Chatham, Massachusetts is the place where the first 'quarterboards' were carved. Quarterboards are handsomely carved and gilded ornamental sign boards, originally made for the ships whose names they bore. They were sometimes referred to as sternboards, the difference being the place on the ship where they were located. Many of the antique quarterboards come from the maritime trade of the 19th century, when huge five and six masted wooden sailing vessels carried cargo along the East coast of the U.S. Wrecks were common in those days. and many of the quarterboards ended up ashore, either washed up on the beach. or picked directly off the ship wrecks. They were large boards, befitting the size of the ships they came from, and they began to be displayed on the sides of houses or barns in Chatham.
Past and present Chatham are tied together by the tradition of quarterboards. A visitor roaming the town's back roads can't help but notice how many houses have quarterboards, proudly diplaying the name of the house. Some of the quarterboards are old, some are new, but the names are all interesting. If you have a name to put on a quarterboard, we can e-mail you a computer layout of how it would look; just send us an e-mail.