Today we explore the
Nantucket–Philadelphia Connection  
Greater Light on Nantucket
The Wrought Iron Gates

Two Quaker sisters from Philadelphia, Gertrude (1887–1962) and Hanna Monaghan (1889–1972), discovered an old cow barn (built ca. 1790) on Nantucket’s Howard Street in 1929. Guided by their “inner light,” they transformed the barn into a summer oasis and art studio blending art, eclectic handcrafted objects, and classic architectural elements. They named their summer oasis and art studio “Greater Light,” today an iconic example of the Nantucket Art Colony of the 1920s–40s.

In this excerpt from Hanna's memoir, Greater Light on Nantucket , Hanna describes how the sisters discovered the towering wrought iron gates that now grace the garden entrance to the house in a junkyard near Philadelphia.
NHA Historic Property: Greater Light
"The house now known as Greater Light dates to the late eighteenth century, when it was built as a livestock barn for Zaccheus Macy (1713–97) or his son, Richard (1742–1814). Two artistic Quaker sisters from Philadelphia, Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan, discovered it in the sum­mer of 1929, when they followed a herd of cows up Main Street...." 

Photo: The side view of the barn at 8 Howard Street, which later became the house known as Greater Light, circa 1890s. F2509.
Inside the Collection
with Amelia Holmes, Associate Director, Research Library
The 1876 Centennial Exposition was the first World’s Fair to be hosted in the United States, held in Philadelphia from May to November to celebrate the 100 th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing. The NHA holds several items created for this celebration, including a fabric panel depicting the various exhibition halls and a one-hundredth-anniversary commemorative flag.

Above right: Flag commemorating U.S. Centennial, 1876. Cotton; 28” x 46”. Gift of Mrs. R. Gallagher. 1978.53.1.
Above: 1876 Centennial Exhibition panel, 1876. Cotton; 25 3/8” x 26 ¼”. Gift of Mrs. S. E. Kingsley.  1900.28.1 .
For display in the Massachusetts state building (26 of the then-37 states had their own exhibition buildings), this framed Ewer map was submitted by the short-lived Nantucket Literary Union. The 1869 Ewer map of Nantucket is surrounded by more than fifty photographs of the town and island. The frame, carved by artist James Walter Folger, contains symbols of the whaling industry, including harpoons, barrels, a whaleboat, and a sperm whale. A copy of Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin’s portrait sits above the map and is surrounded by Nantucket moss and lichens.
Above: Map of Nantucket with carved top, 1876. Wood, paper, glass; 67 ¾” x 66” x 5”. Gift of Mrs. George W. Dibble. 1918.9.1a-b.
Known as “the whittler,” boatbuilder William H. Chase (1852–1932) had several of his carvings exhibited at the fair, some of which are now part of the National Watercraft Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Depicted here is his model of the “ship camels,” a Dutch dry dock invention successfully used on Nantucket from 1842 to 1849 to float whaleships over the sandbar at the harbor’s entrance.

Above right: Stereograph depicting model of ship “camels,” post-1876. Albumen print; 3 7/16” x 7”. Gift of Mary S. Myrick. SG6441.
Explore a NEW Digital Exhibition
The Nantucket Art Colony, 1920-45
The Nantucket Art Colony, 1920-45  was a collaborative exhibition presented by the Nantucket Historical Association and the  Artists Association of Nantucket  at the Whaling Museum, June–November, 2007.

Featuring Philadelphia based artists Virginia Guild Sharp , Wuanita Smith , Ruth Haviland Sutton , and Inna Garsoian .

Photo: The Old Mill, Nantucke t, ca. 1940. Ruth Haviland Sutton (1898-1960). Lithograph.
Collection of John Brewer.
History Topic:
When did women first vote on Nantucket?
By Barbara Ann White

Women’s suffrage was a key topic at the Fourth Women’s Congress held in Philadelphia during the Centennial Year of 1876, and Nantucket women were well represented. The Congress was presided over that year by astronomy Professor Maria Mitchell. Lucretia Coffin Mott, in her 80s, added her voice to those in favor of women voting. Also in attendance were Eliza Starbuck Barney, her niece Catherine Starbuck, and Charlotte Austin Joy.

