Up Johnny Cake Hill

The streets that led away from the bustling waterfront indicated the profits and risks of whaling. Up Johnny Cake hill were the offices of insurance agents. The whaling trade was risky. Owners of ships took out insurance policies so that if they lost supplies, or even whole ships, they would not be ruined. Only property was insured, however, and there was no health or life insurance for sailors.

Close by was the seamen's bethel. This church served those sailors who came to pray before setting out to sea. If whaling was risky for investors, it was even more hazardous for the seamen themselves. While investors in whaling voyages wagered their money, seamen chanced their lives. Plaques on the walls of the Bethel still record the names of some of the many men who died at sea.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum