Traditional accounts of whaling celebrate exotic locales and dangerous exploits but shed little light on the lives of the men who went to sea. Rites and Passages places sailors at the center of a social history of whaling and explores the ways in which the history of the sea and the history of the shore have intersected. Drawing on the evidence of ship logs and sailors' letters and journals, Margaret S. Creighton examines American whalemen during the industry's peakthe mid-nineteenth centuryand argues that whaling life and culture were shaped by both the American mainland and by the exigencies of ocean life. Unlike other accounts of seafaring, this work brings gender into the maritime equation, not only with a discussion of the ways that women figured in this male-dominated world, but also with an examination of the ways that seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood. Professor of History at Bates College, Margaret Creighton is the author of Dogwatch and Liberty Days: Seafaring Life in the 19th Century and co-editor of Iron Men and Wooden Women: Gender and Maritime History. She has been guest curator at The Peabody Museum of Salem and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum of Boston.
List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Archives and collections; Introduction: the passing of Nathaniel Robinson; 1. The evolution of the American whale fishery, 1650-1900; 2. 'Tis advertised in Boston': the shaping of a ship's crew; 3. 'Wondrous tales of the mighty deep': whaling life and labor; 4. The 'old man': the sea captain's split personality; 5. Crossing the line: Fraternity in the forecastle; 6. The attack of the Daniel: whalemen ashore; 7. Sailors; sweethearts, and wives: gender and sex in the deepwater workplace; 8. Afterword; Appendixes; Index.