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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Fish in a Barrel: 1910

Fish in a Barrel: 1910

Gloucester, Massachusetts, circa 1905. "Handling a cargo from the fishing banks." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


That Smell

In Gloucester, that smell that most of you regard as "pungent" (at the very least) is known as the smell of money. It's the same with all fishing ports where one way or another these people are making a living out of the fishing industry.


There is a place here which specializes in seafood; a house about 85 yards away stood unsold for the longest time. On the right kind of day you knew where you were a mile from that place. Pungent, yep, that would be the word.

Expert Fish Splitters

The Boston Cooking-School Magazine, Jan 1912.

Catching and Curing the Codfish

By Albert Cook Church

The fame of Gloucester and her fisheries is world-wide, although to many the various ways of catching and curing fish preparatory for market are entirely unfamiliar. To thoroughly explain the methods employed would require much more space than is available, and for this reason we shall consider only those of greatest importance, first touching briefly upon the manner in which the catch is secured.

After they are caught, the cod are transferred to the vessel, the men pitching them over the rail on deck, where they are dressed and rinsed clean, then packed in ice below, and when the vessel accumulates a catch of sufficient bulk for running to market, fishing is discontinued and all sail made, in order to reach port as quickly as possible. As a rule, vessels of the fresh fishing fleet run for the Boston market at T wharf, where the later caught and freshest fish are disposed of for higher prices than the majority of the catch brings. However, as at present we are considering the curing of the cod, let us go on with the vessel to Gloucester, where the splitters are eagerly awaiting our arrival.

The fish are hoisted out in baskets, swung to the wharf, and overturned, where they are culled out according to length, and classified as large fish, if twenty-two inches or over, mediums between twenty-two and sixteen, all under that being designated as snappers. The culling is done by testing the length in a V shaped wooden trough, open at one end and having a thole pin or cross piece at the other.

A good splitter can do about two hundred and fifty mediums per hour, and to one who has never seen the skillful manner in which tremendous quantities of fish are handled in Gloucester, it is a genuine revelation to see these experts perform. With almost incredible rapidity they split tons and tons of fish, and all day long they keep it up, pausing occasionally to sharpen their knives, till before nightfall they are completely surrounded with heaps of backbones and heads of fish.

Unless too small, the codsheads are taken to other benches, where the tongues and cheeks are cut out to be salted, and the three-cornered strips of backbone, to which the sounds are attached, are saved and the sounds are stripped off. These, too, are salted, as cod tongues, cheeks and sounds are considered a great delicacy. The remaining refuse, consisting of heads and backbones, is thrown into large iron cans and removed later to the glue factories, where it is used in the manufacture of fish glue.


Until about 30 years ago, San Diego had its share of tuna canneries. Though we lived 3 or 4 miles away from the harbor in a very comfortable Balboa Park-adjacent neighborhood, when the wind was just right, it was though we were right inside those canneries and we truly felt sorry for those who worked there. In the 1950s one of the local canneries decided to use the leftover bits of tuna (which didn't wind up as cat food) too make "Tunies," a spectacularly unsuccessful intended hot dog competitor. They were about as tasty & appetizing as they sound.

Everything but the squeal?

What did they do with the leftovers?
This is one photo that I am glad we don't have "Smell-O-Vision".
Can you imagine trying to launder those clothes?
They must have spent a fortune on Ivory Soap.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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