Captain Davis Hall (1828-1906)

Davis Hall, a renowned Nantucket basket maker, left an indelible mark on the world of craftsmanship. Born in Hanson, Massachusetts, to Davis Hall Sr. and Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Gould, he grew up without knowing his father, who was a mariner and passed away around the time of Davis Jr.'s birth. His mother later remarried another mariner, Joseph D. Patterson, and the family eventually moved to Nantucket.

At the age of 21, Hall embarked on a remarkable journey. He was one of the seven men who sailed the 44-ton fishing schooner Mary and Emma to California during the Gold Rush. Their passage took 150 days, and they became the smallest vessel to sail around Cape Horn. Upon returning to Nantucket, Hall married Lydia Gifford in 1853.

Hall’s career was diverse and fascinating. He worked for the Massachusetts Humane Society and was involved in several rescues between 1852 and 1860. In 1862, he enlisted in the Union Army and was wounded in battle. Using the money he received from his war service and disability, he purchased a house on 28 North Water Street for his growing family.

In 1877, Davis Hall’s life took an unexpected turn. He was appointed to the crew of the South Shoal Lightship, where he learned the art of basket making. His career trajectory is reflected in the U.S. Census records, listing him as a “mariner” (1850), “fisherman” (1860), “seaman” (1870), “on Light-Ship” (1880), and finally as a “basket maker” (1900).

Davis Hall’s baskets, characterized by their oval form, became highly prized by collectors. He played a pivotal role in developing this distinctive style of lightship basket. Today, his legacy lives on through these exquisite creations.

Paul Madden Antiques is actively seeking baskets made by Davis Hall. Please contact us for a complimentary evaluation of your basket.