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later the hook and hand line, or "jigging." With these few appliances a large amount of business was annually carried on, the catch, with the exception of the Grand Bank cod fleet, being confined chiefly to the New England coast.
Although Boston was the great point for a market and the distribution of the catch, there was not a single exclusive wholesale salt-fish store in the city until 1807. In that year Mr. Ebenezer Nickerson opened the first store of the kind, it being located on Long Wharf. For fifteen years this was the only store engaged in the business; in 1830 two other firms were started. From this commencement the business grew, the grocers giving it up to those exclusively engaged. New firms started from time to time, as the business increased.
From the first settlement of Boston up to 1835 the fresh-fish business was only carried on in a retail manner by boats lying at the docks and teams standing about the market; ice was not used, and the canning of fish had probably not been thought of. During the summer season the trade was confined to a near-home demand. During the winter it was teamed inward as far as Albany and Montreal. The catch came from Massachusetts Bay, and was supplied by the small fishing vessels from this and neighboring ports. During cold weather, in a frozen state it was brought to market by teams from Cape Ann and ports between. The oyster business was of small proportion and carried on from two small hulks covered in and used for storage below and stores above. The oysters mostly came from Cape Cod, never from south of New York, and from July to September no oysters were sold in Boston. As the demand for fresh fish increased better facilities were needed to handle the catch, and the first wholesale fresh-fish store was opened on Long Wharf in 1835, Messrs. Holbrook, Smith & Co. being the pioneers. Their business was mostly during the winter and spring months; through the warm weather it was confined to pickled, dry, or smoked fish. In 1838 this firm removed to Commercial Wharf, being the first firm so engaged on that wharf, which at the present time is the headquarters of the trade, with thirty-five wholesale firms engaged in the immediate vicinity.
Up to 1845 the catch of ground fish was solely by hook and hand line. About that year the trawl was first introduced by fishermen that had used or seen them used off the coast of Ireland. During 1880 the gill nets were introduced with good result by the United States Fish Commission. At the present time all three of the methods are used by the market fishermen. In the mackerel catch the purse seine superseded all previous methods, and is now almost exclusively used. Its use is said to date from 1855, although it did not come into general use for a number of years.
As we have previously alluded to the decrease in the number of vessels engaged in the catch, as not necessarily causing a like decrease in the amount of the industry or of the products, it is of interest to note, with only one exception, the largest catch of mackerel on record, as inspected in Massachusetts, was in 1851. In that year, with the hook and line, 329,000 barrels were caught by a fleet of 853 vessels, hailing from thirty Massachusetts ports, with 87 vessels from other States-a total of 940 vessels, manned by 9,993 fishermen. During the past year, with the purse seine, a catch of 391,657 barrels was made with a fleet numbering 298 sail from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, with 4,258 fishermen engaged. We do not propose to discuss the question as to the benefit or injury to the business by the new modes of capture, only to show that the business is as productive at the present time, with half the number of vessels engaged as in past years. The tables attached will show that the fleets are of no small size at the present time and the business of no small importance. The canning of fish of almost every eatable variety has yearly grown of importance, and is now of large proportion. This branch of the business dates only from 1845, in which year the canning of lobsters and shellfish began in Maine, for some time the only State that packed fish in tin cans. It has been but a few years since the canning of fish began in Boston, yearly increasing in amount. Boneless fish, now well known, and neatly packed in packages of from 5 to 30 pounds each, is found in all the leading grocery stores from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This manner of preparing fish dates back many years, with but little attention given to it for a long time. Of late years the demand from the fertilizing factories for the refuse left from cutting lessening the cost of preparation, with the cleanly manner of placing on the market and the saving in freight, has made it justly popular with the trade. The demand yearly increases. Its preparation, with the canning of fish, gives employment to a large number of men and women.
It hardly seems possible that an article so universally used as ice was unknown to the fish trade forty years ago. At the present time no market fisherman would think of starting on his trip (except in the winter) without ice any more than without bait or seine. During 1845 vessels first began carrying ice to sea with them and dealers to use it in packing fish for shipment; previous to that date its use was considered injurious to the fish. At the present time about 20,000,000 pounds are annually used by
vessels and dealers. Through its use fresh fish are now shipped at all seasons of the year as far inland as Chicago.
