In 1854 George Eldridge of Chatham, a celebrated cartographer, published Eldridge's Pilot for Vineyard Sound and Monomoy Shoals. The book had 32 pages, a grey paper cover and no recorded price. Its pages were devoted to "Dangers," embellished with his personal observations, and to Compass Courses and Distances, etc. This volume was the precursor of the Tide and Pilot Book, which followed 21 years later.
In 1870 George Eldridge published another small book, called the "Compass Test," and asked his son, George W. Eldridge, to go to Vineyard Haven and sell it for him, along with the charts he produced.
Son George W. Eldridge was dynamic, restless, and inventive. He was glad to move to the Vineyard, for Vineyard Haven was at that time an important harbor for large vessels. The number of ships passing through Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds was second only to those plying the English Channel. As the ships came into the harbor (frequently as many as 100 schooners would anchor to await a fair current), George W. would go out to them in his catboat to sell his father's charts and the "Compass Test." He was constantly asked by mariners what time the current TURNED to run East or West in the Sound. He then began making observations, and one day, while in the ship chandlery of Charles Holmes, made the first draft of a current table. Shortly after, with the help of his father, he worked out the tables for places other than Vineyard Sound, and in 1875 the first Tide Book was published. It did not take long for mariners to realize the value of this information, and it soon became an indispensable book to all who sailed the Atlantic Coast from New York east. Gradually George W. added more important information, such as his explanation of the unusual currents which caused so many vessels to founder in the "Graveyard."
Captain George W. Eldridge based the tables on his own observations. In later years, knowing that the government's scientific calculations are the most accurate obtainable, the publishers have made use of them; some tables are directly taken from government figures and others, which the government does not give in daily schedules, are computed by the publishers from government predictions. Since the Captain's day there have been many changes and additions in the book to keep abreast of modern navigational aids.
In 1910 Captain George W. Eldridge transferred the management of the book to the next generation of his family, as he was interested in developing his chart business and inventing aids to navigation. At his death in 1914, his son-in-law became Publisher. Wilfrid O. White, an expert in marine navigation and President of Wilfrid O. White & Sons Co., compass manufacturers, served as Publisher until his death at 1955. Wilfrid's son Robert Eldridge White then became publisher, and with great help from his wife Molly he expanded the coverage of the book and significantly increased its readership. On Bob's death in 1990, Molly continued to expand the book's scope and circulation, with valuable assistance from her son Ridge and daughter-in-law Linda. On Molly's passing in 2004 the book moved once again into the hands of the next (fifth) generation. At every generational transfer the new Publisher was well prepared, each having apprenticed for years.
Whether new to ELDRIDGE or a longtime reader, we welcome you aboard! Please continue to offer your suggestions and, where necessary, corrections. Your sharp eyes keep us on course. We hope, as did Captain George W. Eldridge, that this book might ensure for you a "Fair Tide" and the safety of your ship.
Robert Eldridge White, Jr.
Linda Foster White