Before the 17th century, the Wampanoag, who had settlements throughout southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, were the only inhabitants of the lands along the Acushnet River. Their population is believed to have been about 12,000. While exploring New England, Bartholomew Gosnold landed on Cuttyhunk Island on May 15, 1602. From there, he explored Cape Cod and the neighboring areas, including the site of present-day New Bedford. However, rather than settle the area, he returned to England at the request of his crew.
Europeans first settled New Bedford in 1652. English Plymouth Colony settlers purchased the land from chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe. Whether the transfer of the land was legitimately done has been the subject of intense controversy. Like other native tribes, the Wampanoags did not share the settlers' concepts of private property. The tribe may have believed they were granting usage rights to the land, not giving it up permanently.
The settlers used the land to build the colonial town of Old Dartmouth (which encompassed not only present-day Dartmouth, but also present-day New Bedford, Acushnet, Fairhaven, and Westport). A section of Old Dartmouth near the west bank of the Acushnet River, originally called Bedford Village, was officially incorporated as the town of New Bedford in 1787 after the American Revolutionary War. The name was suggested by the Russell family, who were prominent citizens of the community. The Dukes of Bedford, a leading English aristocratic house, also bore the surname Russell. (Bedford, Massachusetts had already been incorporated by 1787; hence "New" Bedford.)
The late-18th century was a time of growth for the town. New Bedford's first newspaper, The Medley (also known as New Bedford Marine Journal), was founded in 1792. On June 12, 1792, the town set up its first post office. William Tobey was its first postmaster. The construction of a bridge (originally a toll bridge) between New Bedford and present-day Fairhaven in 1796 also spurred growth. (Fairhaven separated from New Bedford in 1812, forming an independent town that included both present-day Fairhaven and present-day Acushnet.)
In 1847 the town of New Bedford officially became a city; Abraham Hathaway Howland was elected its first mayor. At approximately the same time, New Bedford began to supplant Nantucket as the nation's preeminent whaling port, thanks to its deeper harbor and location on the mainland. Whaling dominated the economy of the city for much of the century. Many families of the city were involved with it as crew and officers of ships.
Until 1800, New Bedford and its surrounding communities were, by and large, populated by Protestants of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Dutch origin. During the first half of the 19th century many Irish people came to Massachusetts. In 1818, Irish immigrants established the Catholic mission that built St. Mary's Church. Later in that century, immigrants from Portugal and its dependent territories of the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira began arriving in New Bedford and the surrounding area, attracted by jobs in the whaling industry; many had family members who had worked on whaling ships. As the Portuguese community began to increase, they established the first Portuguese parish in the city, St. John the Baptist (1871). French Canadians also secured a foothold in New Bedford at about the same time, and they built the Church of the Sacred Heart in 1877.
Similarly, Polish immigrants began arriving in the late 19th century and established the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1903. A number of Jewish families, arriving in the late 19th century, were active in the whaling industry, selling provisions and outfitting ships. During the years leading up to the First World War, a sizable eastern-European Jewish community joined them in New Bedford. Some became prominent merchants and businessmen, mainly in textiles and manufacturing.
New Bedford and its textile industry garnered national headlines in 1928 when it was hit with a strike of 30,000 workers. The walkout of mostly immigrant workers was given critical support by the Workers (Communist) Party and was the precursor of a more tumultuous textile strike in North Carolina held the following year.
In 1847, the New Bedford Horticultural Society was begun by James Arnold.
The Ash Street Jail, which houses inmates from Bristol County, is located in New Bedford. It opened in 1829 and is the oldest continuously operating jail in the United States.
Fort Taber and Fort Rodman (also called the "Fort at Clark's Point") were built during the American Civil War and are now in Fort Taber Park. Both forts are often called Fort Taber, including in some references.
New Bedford is located at 41°39′06″N 70°56′01″W (41.651803, -70.933705). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.1 square miles (62.5 km2). Of the total area, 20.0 square miles (51.8 km2) is land, and 4.1 square miles (10.7 km2), or 17.13%, is water. New Bedford is a coastal city, a seaport, bordered on the west by Dartmouth, on the north by Freetown, on the east by Acushnet and Fairhaven, and on the south by Buzzards Bay. From New Bedford's northern border with Freetown to the Buzzards Bay coast at Clark's Point the distance is approximately 14 miles (23 km). Across New Bedford east to west is a distance of about 2 miles (3.2 km). The highest point in the city is an unnamed hill crossed by Interstate 195 and Hathaway Road west of downtown, with an elevation greater than 180 feet (55 m) above sea level.
