Hetty Green, Frederick Douglass, Moby-Dick
Frederick Douglass comes to life in his historic photo using MyHeritage’s “Deep Nostalgia” platform.
March 15 is a day when people realize that they are not always right. National Whatever You Think Is Wrong Day is a day to take a step back and realize that everything you “think” you know may actually be wrong.
Many grew up hearing certain stories or folklore about the area, but when a story is told over and over again, the facts sometimes get twisted and the story is no longer accurate. Sometimes these stories were never true to begin with, but over time, after hearing enough about them, you start to believe them.
There are many such stories being told all over the region, we decided to find out the truth and give you some insight into these myths.
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1. Was Hetty Green really a “witch”?
Henrietta Howland Robinson was born in New Bedford as the only child of two wealthy families. Despite their wealth, they lived a very modest Quaker lifestyle with his father Edward Robinson teaching him the merits of business and finance. This invaluable financial education was unheard of among women at the time, leaving her more knowledgeable than most men in the business.
Using her heritage and her father’s guidance, she began buying stocks cheaply and waiting for prices to rise before selling them. Then she used the money to buy railroads, banks, and real estate, amassing a fortune. She would later be known as America’s Richest Woman for turning $100,000 into $200,000,000 in the Golden Age or the “Witch of Wall Street” for her eccentric and antisocial behaviors.
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The title witch comes from her particular penchant for wearing slovenly, often unwashed black Quaker robes. She was also extremely frugal, lived in a cheap apartment, and posed as poor to get free medical care for herself and her children. At a time when it was unheard of for a woman to be in the world of finance let alone invest her male counterparts, it was easier to think of her and her eccentrics as “witches” instead of him. give credit for his financial genius.
2. Was ‘Moby-Dick’ an instant classic?
Although Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” is now considered a literary classic, often read in classrooms across the country, it was initially a major failure. Incredibly, one of the book’s earliest reviews in New York International magazine states that its depiction of impossible events in nature “puts the reader off rather than enticing”.
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It’s hard to believe, given its status as a literary masterpiece in today’s world, that “Moby-Dick” was a huge disappointment when it first came out. This may be due to the way it was published, first in Britain where it was heavily edited by publishers, then in America where they were already influenced by negative British literary criticism. It did so poorly that it only sold 3,000 copies, showing such a decline in Melville’s popularity that he finally had a customs inspector pay his bills.
Unfortunately for Melville, it wasn’t until his death in 1891 that his novel got a second chance. It was then that his publisher republished many of his works, and Moby-Dick took the literary world by surprise as it became one of the finest works of literature in the English language.
Another fun fact: The annual Moby-Dick Marathon at the Whaling Museum isn’t the only Moby-Dick Marathon around. There’s one in Sag Harbor on Long Island, and also one in Nantucket.
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3. Frederick Douglass escaped slavery on foot?
Many tell the story that abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass escaped slavery by ‘running away’, and images of him fleeing north on foot in a harrowing outdoor adventure evading capture .
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In fact, through his time in the Baltimore shipyards where he was forced to work, he gained knowledge about ships and learned to speak and act like a sailor. With papers given to him by a freed slave, he was able to pass himself off as a free sailor wearing a red shirt, tarp hat, and black scarf tied loosely around his neck and headed for a train to Philadelphia.
From there he made his way to New York, where he became a free man. “My free life began September 3, 1838. On the morning of the 4th of this month, after an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the great city of New York, a free man – one more added to the mighty crowd which, like the confused waves of the stormy sea, surged to and fro between the high walls of Broadway,” he said.
Once a free man, he married his fiancée Anna Murphy and began his new life and advocacy in New Bedford.
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4. New Bedford is the largest fishing port?
New Bedford is considered the largest fishing port in the United States, but it is actually only the 14th in size. It is, however, the most profitable port in the country for the 20th consecutive year.
While Dutch Harbor in Alaska brought in 6.5 times more in weight than New Bedford in 2019, New Bedford brought in 2.4 times more in value. This is largely due to the scallop fishery, which accounts for 84% of New Bedford’s landed value.
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Although it is not the largest port in size, the fishing port of New Bedford is certainly the one that contributes the most to the economic and cultural vitality of our region.
5. Was the Oscar-winning movie “Glory” a factual portrayal of William H. Carney?
In the six-time Oscar-winning film “Glory” — about the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black regiments to fight in the Civil War — Denzel Washington portrays Pvt. Trip as a standard bearer, blurring the line between fact and fiction. The film depicts the Civil War battle of Fort Wagner led by Colonel Robert Shaw, who was the original standard bearer until he was finally shot. It then shows how, under immense pressure, Trip grabs the flag making sure it never hits the ground to rally the other soldiers to carry on. Unfortunately, he too is shot and killed while carrying the flag.
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The film is based on the actions of William H. Carney, the first African American to win the Medal of Honor. It actually took over as the flag after Shaw’s death, but despite being shot several times, it made its way into the nearby ditch through the water and carried it behind Union lines. Because of the bravery of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, President Lincoln recognized them as a crucial part of a Civil War victory. Forty years after the battle, Carney was recognized for his bravery where the citation read: “When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier seized the color, led the way to the parapet and planted the colors there. When the troops fell back, he tore down the flag, under fierce fire in which he was seriously wounded twice.