A Whale-Oiled Machine | 99% Invisible

In the 1800s, whaling was a vast and brutal industry–sometimes as deadly for the sailors involved as it was for the whales. And the global epicenter of whaling could be found in New Bedford, MA. All this slaughter wasn’t to feed hungry people with whale meat. It was about all the things people could make out of whale blubber, including soap and of course: lantern fuel. It burned bright and smoke-free.

Whale oil rendered in landed in New Bedford was sold to light street lamps, homes and businesses all over the world. The city even adopted the Latin motto Lucem diffundo which means “I spread light”. The phrase can still be seen stamped on the sidewalks outside of city hall. And then, too, there were all of the ways oil could be used as a lubricant, including but not limited to use on: bicycles, bolts, cameras, carriages, cash registers, tapped hands, chisels clippers, cutlery, doors, dentists’ tools, fans, firearms floors, fishing reels, flutes, furniture, golf clubs, harnesses, horses, hoofs, freezers, and locks.

In the 1800’s, whaling transformed New Bedford from a sleepy fishing town into one of the wealthiest cities in the world.[…]

Listen: A Whale-Oiled Machine – 99% Invisible

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at http://www.sambaman.org.uk
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