New Bedford Harbor, a body of water shared with Fairhaven, is actually the estuary of the Acushnet River where it empties into Buzzards Bay. The river empties into the bay beyond Clark's Point, the southernmost point of the city. To the west of Clark's Point is Clark's Cove, which extends landward approximately one and a half mile from the bay. Just south of Palmer's Island, beginning near Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven, lies a two-mile-long hurricane barrier, constructed in the 1960s to protect the inner harbor where the fishing fleet anchors. Along with Palmer's Island, the city also lays claim to Fish Island and Pope's Island. Between these two islands lies one of the three sections, the central section, of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge. The central span, a swing bridge, connects the two islands as well as allowing boats and ships passage to the upper harbor. Two conventional bridges connect each of the islands to the nearest mainland, Fish Island to New Bedford and Pope's Island to Fairhaven. In addition to the harbor, there are several small brooks and ponds within the city limits.
There are several parks and playgrounds scattered throughout the city, with four primary parks:Brooklawn Park - located on Acushnet Ave. in the north end. This 85 acre park is a multi-use complex with baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a skate park, playground, splash-pad, and nature trails. In an effort to remove himself from the bustle of the city's center, the prominent New Bedford Quaker, Daniel Ricketson built a country estate in what is now Brooklawn Park. Literary greats, such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, often visited Ricketson at his estate. Responding to the needs of a rapidly growing population due to the success of the textile industry, this land became a city park at the end of the 19th century.Buttonwood Park - located on Rockdale Ave. in the west end. This 97-acre multi-use park was initially planned in the 1890s by Charles Eliot of the famous landscape architectural firm of Olmstead, Olmstead and Eliot. Containing both active and passive recreation areas, with forest, fields and a large pond, it is also home to one of the finest small zoos in the country, Buttonwood Park Zoo. The zoo is home to over 50 animals with 35 different exhibits. Retaining its historic landscapes, the park is a National Historic Register District, and has evolved to meet the needs of the community; with ball fields, tennis courts, a universal accessible playground, a Community Center, library, and walking paths. The brand new basketball courts are a major attraction.Fort Rodman/Taber Park - located on S. Rodney French Blvd. in the south end. A 50-acre waterfront park that provides over a mile of ocean frontage located on scenic Clark's Point which projects into Buzzards Bay. The park incorporates historical landmarks, offers many amenities and various opportunities for passive and active recreation. The centerpiece of the park is the historic Fort Rodman, built between 1857 and 1871 as part of the nation's sea coast defense system. The fort is features interpretive signage and a military museum. There is over one mile of walking, jogging or biking paths, natural areas, a beach for bathing, a pier for fishing, a playground, community boating, a youth summer camp, and picnic areas offering panoramic views. The park is handicap accessible. A large multi-purpose lawn allows for cultural programming, such as military reenactments and public concerts.Hazelwood Park - located on Brock Ave. in the south end. Hazelwood Park is a 23-acre park located on Clark's Point, overlooking scenic Clark's Cove. The park is offers both passive and active recreation areas. There is a historic bowling green, tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground, picnic areas, and a gazebo. The park hosts many entertainment functions throughout the year. Public beaches and a historic bath-house and pavilion are located across the Boulevard at the bottom of the park. It contains groves, expansive lawns, and three historic structures, one of which has been rehabilitated for use as a Community Center. The park, the bath houses, and pavilion make up the Hazelwood Park National Historic Register District.
The city built a Harbor Walk atop the hurricane barrier that stretches from East Rodney French Blvd. all the way to the western portion of Clark's Cove, on the Dartmouth town line.
New Bedford has a cooler than normal version of a humid subtropical climate that in many aspects resembles a humid continental one, but with slightly milder winters. In spite of being influenced by continental winds with large differences between seasons, temperatures are somewhat moderated compared to areas farther inland. There is high precipitation year-round, with winter being split between rainfall and snowfall.
New Bedford has had thirty unsolved homicides since 2000. Most stem from the ongoing feuds between gangs of the United Front and Monte Park neighborhoods (projects). The gangs are located in the south and west ends of the city.
On March 6, 1983 Cheryl Ann Araujo, 21, was gang-raped by four men on a pool table in Big Dan's tavern in New Bedford while other patrons watched, but did not intervene. During the prosecution, the defendants' attorneys cross-examined Araujo to such an extent that the case became widely seen as a template for "blaming the victim" in rape cases. The case also raised tensions between the Portuguese-American community and other ethnic groups in New Bedford, as the defendants were Portuguese immigrants. The 1988 film The Accused was loosely based on the incident, and the crime is referenced in Dennis Lehane's book Gone Baby Gone as well as its 2007 film adaptation.
In 2000, crime had dropped to a 20-year low. Some 3,166 total crimes tracked by the Crime Reporting Unit of the Massachusetts State Police, of which 789 were violent crimes (the lowest violent crime rate since 1975), and 2,377 were property crimes. The city has been the site of some high-profile crimes.
