Tower tells us nothing about reading provision aboard whalers of the American fleet. The book, however, does provide an excellent account of the history and bibliography of whaling for its time and its decline by the end of the nineteenth century.
p. 4: Alexander Starbuck may be said to be practically the only one who has written an actual history of the whale fishery. His book was published in 1876 under the title, “History of the American Whale Fishery from its Earliest Inception to the year 1876.” The title, however, is somewhat pretentious, since in several ways the history is rather incomplete. But whatever its limitations, Starbuck’s work is now, and always must be, the classic treatise on the American whale fishery. The many references to Starbuck in the following chapters will show how frequently he has been drawn on for facts. Starbuck has been accused more than once of being inaccurate and unreliable. But if these accusations are true they must be founded on minor points. In the use of the book there was ample opportunity to judge of its value. In most important questions the authority or source is stated. Whenever possible these were verified before being accepted for this present history, and almost without exception they were found to be correct.
The most valuable part of Starbuck’s work is in his history of the fishery in colonial times. This part of the work is the most thorough and the most complete, though in many places the general arrangement of topics makes it rather difficult to follow the real course of development. Starbuck drew quite extensively from Macy, and in most cases he acknowledges the fact.
p. 32: New Bedford (then Dartmouth) was almost the last place to appear as a whaling port before the outbreak of the Revolution. The exact date of its beginning is not known, though it was probably just prior to 1760. In that year, says Starbuck, in the deed of a tract of land located within the present town of Fairhaven there was a clause reading, “always excepting and reserving . . . that part of the same where the Try house and Oyl shed now stands.” How old these buildings were is not known. In the history of New Bedford, Joseph Russell, the founder of the town, is also said to have been the pioneer in the whale fishery from that place. “It is well authenticated,” says the account, “that Joseph Russell had pursued the business as early as 1755.” The town was then known as Dartmouth, and from just what part of it these vessels were fitted is uncertain. In 1755 the land now covered by the city of New Bedford was still forest. Not a single house marked the place where less than a century later was destined to stand the greatest whaling port the world has ever known, the city which, in the full glory of whaling prosperity, would send out more vessels than all other American ports combined.