As far back as we find any record of the fishing business we find the use of nets of some kind in taking the catch. In past years those used by the New England fishermen were mostly "home made." During the winter or stormy season the fisherman, with wife and family, found plenty of work in making nets. Of late years their use in the various branches of the fisheries has largely increased. They are now nearly all factory made of a great variety, including the fine flax-thread net of the shad fishery, the larger purse seine of the mackerel and menhaden catch, the large drag nets of the Southern fisheries, as well as numerous other varieties.
Two large factories in this city give employment to some 500 persons, mostly girls, furnishing most of the seines and nets used on the Western lakes and rivers, as well as the Atlantic coast fisheries, with some demand for export. The first factory in Boston was started in 1842; from that date until 1865 the nets were all hand made. In the latter year machinery was first introduced in their manufacture in this city, and is now almost exclusively used. We have briefly alluded to the various home branches of the fishing industry. Another branch largely represented in Boston is that of the provincial catch sent to the Boston market for sale. Our tables of monthly receipts will show the amount of the past year, which is less than the average of late years, caused by the partial failure of their catch. The earliest record of the importation of mackerel that we find is of 7 barrels in 1821. From that date up to 1831 only a few hundred barrels were annually imported; in the latter year 4,552, increasing up to 1841 to 10,887; from that year until 1849 the records were destroyed by fire. In the latter year it had increased to 138,505 barrels, and yearly from that date from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of mackerel, with a large amount of all the other varieties of fish caught in the provinces find a ready market in Boston.
The late Capt. T. J. Jones is credited with being one of the first pioneers in the importation of fish from the Provinces, being engaged as master of the Boston and Halifax mail packet from 1834 until 1844. He early introduced the importation of fish and lived to see his efforts grow into a large and important branch of the business
OFFICE OF BOSTON FISH BUREAU, 176 ATLANTIC AVENUE,
Boston, January 2, 1882.
Our last annual report, showing a more prosperous condition of the fisheries than for a number of years, was closed with the "hope that the record of the coming season's business may be more favorable than the one just ended.” We are pleased to open this report by calling attention to the tables attached, which speak for themselves, and show that the hope then expressed has been fulfilled, and the season of 1881 may justly be placed on record as the most successful one for years. The statistics of monthly receipts also show quite an increase of business by Boston dealers, and that this market has at all times been well supplied with nearly every variety of cured (salt-water) fish, taken in New England and provincial waters. That this fact is appreciated by the trade is evident in the steady gain of business, as shown in the table of receipts for the past five years.
There is probably no industry with like capital and number of persons engaged that yearly shows as great a loss of life and property. With no severe gales or storms, the past season yet shows considerable loss, and this must be recorded as the dark side of an otherwise prosperous year. The losses, as usual, nearly all fall on the bankers from Gloucester, that port losing seven sail, with 43 men, the value of vessels and property $29,800, on which there was insurance of $20,493. The loss of life from other ports included aggregates a total of 50 men, while the loss of property has been limited to damaged sails and numerous seine boats.
The number of sail, catch, and persons employed in the codfish and mackerel fishery vary but little from that of 1880; the catch reported by them in the aggregate, as well as individual vessels, shows a favorable gain. The catch has found a ready market at all seasons, with higher prices than for several years. Much encouragement is felt for the future, and from all sides we hear of active preparations for the business of 1882, with some addition to the number of sail, a number of which are new vessels.
Mackerel. The catch opened unusually early, schooner Edward E. Webster on March 22 taking the first fare, 32,700 mackerel, 800 of which were large, balance medium and small. The first fare of new salt mackerel arrived in Boston May 9, one day earlier than in 1880, schooner Roger Williams landing 240 barrels that were caught off
the Jersey coast. May 10, schooner J. S. McQuinn arrived with the first fare of fresh mackerel, 200 barrels caught southeast from Sandy Hook. First cargo arrived fresh same date in 1880. May 4 the first catch was made in the weirs at Cape Cod; previous year on April 26. March 25, schooner Lizzie K. Clark was capsized by a squall and lost, 20 miles from Barnegat; the crew were saved. This was the only mackerel vessel lost during the season. Although the season opened early the catch up to June was mostly taken South and sold fresh. The catch of cured mackerel reported at this office during the season, up to November, was as follows:
A light catch in November brought the season to an early close, the total catch of the New England fleet, 298 sail, being 391,657 barrels, of which 269,495 were packed and inspected in Massachusetts, a gain in the Massachusetts inspection of 19,534 barrels over 1880. This amount has been exceeded but five times in seventy-eight years. As will be noticed, the catch off the New England coast opened a little later than usual, and continued good all the season, with the exception of 470 barrels the entire catch being taken off the United States coast. The size and quality were of an average, with more No. 1's, and an absence of the very small, or No. 4. The price opened low, the first sale recorded being at $4.50 a barrel for large, $3.75 for medium, falling off in June to $4 for packed, or early 3's; inspected 3's, 2's, and 1's selling through the season as follows: July, $3.25, $3.50 for 3's; $5.25, $5.50 for 2's. August, $3.25, 3's; $5, 2's. September, $4.25, 3's; $6.50, 2's; $16, 1's. October, $6, $8 to $9, $18. November, $6.50, $9, $19. December, $7.50, 3's; $9 to $10, 2's; $20, 1's.