On December 8, 2001, New Bedford was the site of the biggest cocaine drug arrest in Massachusetts history, yielding a total of 260 kilograms. The dealer was Rafael Yeje Cabrera.
According to witnesses and police, on February 1, 2006, Jacob D. Robida attacked and seriously wounded three patrons of Puzzles Lounge, a New Bedford gay bar. He fled to Arkansas where he murdered a female companion and a police officer and later died from wounds (seemingly self-inflicted) received in a shootout.
New Bedford was featured on America's Most Wanted on February 11, 2006, for three unsolved murders: that of Marcus Cruz in 2001, Cecil Lopes III in 2004, and Dana Haywood in 2005, run as part of a report on the Stop Snitching phenomenon that has hindered police investigations nationwide. "Americas Most Wanted" senior correspondent Tom Morris, who spoke with sources in New Bedford for the piece, said he usually cannot discuss the number or content of calls in response to a particular segment. But he said he'd make an exception in this case. "I was amazed at how minimal the response was. I'm still wondering if we actually aired the show or not," he said. "We expected people to call in and maybe say 'Hey, I was there July 4 when Dana Haywood was killed' ... but we received no useful information." The show received just a handful of calls and one e-mail thanking its producers for running it, the fewest ever for any episode in the show's history, Mr. Morris said. "I've been doing this for 13 years," he said. "I was really surprised by this." He said the show, which aired Feb. 11, received good ratings.
On December 12, 2006, gunman Scott Medeiros shot and killed a doorman and a manager at the Foxy Lady strip club, shot a patron and two police officers, and then killed himself.
On March 7, 2007, Michael Bianco, Inc., a leather products factory, was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 361 undocumented immigrants were arrested by approximately 300 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. About 90 were transported to Texas in preparation for deportation, some without being contacted by the Department of Social Services regarding any infants and toddlers without care. About 20 DSS case workers were sent to Texas to follow up on care of families.
In recent years over 80 gang members from UFP, Monte Park, and the Latin Kings have been detained, indicted and imprisoned, curbing violence in 2007 and 2008. In May, 2010, it was reported that "Not a single person arrested in the roundups since 2007 has yet been acquitted in the state superior or federal courts" and "gang-related shootings and homicides are down from the violent levels seen before 2007."
The Port of New Bedford serves as a break-bulk handler of perishable items, including fruit and fish; the port also handles other cargo. For 2006, the port expected upwards of 30 cruise ship calls. One public and several private marinas offer limited transient dockage for recreational boats. As of November, 2005, the port is the top U.S. fishing port in terms of dollar value of catch.
At least two private ferry services originate at New Bedford. As of 2010, Seastreak offers fast catamaran ferry service between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard, New Bedford and Nantucket; and the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company runs scheduled ferry services to Cuttyhunk Island. Ferry service from New Bedford dates back to May 15, 1818, when the steamboat The Eagle carried 600 passengers across the Nantucket Sound.
New Bedford Regional Airport (EWB), a towered Class D airport offering two 5,000-foot (1,500 m) runways and a precision instrument landing system, is located in the central portion of the city with easy access to highways. Frequent scheduled passenger service is provided to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard by Cape Air. Charter services, including seaplane charters, are available for destinations throughout the southern New England / New York region. In addition, the airport provides a range of general aviation and corporate jet services including aircraft maintenance facilities and flight instruction.
Interstate 195 is the main freeway through central New Bedford, traveling from Providence, RI to Wareham. Additionally, U.S. Route 6 runs from east to west through the city as well. US 6 leaves the city toward Cape Cod over the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, a swing truss bridge, and the Popes Island Bridge. New Bedford also serves as the southern terminus of MA Route 140, which is a freeway that connects to MA Route 24 in Taunton on the road north to Boston. MA Route 18, the extension of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (which travels through downtown), is a freeway for the short stretch connecting I-195 to US 6 and the port area.
The city bus terminal offers local and long distance bus connections. A free shuttle bus connects the bus terminal and the ferries. The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) provides bus service between the city, Fall River, and the surrounding regions.
Peter Pan Bus Lines makes a New Bedford stop on a New York City to Hyannis (Cape Cod) route. Also, Megabus offers service to Providence and New York City from New Bedford. As of October, 2006, private carrier DATTCO provides daily commuter bus service to Boston via Taunton.
The MBTA has proposed renewing commuter rail service to the city. As of May 14, 2006, total capital costs for commuter rail service to New Bedford were projected to be $800 million, and the project has not yet been funded by the state; which is still reeling financially from the financial excesses of the Big Dig project in Boston. CSX Transportation (formerly Conrail) provides freight rail service to New Bedford, terminating at the New Bedford Rail Yard in the port area. Until 1959, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad provided train service to New Bedford from Boston and Providence via Taunton.
