Zenas Coffin

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Zenas Coffin
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Born(1764-06-03)June 3, 1764
Nantucket. MA, United States
DiedJuly 8, 1828(1828-07-08) (aged 64)
Nantucket. MA, United States
CitizenshipUnited States
  • Whale oil merchant
  • Shipowner
Spouse(s)Abial Gardner
  • Micajah Coffin (father)
  • Abigail Coffin (mother)

Zenas Coffin (June 3, 1764 - July 8, 1828)[1][2][3] was an American mariner and one of the wealthiest whale oil merchants[4][5][6][7][8] and largest shipowners[6] of his time in Nantucket, Masssachusetts.

Family Life

Coffin was born to Micajah Coffin and Abigail (née Coleman) Coffin[1][2][3][7] on Nantucket, Province of Massachusetts, on June 3, 1764.[7][1][2][3] In 1776, Coffin, at age 12, dropped out of school and instead focused upon the whaling business on the wharves of Nantucket.[7]

On September 28, 1786, Coffin, at age 22, married Abial Gardner.[2][3][7] They had eight children together[2]: Eunice, Charles, Lydia, Frederick, Mary, Charles G., Frederick G., and Henry.

Business Career

Coffin, with both his father, Micajah Coffin, and his brother, Gilbert Coffin, operated a Nantucket based whaling firm during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries called Micajah Coffin and Sons.[9]

In 1791, at age 27, Coffin was the captain of a whale oil ship of 160 tons.[7] During July 1791, Coffin became the captain of the ship named the Lydia and sailed on a whaling voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.[7] During April 1792, Coffin returned to Nantucket with the Lydia's cargo completely full.[7] This was the first of 15 voyages in which the Coffins were sole or part owners of this ship which brought in over half a million dollars to the Nantucket Coffin family and others.[7]

On June 23, 1812, Coffin, with a group of other Nantucket men [Daniel Coffin, Isaac Coffin, Silvanus Macy, Obed Macy, James Barker, Paul Gardner, Jr., and George Gardner 2d] created the corporation known as the Phoenix Bank.[10]

On June 12, 1818, Coffin incorporated the Nantucket Phoenix Insurance Company.[11] Due to his large whaling ship fleet, Coffin felt it best to self insure his ships.[12][13]


Coffin died on July 8, 1828 on Nantucket.[1][2][3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Zenas Coffin 1764-1828 - Ancestry®". www.ancestry.com. Archived from the original on 2019-07-04. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Coffin, Louis (1962). The Coffin Family. Nantucket, Massachusetts: Nantucket Historical Association. p. 209.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Barney Genealogical Record - Person Page 442". www.nantuckethistoricalassociation.net. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  4. "House Histories: 86 Main Street | Nantucket Preservation Trust". Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  5. "Thomas Macy House History". Nantucket Historical Association. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Swift, J.G.; Ellery, Harrison (1890). The memoirs of Gen. Joseph Gardner Swift. Privately Printed. p. 55. ISBN 9785872206675.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Gardner, Will (1949). The Coffin Saga. Nantucket Island, Massachusetts: Whaling Museum Publications. pp. 64, 159, 160, 162, 319.
  8. Heflin, Wilson (2004). Edwards, Mary K. Bercaw; Heffernan, Thomas Farel (eds.). Herman Melville's Whaling Years. Vanderbilt University Press. p. 179. ISBN 0826513824.
  9. "Guide to the Charles Congdon Collection on Micajah Coffin and Sons, 1602-1893". Nantucket Historical Association. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  10. Massachusetts (1812). "1812 Chap. 0039. An Act To Incorporate The President, Directors And Company Of The Phoenix Bank".
  11. Massachusetts (1818). "1818 Chap. 0017. An Act To Incorporate The Nantucket Phoenix Insurance Company".
  12. Anonymous (2016). Biographical Encyclopedia of Massachusetts of the Nineteenth Century; Volume 2. Wentworth Press. pp. 266, 267. ISBN 978-1359986344.
  13. "Zenas Coffin". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2019-12-05.

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