The New International Encyclopædia/New Bedford
NEW BEDFORD. A port of entry and one of the county seats of Bristol County, Mass., 56 miles south of Boston; the terminus of a division of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (Map: Massachusetts, F 4). It is situated near the mouth of the Acushnet River, which expands into a fine, spacious harbor leading into Buzzard's Bay. Fort Rodman, on Clark Point, with a garrison of 120 men, defends the harbor's entrance. A drive, over four miles in length, extends around the point and to the city, commanding splendid marine views. New Bedford, in area about 19⅓ square miles, is regularly laid out, and its streets are paved chiefly with gravel and macadam. Among the prominent structures are the city hall, the county court house, the post office, the Public Library, Masonic and Odd Fellows' buildings. Saint Luke's and Saint Joseph's hospitals, Saint Mary's Home, the Textile School, and the Merchants' National Bank. A State armory is (1903) in course of construction. The Public Library (73,000 volumes) is one of the oldest free public libraries in the United States, having been opened in 1853. The library was founded, however, some fifty years before it became a municipal institution. The corner-stone of the present building was laid in 1856. The public parks, aggregating 255 acres, are: the Common, Brooklawn, Buttonwood, Hazelwood, and Grove. The New Bedford and Fairhaven bridge, which spans the harbor, cost $1,500,000, and is one of the features of the city.
New Bedford, once noted for its extensive whaling interests, is now distinctively a manufacturing centre, known particularly for the production of fine cotton goods and cotton yarns. According to the census of 1900, capital to the amount of $29,073,000 was invested in the various industries, which had an annual output valued at $25,682,000, $16,749,000 representing the value of cotton goods alone. The cotton mills in 1900 contained 1,369,380 spindles; the cotton cloth mills had 23,351 looms. There are also foundries and machine shops, oil manufactories, cordage works, carriage and wagon shops, paint works, lumber mills, etc. The trade of the city is considerable, the leading commodities being coal, of which 560,000 tons are received annually, cotton, lumber, fish, and general merchandise.
Under the revised charter of 1896, the government is vested in a mayor, chosen annually; a bicameral council, the aldermen being elected on a general ticket; and administrative officers chosen as follows: Board of health, license commission, and park commission, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the board of aldermen; water board, fire department, and overseers of the poor, elected by the city council; school committee, chosen by popular vote. The water-works are owned and operated by the numicipality. The system, which cost about $3,100,000, comprises two sources of supply, the first works having been built in 1865-69 and the new works in 1895-99. The original supply is held wholly for emergency purposes. There are now ninety-nine miles of mains. New Bedford spends annually in maintenance and operation over $1,000,000, the principal expenditures being for schools, $235,000; for interest on debt, $155,000; for the police department, $115,000; for the fire department, $80,000; for streets, $70,000; for hospitals, asylums, and other charitable institutions, $70,000; for lighting, $50,000. The assessed valuation of property (real and personal) was (1902) $65,000,000; the bonded debt, $3,903,000. Population, 1790, 3313; 1850, 16,443; 1880, 26,845; 1890, 40,733; 1900, 62,442, including 25,529 persons of foreign birth and 1685 of negro descent.
New Bedford formed part of Dartmouth until 1787 and was not incorporated as a city until 1847. For many years, and especially between 1818 and 1857, it was a centre of the American whale-fishing industry. During the Revolution New Bedford sent out many privateers, and, from its convenient location, became the store-house of captured prizes. On September 5, 1778, an English fleet of thirty-two vessels and an army under General Gray attacked the town, captured it, and reduced the greater part of it to ashes, the damage amounting to about $450,000. Consult: Ricketson, History of New Bedford (New Bedford, 1858); Centennial in New Bedford (New Bedford, 1876).