On March 15, 2017, MassDOT filed a notice of project change in order to advance South Coast Rail service serving both New Bedford and Fall River using the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Commuter Rail Line.
New Bedford is governed by a Mayor-Council form of government. The current mayor, former assistant U.S. Attorney Jon F. Mitchell defeated State Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral in the 2011 mayoral election.
The New Bedford Police Department patrols the city from four stations. The main station is on Rockdale Avenue in a converted supermarket plaza and replaces the former headquarters (located downtown). There are also branches in the North End (at the intersection of Tarkiln Hill Road and Ashley Boulevard), South End (along Cove Street near the end of Route 18), and Downtown (on Pleasant Street near City Hall). The Chief of Police is Joseph Cordeiro.
There are four post offices, the Central (a scaled replica of New York's Penn Station Post Office) located downtown, one in the South End, and two in the North End.
The city provides weekly trash and recycling pickup. The city also formerly operated a trash dump in the Mount Pleasant area of town between the regional airport and the Whaling City Golf Course. However, owing to pollution concerns, it was closed in the 1990s.
The Bristol County Sheriff's Office operates the Ash Street Jail and Regional Lock-Up and the Juvenile Secure Alternative Lock Up Program (JALP) in New Bedford. The Ash Street jail houses over 200 pre-trial prisoners and a few sentenced inmate workers for the system. JALP houses up to 12 pre-arraingment juvenile prisoners.
New Bedford is represented by four state representatives, representing the Ninth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth districts. The Ninth includes Dartmouth, as well as parts of Freetown and Lakeville; the Thirteenth includes parts of Freetown, Lakeville and Middleborough; and the Eleventh and Twelfth are both entirely within New Bedford. The city is represented in the state senate, by Senator Mark C.W. Montigny, in the Second Bristol and Plymouth district, which includes the towns of Acushnet, Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Mattapoisett.
The Third Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police, located nearby in Dartmouth, patrol New Bedford.
The city is part of Massachusetts's 9th congressional district, represented by U.S. Representative William R. Keating. The state's junior (Class I) U.S. Senator is Ed Markey, elected in a special election in 2013. The state's senior senator is Elizabeth Warren, elected in 2012.
The city of New Bedford is currently protected 24/7, 365 by the city of New Bedford Fire Department(NBFD). Established in 1834, the New Bedford Fire Department currently operates out of seven Fire Stations, located throughout the city in two Districts, under the command of two District Chiefs per shift. The New Bedford Fire Department currently maintains and operates a fire apparatus fleet of seven Engines, three Ladders, two Fireboats, one Air Supply Unit, one Foam Trailer, and one ARFF Crash Rescue Unit based at New Bedford Regional Airport and 4 reserve apparatus (3 engines, 1 ladder). The NBFD is made up of 203 uniformed professional firefighters, including a Chief of Department, Michael Gomes, a Deputy Chief, 10 District Chiefs, 12 Captains, 29 Lieutenants, 152 Firefighters, 4 Fire Investigators, and 5 Civilian Personnel. The New Bedford Fire Department responds to approximately 14,000 emergency calls annually.
In 2015, the New Bedford Fire Department received the "Class 1" ISO (Insurance Service Office) distinction becoming just the 3rd city in the state, Boston and Cambridge being the other two, to receive such a rating. New Bedford has been known to be a very aggressive interior attack department when responding to fire emergencies, and has been considered to be among the best in the state.
Below is a complete listing of all fire station and fire apparatus locations. In addition to the seven Fire Stations, the NBFD also operates a fire apparatus maintenance facility/repair shop at 311 Liberty St., an Emergency Management facility at 834 Kempton St., and a Fire Museum at 51 Bedford St.
Fire Headquarters is located at 868 Pleasant St. and the Fire Prevention Bureau is located at 1204 Purchase St.
New Bedford Public Schools is the community school district.New Bedford High School
The sole public high school for the city.Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School
New Bedford is also the home to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, a large vocational high school serving the city New Bedford, and also the towns of Dartmouth and Fairhaven.Other public schools
The city operates two alternative junior-senior high schools, Whaling City Alternative School, out of the original Greater New Bedford Vocational High School building, and Trinity Day Academy. There are also two charter schools, the Global Learning Charter Public School, otherwise known as GLCPS, which serves grades 5-12 and the Alma del Mar Charter School, which is growing to serve grades K-8 and currently serves grades K-3.Other schools
There are seven Catholic schools within the city. Some of the students who attend these schools go on to attend Bishop Stang High School in neighboring Dartmouth. There are also two Catholic preschools and the Nazarene Christian Academy, a school operated by the Church of the Nazarene. Independent schools include Nativity Prep for boys grades 5-8 and Our Sisters' School for girls grades 5-8.Higher education
New Bedford is home to one of Fisher College's neighborhood campuses. Located on Church Street in the north end of the city, it serves adult learners from the greater New Bedford region and the surrounding communities of Taunton, Wareham, and Fall River. Bristol Community College has a satellite campus in Downtown New Bedford in the Star Store Building and 800 Purchase Street. Nearby Dartmouth is home to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, as well as the University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth, the first public law school in the state. However, the city also is the site of the marine campus of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (located at Fort Rodman) as well as its satellite visual art campus located in the former Star Store building downtown.Closed Schools
Three Catholic high schools have closed: St. Anthony High School closed in 1978, and Holy Family High School closed in 1985. Both schools were always small in registrations but were considered by many to be influential in New Bedford's 20th century culture. As of the end of the 2006–07 school year, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, located on Crapo St in the city's South End, had closed down because of financial difficulties.
