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- History of Hingham Harbor
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.
Mackerel Fishing (2019)
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.
Lumber Trade (2019)
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.”
Steamboat Wharves (2019)
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.
Looking Back on Downtown Hingham (2020)
Settlers from England began to arrive in 1633 at what was then known as Bare Cove. The Town of Hingham was incorporated in 1635. In that year there was a drawing for house lots, “westerly from the Cove along Town Street, now North Street, and into Broad Cove Lane, now Lincoln Street
Hingham's Evolving Waterfront (2020)
Once home to fishing wharves during the 17th and 18th centuries, Hingham’s inner harbor was transformed into a place for steamship wharves, a coal wharf, and an iron foundry in the 19th century. The 20th century then brought car dealerships and gas stations to the harbor.
Ship Building (2020)
Wooden sailing ships were built at inner harbor shipyards in the 17th through 19th century using expertise and resources found throughout the town of Hingham. The book Hingham Old and New, written for the town’s tercentenary in 1935, describes this scene, circa 1800.
Credits and References
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.
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.)
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.
Looking Back on Downtown Hingham:
PHOTOS: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society; Hingham Public Library postcard collection; Digital photo archives, Hingham Historical Society.
MAP: Map of the county of Plymouth, Massachusetts, from Library of Congress: Geography and Map Division, online archive. (Map created by Walling, Henry Francis, 1825-1888 and originally published by D.R. Smith & Co., 1857.)
TEXT/ CAPTION REFERENCES: 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; When I Think of Hingham, Michael Shilhan, published by Hingham Historical Society and Hingham Historical Commission, Second Edition, 2002; History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Vol. 1, 1893, Town of Hingham, publisher.
Hingham’s Evolving Waterfront:
PHOTOS: 1980s color photo of waterfront: Courtesy of Stephen Dempsey from his personal collection--George Loring III photographer; Colorized image of bathers at beach: Hingham Public Library postcard collection; Other B&W photos: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society; Digital photo archives, Hingham Historical Society. Charles Howard plow: Image is of the Charles Howard plow model held in collection of Hingham Historical Society. (Photo by Eileen McIntyre.)
MAP: Segment of “VIEW OF HINGHAM, PLYMOUTH COUNTY, M.A.,” 1885 , originally published by A.F. Poole.
TEXT: History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Vol. 1, 1893, Town of Hingham, publisher; Not All Is Changed, A Life History of Hingham, Lorena L. and Francis R. Hart, Hingham Historical Commission, 1993; consultation with 2019/2020 members of Trustees of the Bathing Beach and the Harbor Development Committee; Online records of Hingham Community Preservation Committee.
PHOTOS: John P. Richardson Collection, Courtesy of Hingham Historical Commission and Hingham Historical Society and Digital photo archives, Hingham Historical Society. Image of shipwright’s mallet: This mallet, known as a beetle, is in the historic tool collection of the Hingham Historical Society housed at Old Ordinary. (Photo by Eileen McIntyre.)
MAP: W.A. Dwiggins’ map created in 1934 and originally published that year in Hingham Old and New, Town of Hingham, 1935. This digital image is of the original map artwork held in collection of the Hingham Historical Society. Call-out labels related to shipbuilding have been added based on sources cited for TEXT (see below).
SHIP and BLOCK & TACKLE DIAGRAMS: Public domain; Labels and captions were created, with initial sailing terminology guidance from Maggie Merrill of Marine Marketing Services, and research using online archives of Penobscot Marine Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum.
TEXT: Hingham Old and New, Town of Hingham, 1935; History of The Town of Hingham, Massachusetts. Vol 2; 1893. Town of Hingham, publisher.
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 and 2019, 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.
- Zachary Raymond, English Teacher, Hingham High School, who, with the approval of English department director Mary Andrews and principal Rick Swanson, provided his expertise as proofreader for text and captions on the three signs produced in 2020.