Exploring Links between Nantucket and Chile

NHA University Webinar TONIGHT!

NHA University: Captain Joseph W. Plasket
and the Links between Nantucket and Chile
Tuesday, March 16, at 5:30pm EST
Held via Zoom
Free for Members
$5 for Non-Members

The recent discovery by an archeologist in Chile of documents about a previously unknown Nantucket shipwreck has led to a reevaluation of the career of Captain Joseph W. Plasket, providing new insight on Nantucket’s connections to South American seal hunting, the China Trade, the War of 1812, and transatlantic trade. Michael Harrison will present these new findings, plus notes on Plasket’s wife and seven surviving children–two of whom married sailors and three of whom became whaling captains.
History Topic
Biographical Sketch of Joseph W. Plasket
By Michael R. Harrison

Joseph William Plasket (June 2, 1775–April 19, 1827) was a master mariner who resided for most of his life in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His career included multiple voyages to China and nearly two decades commanding freighting voyages between New England and U.S., Caribbean, and European ports.
Plasket (also spelled in records as Plaskett) was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a son of Joseph (ca. 1746–1794) and Tabitha Plasket (ca. 1743–1807).

In 1798, he married Perses Percy (1773–1842), often called Perses (or Persis) Colesworthy, as she was the daughter of Susan Colesworthy (1752–1811) and an unknown man named Percy. Joseph and Perses had eight children, one of whom died in childhood, two of whom married sailors, and three of whom—William, Joseph, and Henry—became whaling captains.

Photo: Joseph W. Plasket, ca. 1804, Spoilum, active ca. 1774–1806. Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 in. Gift of Whitman College, 1989.128.3.
Artifact Highlight
Guardian lion ("foo dog") candlesticks from Canton, circa 1804.
Porcelan, 5' h x 5 3/4" W x 3" D.
Gift of the Friends of the NHA. 1992.45.1a-b.

Purchased in 1804 for his wife Betsy Cary by Captain James Cary of the Nantucket ship Rose during a voyage to Canton. Cary also purchased portraits and miniatures by Spoilum and other Chinese artists and and other ceramics for his family's use while in Canton. A note found with the candlesticks explains that another identical pair of candlesticks were brought back on the Rose by first mate Joseph W. Plasket, who is misidentified in the note as supercargo, for his wife who latter broke them. These candlesticks were sold to Mrs. Plasket by Betsey Cary.
History Topic
Identifying the ship Eliza of Nantucket
By Michael R. Harrison

Many Nantucket vessels made sealing voyages to the southeastern and southwestern coasts of South America between 1793 and 1821, with the majority concentrated between about 1800 and 1812. Often these voyages were combined with a trading stop at Canton before heading back to the United States. Complicating matters, different Nantucket vessels made whaling voyages to these same waters during the same time period.

We recently learned that one of these Nantucket vessels, the ship Eliza under Captain Joseph W. Plasket, wrecked off the coast of Chile in 1809. Could we find out anything about the Eliza?

Photo: Ship Lady Adamas [Adams] of Nantucket, 1807. Gift of Harriet R. Easton, 1895.3.1
Artifact Highlight 
Portrait of Captain Joseph N. Plaskett
Swain, William, 1803-1847.
Gift of Christopher Columbus Coffin, Henry Freeman Coffin, and Augustus Coffin. 1899.25.1.

Captain Joseph N. Plaskett (1810–1854) was a son of Captain Joseph W. and Perses Plasket. He commanded the whaling ship Daniel Webster of Nantucket (1838–42) and the whaling brig Sarah Louisa (1843–45). He died at Cape Verde in 1845. He never married. This portrait was probably painted in 1843 after his successful return from a nearly four-year whaling voyage in the Daniel Webster.
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