New Bedford and surrounding communities are a part of the Providence metropolitan area.
At the 2010 census, there were 95,072 people, 39,204 households and 24,990 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,760 per square mile (1,799/km2). There were 42,781 housing units at an average density of 2,063/sq mi (797/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 72.17% (66.1% Non-Hispanic) White, 9.69% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.00% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 13.51% from other races, and 3.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.11% of the population. The city is very multi-cultural and diverse; 46.7% of residents are Luso-American (Portuguese or from a Portuguese territory). The ethnic makeup of the city is estimated to be 33.8% Portuguese, 10.1 Puerto Rican, 9.1% French, 8.8% Cape Verdean, 6.9% Irish, 5.3% English.
There were 39,208 households, of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 20.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.01.
Age distribution was 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.
The median household income was $37,569, and the median family income was $45,708. Males had a median income of $37,388 versus $27,278 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,602. About 17.3% of families and 20.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.1% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.
The economy of the Pilgrim settlement in the New Bedford area was initially based around a few farming and fishing villages. The early Bedford Village quickly became a commercial zone and from there became a major whaling and foreign trade port. In the early 18th century, the Russell family purchased this area and developed it into a larger village (Joseph Russell III having made the most significant contributions). Age of Sail ships built in New Bedford include the schooner Caroline and whaleship Charles W. Morgan. By the 18th century, entrepreneurs in the area, such as whaling merchants from Nantucket, were attracted to the village and helped make it into one of the top whaling cities in the country. The most significant of these merchants was Joseph Rotch, who bought 10 acres (four hectares) of land in 1765 from Joseph Russell III on which he and his sons ran the family business. Rotch moved his business to New Bedford since it would be better for refining whale oil and manufacturing candles made from whales. As these parts of the whaling industry had been monopolized by a merchant cartel in Boston, Newport, Rhode Island, and Providence, Rhode Island, Rotch felt that it would be better for business to handle these himself by moving to the mainland.
The relationship between New Bedford and Nantucket allowed the two cities to dominate the whaling industry. In 1848 New Bedford resident Lewis Temple invented the toggling harpoon, an invention that would revolutionize the whaling industry. This helped make New Bedford the preeminent city in the U.S. whaling industry. Another factor was the increased draft of whaling ships, in part the result of greater use of steel in their construction, which made them too deep for Nantucket harbor. Syren, the longest lived of the clipper ships, spent over a decade transporting whale oil and whaling products to New Bedford, principally from Honolulu, and was owned for several years by William H. Besse of New Bedford. As a result of its control over whaling products that were used widely throughout the world (most importantly whale oil), New Bedford became one of the richest per capita cities in the world.
Many whalers would quit their jobs in 1849, though, as the Gold Rush attracted many of them to leave New Bedford for California. During this time Herman Melville, who worked in New Bedford as a whaler, wrote the novel Moby-Dick and published it in 1851; the city would be the initial setting of the book, including a scene set in the Seaman's Bethel, which still stands today. Despite the power it gave to New Bedford, the whaling industry began to decline starting in 1859 when petroleum, which would become a popular alternative to whale oil, was discovered. Another blow came with the Whaling Disaster of 1871, in which twenty-two New Bedford whalers were lost in the ice off the coast of Alaska. The New Bedford firm J. & W. R. Wing Company, the largest whaling company in the United States, sent out its last whaleship in 1914, and whaling in New Bedford came to its final end in 1925, with the last whaling expedition being made by the schooner John R. Manta.
In the mid-1840s, New Bedford was the site of the first petroleum fuel refinery in the United States, as newly discovered Pennsylvania crude oil was shipped to New Bedford to be refined for lamp oil and other oil. Standard Oil would ultimately buy this refinery, located on Fish Island. Fish Island was also the site of an early experiment in coal gasification, leading to the explosion of a building.
New Bedford was able to remain wealthy because of its textile industry. Starting in 1881, the textile industry grew large enough to sustain the city's economy. The creation of the New Bedford Textile School in 1895–1899 ushered in an era of textile prosperity that began to decline in the great depression and ended with the end of the textile period in the 1940s.
