59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum



Richard Norton (1820–1899)

Richard Norton (1820–1899)

Gift of Grace Norton Rosé

One of the daily tasks of the captain or mate on a whaleship was to keep a log of the shipboard activities, the weather, and the catch.

Most made straightforward work of it with short written entries and whale-shaped stamps to show what species were caught or spotted, and maybe some sketches of birds or ships. Richard Norton was one of the few who went far beyond what was required. He was second mate on the whaleship Iris, which sailed out of New Bedford in 1843. His log for the Pacific voyage, which lasted three years and four months, includes four extraordinary drawings of the ship and the whale hunt. They are hidden in the pages of a volume that from the outside looks like hundreds of others.

Norton was an Edgartown man who lived with his wife, Jane, on Peases Point Way. After he retired from the sea he became a grocer. His log from the Iris was kept in his family until his granddaughter donated it to the Museum in 1968.