An all but unknown navigation chart issued by the New Bedford firm of William C. Taber and dedicated to American whalers as they were pushing ever further into northern Pacific waters in search of new whaling grounds. New Bedford in the 1840s was the largest of the three centres of the whaling industry in New […]
William Congdon Taber (1797-1886) was born in New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts on 24th February 1797. He worked in New Bedford as a bookseller and publisher with a side-line in selling charts to the New Bedford whaling fleet. He began in business in partnership with Abraham Sherman, Jr., but the partnership ended in 1835, and Taber continued alone. In 1843 he was joined by his eldest son Charles (1822-1887), trading as “William C. Taber & Son”. They were joined by his second son Augustus (1826-1898) the firm renamed to “William C. Taber & Sons.” At the time New Bedford was the most important of the New Engand fishing ports, a centre for the whaling trade, and it seems the family did extensive trade supplying the needs of the New England fleet, including charts.
The Chart of Kamscatka, and the Sea of Ochotsk (1845) is the only chart or map known to have been published by William Congdon Taber. However, the New Bedford Whaling Museum owns a number of English-published chart bearing the Taber’s mapsellers’ label, including eight sheets of Aaron Arrowsmith’s wall-map of the Pacific Ocean, 1832, and seven charts by Richard Holmes Laurie of the Atlantic, the Cape Verde Islands, the northern Indian Ocean and central Pacific.
Charles Taber went on to publish a number of maps, including Henry Francis Walling’s Map of Bristol County, Massachusetts (1852); William Butler’s chart of Mangonui (North Island) New Zealand (1856) and Robert G. Ingraham’s Map of New Bedford and Fairhaven (1857). William Congdon Taber left the book-trade circa 1849, but Charles and Augustus continued on as “C. & A. Taber.” At the end of the century the firm united with the Boston lithographic firm Louis Prang to form “Taber Prang Art Company”.
While the family occupy an important, but little-known role in American chart-publishing, their place in history relates to an important moment in the history of the New England abolition movement. The Tabers were a Quaker family – New Bedford was very heavily Quaker – and William was an active member of the Underground Railroad.