Whaling is a business, an economic endeavor. Profits are sought from the products produced. A whale's cadaver was processed for lamp oil, candles, medicines, perfume, machinery lubricant, and corset staves. The first type of whaling done was shore whaling. Along the New England coast, Native Americans sent their boats out and speared one of the passing behemoths. This practice was followed by European settlers later, and then expanded to deep sea whaling where ships would go out for long spans of time whale hunting.
The Dutch controlled whaling during the 17th century. The British followed in the 18th century as the chief whalers. During the 19th century, New Englanders led the way in whaling which peakedabout 1850 with its center being at New Bedford. In 1755, the Yankee whaling industry sent out 304 ships and 4,059 seamen operating out of Nantucket, Cape Cod, and New Bedford.
Wages were based on a lay-system, or what could be described as profit-sharing. The more whales taken, the more money for all. At the end of a cruise, money received for the oil and bone would be tallied; then operating costs, the owner's profit, and the officers' wages were subtracted. The crew then divided up equally the balance of the money9 which could be $200 to $300 for two to three years labor. Normally 25% of the crew never returned from a whaling voyage because of death or desertion. .
When whaling was on the decline, investors began putting their resources into textile mills. Former whaling crews now turned to the mills for employment. The first textile mill was built in New Bedford in 1848, and by 1900, it had 14 mills. In 1920, at the height of the industry, there were 63 mills.6 The industry expanded to Fall River, .
and by 1900, it would have 80 mills expanding to 111 mills by1923. Azoreans could be found working at mills in Lowell, Tauton, and Pawtucket.
Nantucket, Long Island, Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies profited from beached whales as early as 1644.