173-Year-Old Charles W. Morgan Ship Returns to New Bedford for Fourth of July

Crowds lined the Mystic River in Connecticut to get a look at the worlds last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan. The ship is on its 38th voyage and will return home to New Bedford for a big Fourth of July celebration.
Crowds lined the Mystic River in Connecticut to get a look at the worlds last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan. The ship is on its 38th voyage and will return home to New Bedford for a big Fourth of July celebration. –C.J. Gunther/EPA

The 173-year-old whaling ship Charles W. Morgan is coming home to New Bedford this summer and the seaside city can hardly contain its excitement.

The eight-day celebration will include ship tours, art, concerts, regattas, whaleboat races, parades, and food festivals. The fun begins June 28 and concludes July 6, making New Bedford a Fourth of July destination this year for families smitten with maritime history.

The Morgan’s 38th voyage began in Mystic, Conn. on May 24 and she’ll be stopping at ports in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts this summer through July 27. View the ship’s complete itinerary. Before we tell you more about the big Fourth of July bash in New Bedford, let’s get you up to speed on the vessel.

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The Charles W. Morgan is the oldest commercial ship still afloat (only the USS Constitution is older) and the last wooden whaleship in the world. She is the last of an American whaling fleet of more than 2,700 vessels. This is the ship’s 38th voyage and first since 1921.

She was first launched from New Bedford in 1841 and hasn’t been back since World War II. During her 80-year career between 1841 and 1921, the Morgan completed 37 whaling voyages, each with a crew of about 35. Many descendants from the old Morgan crews are still living in New Bedford and will take part in the ship’s celebration this summer.

She’s known as a “lucky ship’’ because she survived through “arctic ice, hungry cannibals, countless storms, Cape Horn roundings and, after she finished her whaling career, even the Hurricane of 1938,’’ according to destinationnewbedford.org.

The historic whaleship Charles W. Morgan cruised the open water of Fishers Island Sound off Groton, Conn. —Sean D. Elliot/AP Photo/The Day

After the 113-foot ship’s final voyage in 1921, she became a Hollywood star, reports mysticseaport.org , appearing in the 1922 movie “Down to the Sea in Ships’’ and 1934 movie “Java Head.’’ She was bought by a wealthy investor who displayed her on his waterfront estate near New Bedford until 1941. After his death, she was towed to Connecticut, where she has welcomed more than 20 million visitors as a floating exhibit at Mystic Seaport, The Museum of American and the Sea. She became a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and boasts the coveted World Ship Trust Award. In the past six years, she has undergone a $10.6 million restoration at Mystic Seaport, reports the Associated Press.

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You will find the Morgan at State Pier in New Bedford beginning June 28, where she will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through July 6. Highlights of the New Bedford festivities include a boat parade and whaleboat races on June 29 (the earliest recorded whaleboat race happened in New Bedford in 1857), fireworks, of course, on July 4, and the two-day New Bedford Folk Festival July 5 and 6 featuring 70 performers on seven stages inside the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park as well as 90 arts and crafts vendors. View a detailed list of the New Bedford events .

Can’t make it to New Bedford celebration? The Morgan will be in Boston July 18 to 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Charlestown Navy Yard. There is a suggested admission of $5 per person for visitors age 6 and up. Kids age 5 and under are free.

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