The last surviving whaling ship in America, the Charles W. Morgan, was built in 1841 in New Bedford. It’s owner Charles W. Morgan hired Jethro and Zachariah Hillman to build the ship. It was one of 75 whaling ships out of New Bedford harbor that year. New Bedford later peaked in 1857 with 329 vessels constructed.
James Beetle began building whaleboats for these ships working for the Hillmans. From 1834 to1854 he built over 1,000 whale boats including some for the Charles W. Morgan.
Whaleboats used in whaling had a stout post mounted on the aft deck, around which the steersman would chinch the rope once the whale had been harpooned, and the whale would drag the boat until it was killed. The boats were also used to drag the whale back to the ship or to shore. Whaleboats are narrow and able to move forward or backward in navigation. New Bedford whaleboats were powered by oars but also had sails. They were abused in the whaling business and rarely lasted 3 years. Whalers typically carried 3 to 5 whaleboats hanging from the ship.
During the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan in 1924, Beetle’s son Charles was asked to build a whaleboat for the ship as his father had done many years before. The last Beetle whaleboat was built by Charles in 1933 for the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA. The Beetle Whaleboat is now fully constructed and joined the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport in 2014 as part of its historic 38th Voyage.
Because of the influence of the whaling industry to the history of the United States, whaling vessels and whaleboats are commonly modeled by hobbyists. If you want to see a website that shows several of these models built, go to New Bedford Whaleboat model.
Micro-Mark sells a model of the New Bedford Whaleboat along with the precision tools and supplies necessary to build the ship. Often modelers display the New Bedford Whaleboat with the Charles W. Morgan ship. Micro-Mark offers them together as a collection.