But it was sixty-year-old Anna Gardner, recently returned from years of teaching freedmen in the South, who gave a long, passionate speech calling for the vote. She carefully and methodically refuted the arguments that had been used for years against women’s suffrage. She argued that, even if women were beginning to attain higher degrees of education and professions, that they would “never attain the highest possibilities” without the right to vote. As long as women were denied the ballot, they would “continue to be repressed, and to feel an enforced subjection, which alike impoverishes her affections and narrows the scope of her intellect.” She predicted there would be a time when men and women’s roles were interchangeable, calling the boundaries separating the genders as “simply absurd.”

Photo: Anna Gardner, GPN4320.
Digital Discovery
This is the house at 10 Broadway in ‘Sconset, known as Shanunga . Built around 1680, it got its name in the mid-nineteenth century after the ship Shanunga of Philadelphia that wrecked in 1852 off the south coast of Nantucket. According to a mention in The New York Times , on Tuesday, March 2, 1852, “The ship Shanunga, of Philadelphia, ashore at Nantucket, was almost entirely demolished by the gale of Saturday night, and all attempts to get her off have been abandoned.”

This image is one of the 38 results that return in a search for “Shanunga,” and is one of the thousands of images in the NHA’s collection that have been digitized. You can view other images in the NHA’s archives by selecting “photograph” as the type of collection under advanced search!

Photo: "Shanunga," 10 Broadway, 1911. GPN4304 .
History Topic:
Why is Lucretia Mott a famous daughter
of Nantucket?
By Frances Karttunen

Lucretia Mott did the things that made her famous as an adult living in Philadelphia, but her formative years were during her Nantucket Quaker girlhood. She was born on January 3, 1793, in her family home on Fair Street. (The house was later replaced by the Ships Inn.) Her father, Thomas Coffin, was a whaling master. Her mother, Anna Folger Coffin, kept a store in their home.

From 1800 to 1802, Thomas was missing. Eventually it was learned that his ship had been seized and impounded in Chile. During his absence, Lucretia attended Friends school and helped care for her siblings while her mother managed the family business. After her father returned to Nantucket, he gave up the sea, and in 1804 he moved his family to Boston.

Photo: Lucretia Coffin Mott portrait, 1870s. CDV1327 .
Historic Nantucket
Winter 2001, Vol. 50, No. 1

Featuring "Evidence of Things Not Seen: Greater Light as Faith Manifest," by Angela Mazaris (p. 5)

The NHA’s publication  Historic Nantucke t draws readers into the history of the island. With over 80 issues available to read online, Historic Nantucket explores themes such as whaling, genealogy, and folk art and more! Written by contributing researchers and NHA staff. 

Activities for Kids
Enhance at home learning by downloading free and easy to use ACKtivity kits added weekly and lesson plans for all ages.

NEW In honor of our
Philadelphia connection and the Monaghan sisters, let’s create our own dream house!
The Museum Shop Online
Discover Greater Light Books

By Beverly Hall
Becoming Hanna , My Greater Light on Nantucke t sheds light on Beverly Hall's fascinating journey as she discovers and resurrects this very special Nantucket icon, Hanna Monaghan.

By Betsy Tyler
Greater Light, the summer home and art studio created in the early 1930s by Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan, is a small but intriguing paragraph in the continuing saga of the history of Nantucket Island. 

By Hanna Monaghan
Hanna Monaghan's memoir, printed in conjunction with the restoration of this historically significant house, converted by the Monaghan sisters in the early 20th century from an 18th-century livestock barn.
During this difficult time, the NHA is pleased to share curated digital content weekly for the enrichment and enjoyment of our members and friends. Staff looks forward to welcoming you back to the Whaling Museum to enjoy an expansive array of exhibitions and programs once it is safe to open our doors.
Due to the CARES Act, donors now receive a higher deduction on their charitable gifts. To learn more, click here . If you would like to support the NHA, consider joining as a member or making a donation today. Your support now directly helps staff perform our mission.  
The NHA is closed to the public; this includes the Whaling Museum, Research Library, and Historic Properties.

All NHA public programs and events are cancelled for the foreseeable future.

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