the New Bedford Public Library adding 4 new collections and substantially increasing two existing collections.  All six include photographs that depict New Bedford’s varied history.  The photo of Frank Lewis with baleen bundles (left) from the Earl D. Wilson Collection Photographs speaks to New Bedford’s whaling history.

Another substantial collection is the Barnstable Patriot Photograph Collection from Cape Cod Community College.  This collection spans nearly 50 years of Barnstable and nearby Cape towns.  The charming windmill (below) is one of many Cape views you can find in this collection.






Bass River Windmill
Bass River Windmill from Cape Cod Community College


Boston Public Library
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection
869 items added to existing collection

Cape Cod Community College
Barnstable Patriot Photograph Collection, 1931-1978 – 624 items

Coast Guard Heritage Museum
Coast Guard Heritage Museum General Collection – 20 items
Dalton Collection – 3 items

Holyoke Public Library
Milan P. Warner Photograph Collection – 339 items added to existing collection

New Bedford Free Public Library
Photograph Collection – 84 items added to existing collection
Rotogravure Collection – 433 items added to existing collection
Earle D. Wilson Collection – 337 items
Joseph G. Tirrell Photograph Collection – 99 items
Gilbert D. Kingman Photograph Collection – 54 items
Oliveira Photograph Collection – 37 items

Truro Historical Society
Truro Massachusetts U.S. Coast Guard and Life Saving Service Collection – 4 items added to existing collection