The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the word tourist only as far back as 1800, but as the dictionary’s definition implies, the new word describes an old habit—travelling for pleasure was not new when the word first appeared in print. By the beginning of the 19th century, the elites of English and European society had been touring for two centuries, travelling to the great cities and watering places, and taking the “Grand Tour” of the Continent. Nantucket was an early tourism destination, but not for its sea breezes or cultural offerings: they came for the sheep, or rather, the sheep shearing festival.
Tag: James Grieder
Part I: Island Children Running Rampant by James Grieder Nantucket has been described as a great place to raise your children, but not a great place to grow up. The arrival of the internet and high-speed ferries has blurred the distinction—now that we have good pizza and can get more […]
“Hello possums!” was how Dame Edna Everage greeted her throngs of admirers for more than 60 years. Barry Humphries, an Australian-born comedian, actor, author, and satirist, who created the character of Dame Edna, passed away in April of this year. Humphries’ one-man shows alternated between satirical monologues and musical numbers, interspersed with improvised moments and audience participation. Dame Edna never performed in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum, but another cross-dressing performer did so nearly 100 years before Humphries created his iconic character. A man named Marshall S. Pike performed there on multiple occasions in the 1850s, and his career as a musician and performer led him from Nantucket to the bloody battlefields and hellish prisons of the American Civil War before he found his way home again.
I’ve been working at the Nantucket Atheneum as a research associate for a little over a year, and in that time, I’ve fallen down more than one historical rabbit hole, learning about interesting and some downright odd moments in Nantucket’s history. From time to time, my explorations bring me face-to-face with members of my own family.