The catch in provincial waters being a failure, our imports show a falling off of 43,880 barrels. Fortunately very few American vessels visited them, securing only 470 barrels; they returned home in season to make a good record.
Codfish, with which we may include the other varieties of ground fish, have been of an average catch, both off the New England coast as well as the Grand and Western Banks. The receipts in this market show quite a gain over the past few years. A steady increased home demand, with an average export shipment, has held prices firm at an advance of $1 to $1.25 a quintal over the previous year. Vessels that went to the Grand Banks made long voyages, yet generally returned with full fares, some exceptionally large, of which we notice schooner Willie McKay, of Provincetown, with 3,700 quintals, making a stock of $14,000.
Herring. The shore catch of herring being much less than that of 1880, our domestic receipts show a decrease, which is made up from the Provinces; the total receipts show a slight gain.
Salmon.-A failure of the catch in provincial waters accounts for small receipts, the decrease having been made up by receipts from California, our receipts showing a small gain.
Box herring. The receipts, 612,422 boxes, are an increase of 168,825 boxes over that of 1880, and the largest on record. Large as this amount is it has all gone into consumption, and no stock remains on the market.
Other varieties of fish are without special change; with but few exceptions the receipts have been in excess of last year.
Fresh fish.-This branch of the fish business of Boston is now of considerable importance, annually handling some 30,000,000 pounds of fresh fish, and during the past year 70,000 barrels of fresh mackerel and 18,000 barrels of frozen herring. The catch has been an average one, at nearly all times supplying a demand from all parts of the country, as far west as Chicago, for the numerous varieties of salt-water fish found in these waters. The vessels and men engaged in this branch do not appear in our statistics.
Canned fish. We have previously alluded to this branch of the business of its commencement in the country. Until the past few years this market has been supplied with large quantities of goods packed at other ports, many of the factories being owned here. During the past two years the business of packing has been largely increased in this city. During the past season, of fresh mackerel, about 50,000 cases, or 2,200,000 1-pound cans, have been packed, and much of the time the demand has not been supplied. This branch of the business, buying and packing several hundred barrels a day, when the fish can be procured, is of much value to the vessels that give their attention to selling fresh. It is also of value in giving employment to large numbers of employees in the factories. Nearly all the usual varieties of fish found in
our markets are now more or less packed in tin cans by our packers, all of which are meeting with favor and a constantly increasing demand.
Foreign imports and exports.-Our monthly table of receipts will show that this city continues to be a leading market for the fish productions of the Provinces. During the past year the receipts in most cases show a decrease, caused by the partial failure of the provincial catch.
Our foreign exports have been of an average amount. As long as the domestic demand yearly increases, the want of large exports to dispose of the catch is not felt, as in past years.
As we close our report we wish to return our thanks to our numerous correspondents that have, from time to time, furnished us with information, and at the close of the season aided us in giving a complete record of the business by ports. We shall be happy to return the favor and do all in our power to aid the New England fishing industry. W. A. WILCOX, Secretary.
Large catches and "stocks" by the mackerel fleet in New England waters, season of 1881.
New England fleet catch of codfish as reported to the Boston Fish Bureau, 1881.
1 Amount credited to each port is the amount landed there, vessels from this port landed at other ports, and vessels from other ports landed at this one.
2 Halibut fleet included in number of sail their catch, 7,093,400 pounds
S. Doc. 231, pt 5—5±