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Whaling, Fishing, and Industrial Employment in Southeastern New England

The largest concentration of Portuguese immigrants settled in southeastern New England, in an area extending from Providence, Rhode Island, through southeastern Massachusetts (including Cape Cod) to Boston. This concentration began with the organization of a Portuguese-Jewish congregation and the later establishment of the sperm oil industry in Newport, Rhode Island, during the last half of the eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, the focus of whaling shifted to nearby New Bedford, Massachusetts. With the employment of young Azoreans in the whaling industry, New Bedford became the focus of Portuguese immigration as the town became the leading whaling port.

From New Bedford, the Portuguese spread to other New England coastal ports. Sizeable Portuguese communities developed in Newport, Rhode Island, the ports on Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard Islands, Provincetown on Cape Cod, the Boston metropolitan area, and Gloucester to the northeast. In these towns, they engaged in whaling, as well as other maritime activities, including cod fishing.

During the last two to three decades of the nineteenth century, as the whaling industry diminished and industrialization became a more important component of urban growth, Portuguese immigration increased significantly. New immigrants were attracted by employment in the textile factories in the industrial towns of southeastern New England. New Bedford provided substantial industrial employment, but other large Portuguese communities developed around the textile factories in nearby Fall River and Providence, as well as in the industrial towns around Boston, including Cambridge, Somerville, and Lowell.

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Whaling Industry Links Early Nineteenth-Century Portuguese Settlements

Jewish Congregation in Colonial Newport, Rhode Island

Whaling Industry and Portuguese Immigration Centered in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Portuguese School in New Bedford

Bird's-eye View of Provincetown on Cape Cod

Cod Fishing in New England Coastal Waters

Portuguese Town Fathers in Provincetown

Portuguese Settlement in the Fox Point Section of Providence, Rhode Island