At its height, though, over 30,000 people were employed by the 32 cotton-manufacturing companies that owned the textile factories of New Bedford (which were worth $100 million in total).
Tool and die operations also left the area steadily, starting in the 1970s.
Until the mid-1990s New Bedford was home to a thriving commercial fishing community that fished Georges Bank, but in 1996 action was taken to reduce over-fishing, which devastated commercial fishing in the area.
Fishing and manufacturing continue to be two of the largest businesses in the area, and healthcare has become a major employer. The three largest single employers based in New Bedford are Southcoast Hospitals Group, one of the top ten employers in Massachusetts (healthcare), Titleist (golf clubs, balls, apparel, manufacturing), and Riverside Manufacturing (apparel manufacturing).
According to a 2001 study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, the three largest employment sectors in the Greater New Bedford area (the area includes New Bedford and Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Wareham) were as follows: services (26% of total employment); wholesale trade (22%); manufacturing (19%). The largest industries by employment in the area were as follows: health services, eating and drinking places, wholesale trade, food stores, and social services.
In 2002, the city received $61,194,358 in taxation revenue, $44,536,201 in local receipts, and $12,044,152 classified as other available.
In 2005 the unemployment rate was 7.3%, having dropped throughout the 1990s from 12.5% to 5.3% in 2000, and then having risen to 10.4% in 2003. By 2009, in the midst of the economic crisis of the era, the unemployment rate got as high as 12.4%.
In 2005, the city received $104,925,772 for education, and $22,755,439 for general government from the State of Massachusetts.
In 2016, the city hopes its proximity to Massachusetts' southern coastline will allow it to become a center for the growing wind energy market. Three companies, OffshoreMW, Deepwater Wind, and DONG Energy, have leased portions of New Bedford's Marine Commerce Terminal for the staging of turbines and platforms.
While accurate figures are hard to come by, tourism appears to be a growing industry. New Bedford tourism centers on fairs and festivals including the Folk Festival, Whaling City Festival, Fourth of July, Jazzfest, Working Waterfront Festival, Polish Fest, New Bedford Day of Portugal, Senhor Da Pedra feast, Holy Ghost of Pico feast, and the Portuguese Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (the largest Portuguese cultural celebration in the nation). Tourism also focuses on the historic whaling industry, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is the only national park unit that focuses on the whaling industry's impact on the history of the United States.
Driven in part by increased tourism, a Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel opened in New Bedford in late May 2010, on the edge of the city's harbor. This became the first hotel in the city to open in over 40 years, though it is well-supplied with bed and breakfast establishments.
Despite the historical decline of fishing and whaling in New England, New Bedford continues to be a leading fishing port. In 2011, New Bedford was the highest-valued port in the nation, a title it has held for twelve straight years. $369 million worth of seafood crossed its docks, making it more valuable than even the most productive Alaskan fishing ports. While volume is below other major ports, New Bedford retains is top position due largely to its scallop fishery.
Data is from the 2009–2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
The New Bedford public library was established in 1852. In fiscal year 2008, the city of New Bedford spent 0.82% ($1,841,038) of its budget on its public library—some $20 per person.Main LibraryCasa da Saudade (Portuguese branch)Howland-Green LibraryLawler LibraryWilks LibraryBookmobile
New Bedford is part of the Providence TV market but is the city of license for two TV stations; WLNE-TV Channel 6 is the ABC affiliate for the market, and WLWC Channel 28 is The CW affiliate. The Portuguese Channel has its corporate offices and studios in the city at 638 Mount Pleasant Street in the Comcast building. The city is also home to several radio stations the most notable of which are A.M. stations WNBH/1340 and WBSM/1420; and F.M. station WJFD-FM/97.3 (Portuguese language), all of which have been serving the residents of New Bedford for many decades. The city is also served by the newspapers, New Bedford Standard-Times and The Portuguese Times.
New Bedford has had a sporadic history of successful musicians. During the 1970s, the Tavares, a soul music group made up of five brothers from New Bedford, became a chart topping success with such songs as "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" and "More Than a Woman". In 1999, the pop group LFO (Lyte Funky Ones), whose group member Harold "Devin" Lima is from New Bedford, had a hit single with their song "Summer Girls". Have Heart, a Straight-edge hardcore band, were formed in New Bedford in 2002, before breaking up in 2009. Most recently, the hardcore punk band A Wilhelm Scream has gained some success, having been added to the 2005 Warped Tour lineup. New Bedford natives Hector Barros and Scott Ross were members of the hip-hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, led by actor Mark Wahlberg. They achieved success with their 1991 single, Good Vibrations, which reached number one in the U.S., Sweden, and Switzerland. Josh Newton from the band Every Time I Die was born in New Bedford.
