History of Hingham Inner Harbor

Thank you for your interest in the history of Hingham’s harbor. 

In 2019 the Town of Hingham began installation of a series of Harbor History signs along the walking paths and public areas of our inner harbor—the area that stretches from Broad Cove to the Hingham Maritime Center.

We encourage you to walk the harbor to visit the signs.

Sign Location Map Hingham Harbor

Mackerel Fishing

The Hingham fishing industry began in earnest about 1750 when Captain Francis Barker created the first shipyard at the harbor, at the foot of Ship Street. Fishing companies were soon formed. In the 19th century, mackerel was the primary fish sought by Hingham fishing schooners.

450 men were directly employed. The industry also supported local work in ship building and outfitting, sail, mast and spar, pump and block, and cordage production, in barrel coopering, and at salt works.

Mackerel Panel Hingham Harbor

Lumber Trade

The experienced farmers and artisans who settled Bare Cove (Hingham’s first name) quickly adjusted to the opportunities suggested by their surroundings. “The nearby hills, covered with pine, oak, hickory, beech, elm, and savin [juniper plant], furnished a wonderful variety of wood for home use and export to the rapidly enlarging Boston market and the West Indies.”

Lumber Panel Hingham Harbor

Steamboat Wharves

Steamboat wharves were part of Hingham's busy Inner Harbor in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The steamboat EAGLE, transiting between Hingham and Boston, began with seasonal service between 1818 and 1821.  The ship could accommodate 200 passengers to/from Boston initially for about a 2-hour passage.  Later ships, such as the GENERAL LINCOLN, shortened the trip to about 1 1/4 hours.

Steamboat Panel Hingham Harbor

Credits and References

Lumber Trade

PHOTOS: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society. Digital photo archives, Hingham Historical Society. Plymouth County Atlas of Surveys (photo by Michael Achille, from paper copy in archives of Hingham Historical Society.) 

ILLUSTRATION: Lumber mill illustration courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library, Delaware, MD, Digital archive-permission given for educational use. 

TEXT: Hingham Old and New, Town of Hingham, 1935. Not All Is Changed, A Life History of Hingham, Lorena L. and Francis R. Hart, Hingham Historical Commission, 1993; American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation, Eric Rutkow, 2012; New England Masts and the King’s Broad Arrow, S.F. Manning, 1979. New England Bound, Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren, 2016. History of The Lumber Industry of America, American Lumberman, 1907. 

Mackerel Fishing

PHOTOS: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society. 

ILLUSTRATIONS: Image of salt works from “The Old Salt Works”, Sears, 1916 Journal of Hingham Historical Society. 

TEXT and TABLES: History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Vol. 1, 1893, Town of Hingham, publisher; Quantity of Mackerel Packed from Hingham Vessels, 1815-1828, Farmer and Brown Printers, Hingham, 1829. Hingham Historical Society archives. “The Old Salt Works,” 1916, Sears, Hingham Historical Society, “The Fishing Banks off Our Atlantic Coast,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. 45, No. 6, 1913; United States Bureau of Fisheries (online material.) 

Steamboats

PHOTOS: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society. Images from lantern slides, postcards, and photographs. 

MAP, ILLUSTRATIONS and LOGO (for Boston and Hingham Steamboat Company): Handbook of the Boston and Hingham Steamboat Company, 1880, digital archive of Library of Congress. 

TEXT: History of The Town of Hingham, Massachusetts. Vol 1; 1893. Town of Hingham, publisher.

Acknowledgements

These signs would not have been accomplished without the generous contributions of the time and talent of the following Hingham residents.

  • Trustees of the Bathing Beach (Hingham), Chair, Alan Perrault;
  • Harbor Signage Working Group of the Hingham Harbor Development Committee (HDC), Working Group Chair, Bruce MacAloney; HDC Committee Chair, Bill Reardon.
  • Greenbush Historic Preservation Trust, approved in 2018, awarded by the Hingham Historical Commission; Chair, Kevin Burke, Administrator, Andrea Young.
  • Graphic design and color palette provided by Karl Thompson, Partner at GrayMatter Agency Inc., Hingham.
  • Research for sign artwork and text provided by Eileen McIntyre. McIntyre is Chair, Hingham Land Conservation Trust; and Member, Board of Directors, Hingham Historical Society.
  • Michael Achille, Registrar, Hingham Historical Society; and Geri Duff, Volunteer for assistance in accessing images from Hingham Historical Society (HHS) digital archives.