Photo of the Week
February 10 – 16, 2024
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY & ARCHIVES
Pyrrhus Concer (1814-1897): Whaler, & Entrepreneur from Southampton. Born into slavery in Southampton in 1814, Pyrrhus Concer, as a free man, went whaling at the age of 18. He sailed as a common seaman during his first voyages and then was promoted to boatsteerer, a position of great importance on a whaling ship. The boatsteerer was responsible for guiding the whaleboat toward the targeted whale and for throwing the first harpoon, and then for holding the boat close to the whale while other shipmates killed the whale.
Concer sailed on the famous voyage of the Manhattan in 1848, captained by Mercator Cooper of Southampton, when it picked up several shipwrecked Japanese fishermen in the Pacific Ocean. The Manhattan took those fishermen from Japan home and thus became the first American ship to enter Tokyo Harbor, which at the time was closed to foreign ships. The Japanese were fascinated by Concer, the first person of African heritage they had ever seen, and treated him with curiosity and respect. After retiring from whaling, Concer headed for the goldfields of California for a short time before returning to Southampton, where he operated a ferry service on Lake Agawam.
Concer, who died at the age of 84 in his home at 51 Pond Lane in Southampton Village, left a legacy to the Presbyterian Church of Southampton and a fond memory. His obituary described him as “one of the most respected residents of the village.” The stone that marks the Southampton grave of Pyrrhus Concer bears this inscription: “Though born a slave, he possessed virtues without which kings are but slaves.”
Suggested Reading: “Pyrrhus Concer Left Legacy In Southampton Village” by Alexandra Talty, 27East, July 8, 2020.
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