In 2002, the movie Passionada was filmed in New Bedford, making it the first film to be shot in the city in 45 years. Previously, film director John Huston shot a scene for the movie adaptation of Moby-Dick in front of Seamen's Bethel in 1956. However, all other exterior shots for New Bedford in the film were shot in Youghal instead.
The 2011 movie Whaling City, about the fight of an independent fisherman to save his boat and his way of life, is set in New Bedford and was filmed there.
New Bedford was the town where 100 brides in the 1968–70 TV series Here Come the Brides came from prior to their arrival in 1860s Seattle, Washington.
A character named New Bedford appeared on a Family Guy episode (in 2006) as a friend of another girl named Dakota. The fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island is "situated" near New Bedford. Family Guy episode "Lottery Fever" Peter mentions New Bedford while looking at a whale painting
Quinn Sullivan (born March 26, 1999) is a blues guitarist from New Bedford. Quinn has performed on stage with Buddy Guy and B.B. King and has played in venues such as the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC's The Today Show, Lollapalooza and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In April 2013 he played at Madison Square Garden with his mentor Buddy Guy during the first night of the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival.
The accordionist and accordion instructor Aldo DeRossi (1917–2010) composed the Whaling City Concerto in 1992, honoring New Bedford.
The city is the home of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
Since 2009, the city has been home to the New Bedford Bay Sox baseball franchise of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a collegiate summer baseball league operating in New England. The team, which reached the league playoffs in their inaugural season, plays home games at Paul Walsh Field in New Bedford. Since 2005 the New England Football League semi-pro team, The Whaling City Clippers, have played at Walsh Field.
New Bedford is the home of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the centerpiece of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. It is the country's largest museum on the subject of whaling and the history of interaction between humans and whales. The museum has the skeletons of a 66-foot (20 m)-long baby blue whale (obtained in 2000), a 35-foot (11 m)-long adult humpback whale (obtained in 1900), and a 45-foot (14 m)-long sperm whale (obtained in 2004) on display. All whales died in New England waters and were cleaned and assembled for display.
The Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum, is a 28-room Greek Revival mansion that was built for the whaling merchant, William Rotch, Jr., in 1834. Between 1834 and 1981, three prominent families owned the house. It was restored by the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE) in the early 1980s and converted into the house museum it is today, chronicling 150 years of economic, social, and domestic life in New Bedford. Tours of the house and grounds are available; the facilities can also be rented for private events. Weddings in the rose garden are popular. The Rotch-Jones-Duff House also has a summer concert series, and it hosts an annual "cookie contest."
The Museum of Madeiran Heritage is located in the north end of the city, on the grounds of Madeira Field. This museum displays art and cultural artifacts from the Island of Madeira: a fascinating collection of art and fine crafts including embroidery, lace, linens, pottery and weaving. Traditional costumes of Folkloric dancers are on display along with an authentic 'corca' or sled used to transport visitors from the village of Monte high atop a hill outside of Funchal, the capital city of Madeira. On the north side of the museum is the beautiful Madeira Garden, with a fountain, grape arbor and plantings surrounding the lawn reminiscent of the garden isle. The museum, operated by Clube Madeirense S.S. Sacramento, Inc., sponsors the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the largest Portuguese feast in the world.
The New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! is located in the heart of New Bedford's historic downtown. The museum offers engaging exhibitions of artwork, both local and international in origin, and offers adult and youth education classes. Not far away is Gallery X, a community art gallery.
The New Bedford Fire Museum is housed in a handsome red-brick building, formerly Fire Station No. 4, which opened in 1867. The fire station was one of the oldest continuously operating fire stations in the state when it was closed in 1979. The museum has a collection of old firefighting equipment and some old fire engines. Visitors can try on old uniforms and slide down the pole. Old city fire records dating to 1890 are available for research and review. Retired and active city firefighters act as docents.
The New Bedford Museum of Glass reflects the city's history as home of the Mount Washington and Pairpoint Glass companies. The museum's collection ranges from ancient to contemporary glass with a large focus on the glass of New England. A research library boasts over eight thousand volumes on glass. The museum is located in one of the historic Wamsutta Mills textile factory buildings.
New Bedford has nine historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. They are:Acushnet Heights Historic DistrictButtonwood Park Historic DistrictCentral New Bedford Historic DistrictCounty Street Historic DistrictHowland Mill Village Historic DistrictMerrill's Wharf Historic DistrictMoreland Terrace Historic DistrictNew Bedford Historic DistrictNorth New Bedford Historic District
Paul Cuffee, a merchant and ship's captain of Native and African (Ashanti of Ghana) origin, was born in nearby Cuttyhunk and settled in Westport, Massachusetts. Many of his ships sailed out of New Bedford.
