Nantucket Baskets originated more than 150 years ago by crewmen manning lightships off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The whaling industry sent the Nantucketers traveling abroad where they were introduced to cane. The use of cane, combined with the technique used by the Indians of using wooden bottoms for their baskets, made these type of baskets very useful and durable.
The most distinctive process in making Nantuckets baskets was the use of wooden molds. The molds were used to ensure accuracy in size and shape. It is now widely known that in order for a basket to be a true Nantucket Basket it must be made on a mold.
Originally, these baskets were called "rattan baskets". It wasn't until 1856 that the first Nantucket Lightship Basket was named. The Lightship Basket name was given because they were originally woven by the men who manned the lightships off the coast of Nantucket.
In 1948, the idea of a woven lid was introduced by Jose F. Reyes. The baskets that he produced are the handbags that are most commonly seen today. Most Nantucket handbags are adorned with some form of decoration, whether it be a finely scrimshawed scene or a carved ivory whale or seashell.
The Nantucket Basket has become an emblem or a symbol that clearly says "Nantucket". The baskets continue to be both useful and collectible. A finely crafted Nantucket Basket will also increase it's value with age. A Nantucket Basket is considered to be a family heirloom that should be passed on to each generation.
Whether you are a weaver or collector, if you have a Nantucket Basket you have a piece of American History.