Lewis Temple was an African-American blacksmith who invented the toggle iron, a type of toggling harpoon, which revolutionized the whaling industry and enabled the capture of more whales. There is a monument to Temple in downtown New Bedford.
In 1838, Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave who became a famous abolitionist, settled in New Bedford. He writes in detail about the life and times of New Bedford in the late 1840s in his celebrated Autobiography. A historic building and monument dedicated to Douglass can be found today at the Nathan and Polly Johnson properties.
Frederick Douglass was not the only fugitive slave or freedman to see New Bedford as a welcoming place to settle. New Bedford had a small but thriving African-American community during the antebellum period. It was the home of a number of members of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an American Civil War regiment which fought, with considerable distinction, to preserve the Union. The 54th Massachusetts was the first regiment in the country's history formed entirely by African-American troops (who served with white officers). The most famous of these soldiers was William Harvey Carney, who made sure that the American flag never touched the ground during the Union assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, near Charleston. There is an elementary school in New Bedford named in his honor.
Patrick Cunningham was an Irish immigrant who lived in New Bedford. He was an inventor known for building a torpedo which he later fired down a street in the city.
Bishop "Sweet Daddy" Grace, native of Brava, Cape Verde, was a New Bedford resident who founded the United House of Prayer for All People, one of the largest African-American sects in America. He is buried in New Bedford.Clifford Warren Ashley, author, sailor, and artist, most famous for "The Ashley Book of Knots", an encyclopedic reference manual, copiously illustrated, on the tying of thousands of knots. He invented Ashley's stopper knot.Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, mob hitmanMerton J. Batchelder, Marine Corps Brigadier general during World War II, recipient of Navy CrossAndré Bernier, first meteorologist to appear on The Weather Channel's debut on May 2, 1982Albert Bierstadt, 19th-century German-born artist whose depictions of the American West were well known throughout the countryEzell A. Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan) civil rights activist best known for his participation in the Greensboro sit-insFranklin Brownell (1857–1946), painter, draughtsman and teacher.Mike Cejka, meteorologist at WIVB-TV in Buffalo, New YorkPaul Clayton, folksingerNick Dompierre, professional skateboarderFrederick Douglass, 19th-century abolitionist and editorNelson Eddy, singer and movie star who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, spent part of his boyhood in New Bedford.Warren Eisenberg, founder of Bed Bath & BeyondWilliam Greenleaf Eliot, co-founder and benefactor of Washington University of St. Louis; grandfather of T. S. EliotMarie Equi, 19th century doctor, labor activist, anarchist and WobblyHetty Green, businesswoman, one of the wealthiest women in America. Amassed a significant fortune from the stock market in the late 19th century.Henry Grinnell, businessman who financed the outfitting of two vessels, the "Advance" and the "Rescue", to search the Arctic for the lost Franklin ExpeditionCarol Haney, choreographer, principal assistant to Gene Kelly, and worked on Singin' in the RainBrian Helgeland, screenwriter of Mystic River, Conspiracy Theory, and L.A. Confidential, director of A Knight's Tale and 42Irwin M. Jacobs, co-founder of QualcommTynisha Keli, singerRebecca Hammond Lard, first poet of IndianaGeorge N. Leighton, United States District Court judgeDave Leitao, basketball head coach for DePaulLeonard Miller, co-founder of Lennar CorporationWilliam Foster Nye (1824–1910), businessmanPaul Poirier, former New England heavyweight boxing champion; fought former world champion Larry Holmes in 1993.Brian Pothier, professional ice hockey player currently playing for the Carolina HurricanesDaniel Ricketson, poet, historian, abolitionist and reformer. It is for his luminary literary friends that Ricketson is largely remembered. Many of them were central figures in the Transcendentalist movement centered in Concord, Massachusetts, such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos Bronson Alcott and Ellery Channing.Andrew Rubin (actor), actor, best known for his role as "George Martin" in Police AcademyBenjamin Russell, artist, best known for his accurate watercolors of whaling shipsAlbert Pinkham Ryder, 19th-century painter best known for his poetic and moody allegorical works and seascapes, as well as his eccentric personalityHarry Stovey, 19th-century professional baseball player; born in Philadelphia, he became a police officer in New Bedford after his playing days.Quinn Sullivan, musicianBenjamin Tucker, individualist-anarchist authorJohn Tukey, statistician whose usage of the term "software" and "bit" are believed to be the first in written historyBobby Watkins, professional football player for the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals in the 1950sBenjamin F. White, last governor of Montana TerritoryWilliam R. Yeschek, Wisconsin businessman and politician
New Bedford is a sister city of these municipalities: Barrow, Alaska Funchal, Madeira Ílhavo, Portugal Horta, Azores Mindelo, Cape Verde Tosashimizu, Japan