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Oyster Luggers: 1908

Oyster Luggers: 1908

New Orleans circa 1908. "Oyster and charcoal luggers in the old basin." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Storm of 1893 - Cheniere Caminada

Giuseppe Tedesco had 3 brothers, Agostino, Chaverio and Antonino (Tony). Two of them were in luggers when the storm of 1893 (hurricane). They were in Biloxi waters when the storm hit - they did not know it was coming. Chaverio's boat was lost and he was in the water 3 days before he was rescued and Tony and two other men in their lugger were lost. Below is a link to the Louisiana Genweb Archives Project - Newspaper Articles which I added some of the newspaper articles that ran in October, 1893. They were posted during the months of May and June, 2007.

Tedesco Oyster Luggers - 1908

My grandfather Salvatore Tedesco, brothers listed in "Pepino Tedesco Boat" were Pepino (Joseph) Tedesco and Chavere (Saverio)Tedesco. Lazard is Pepino's son-in-law Alberto Lazaro.
A response to "Swab the Deck" regarding hurricanes. On October 2, 1893 a storm which would be known as the Cheniere Caminda hurricane which hit on the Louisiana mainland just west of Grand Isle with winds of 135 mph unexpectedly. Captain Chavere Tedesco and three crew men were in Biloxi waters when the storm hit. The crew men were lost and Chavere was in the water three days before being rescued. Another brother, Tony Tedesco, was in the lugger F. W. Elmer (Biloxi waters) with two crew men all three were lost. There is an estimate of 2,000 persons lost their lives and many were fishermen. This information came from Pepino's daughter Josephine who passed away this year at 103 years old and the Times Picayune newspaper. During the month of October, 1893 the Times Picayune lists many of the persons that died and the persons that survived. The articles are detailed and very informative.

Shorpy U

I think the posts for this photo demonstrate big time the second major virtue of Shorpy, the first one being the seemingly endless unveiling of one fascinating image after another. That second virture is the education and enlightenment provided by people who know what they're talking about. Look at what you learn (about boats and the oyster biz, in this case) in "Tonguers", "Long Tongs", "Couldn't See..." and other posts. It's like Introduction to Sailboats 101 or something. Marvelous, totally marvelous. Thank you, oh learned Shorpians.

Pepino Tedesco's Boat

First Annual Report of the Oyster Commission of Louisiana, 1904.

List of Vessels Other Than Fishing Skiffs Licensed by the Oyster Commission of Louisisana.

License Number, Name of Vessel, Name of Owner, Address, Capacity in BBLS, Tonnage.

59, Lugger Chavere Tedesco, Pepino Tedesco, New Orleans, 141, 8.

93, Lugger Joseph Tedesco, Tedesco, Tedesco & Lazard, New Orleans, 106, 6.

1708, Lugger Superior, Marco Koparitich, New Orleans, 107, 6.

Pretty Sails

I like the scallop edging on the sails on the right. Must have looked great.

Couldn't see any sharpies in there

My family began their oyster business in New Haven about 1868, and sharpies had been in use for some decades before that. The sharpie is a cat-rigged (mast at the very bow) vessel renowned for its speed and ability to hold a big load of oysters.

There is a sharpie on display at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.

As oyster gathering shifted to dragging, rather than tonging, the boats became larger and eventually powered. The last of the old era was just before WWII. In 1940 my mother filmed a Sunday seagoing picnic on one of the family's draggers, the Catherine M. Wedmore, built in 1924, named after my great-grandmother, and still in service dragging oysters and clams.

We always said that warm-water oysters weren't particularly good, and my opinion on that matter has not changed.

Swab the Deck

For working boats they sure are very clean, I'm impressed.

I wonder what they did with these boats when a hurricane rolled through? They probably didn't get as much of a warning that one was coming like we do today.


There are several types of boats in this scene. The "luggers" of the title are the ones with the booms secured to the masts at about a one third point, like "___ Tedesco 93" close to the middle of the scene. Several of them have what looks like sail covers of a dark material -- today we generally think sail covers were not needed in the time period of canvas sails that do not deteriorate when exposed to sunlight.

The balanced lug rig was common in France during the Age of Sail. Could it be that the type is actually a survivor from the period when New Orleans was a French colony? Howard I. Chapelle, in "American Small Sailing Craft," 1951, says the lug rig came from the Channel coast (used on both the French and British sides), but the hull evolved here. The rig is "the only dipping lugsail to be used in an American work-boat type in the late 19th century." A plan of a New Orleans lugger is figure 104 in Chapelle, and it looks almost exactly like Tedesco 93 here. In the photo, there seems to be a parrel holding the yard to the mast, making it hard to imagine how the lugsail would be dipped to get it to the other side of the mast.

Several of the luggers also have long poles stacked up with one end in the bows and the other resting on the booms near the mast. These look like they might be tongs. Therefore, the boats probably do not dredge for the bivalves, they tong. This conclusion is also supported by the small size of the craft and the absence of winches and tackle for handling a dredge. The luggers are fully molded in form, not flat or V-bottomed like scows or most of Cheaspeake Bay's skipjacks. They have but one mast and sail.

There are schooners in the scene and one conventional gaff sloop with headsails, in the foreground, named Minerva. The craft behind her, 1708 Superior, seems to be a schooner with quite a large boomed headsail on a bowsprit (Look up at the masts -- it's easier to tell).

Before wood was replaced by other materials in boatbuilding, every region of the country had its own types of fishing and cargo craft, even down to quite small sizes.

Long tongs

Not a mechanical dredge in sight. Lots of long tongs are visible. Oystermen in this area started using mechanical dredges around this time of the century but stopped doing so when they realized the damage that dredges caused to the oyster beds. They returned to the hand tongs again. Did anyone notice that one of the crew seemed to be plucking a broom for the camera?

Boat and more boats

This is a wonderful picture. The Center For Wooden Boats in Seattle WA has two big sharpies in daily use.

Those little flatiron skiffs like the one in the foreground aren't so bad, either, and are now rarely to be found.

'Arster Drudgers

These little flat bottom boats with a center board keel were fast sailers and had a beautiful line to them as exemplified by "1708 SUPERIOR" in the photo above. Sometimes referred to as Skipjacks, Bugeyes, Sharpies and other names depending on the rig; Chesapeake Bay was once full of them.

Great lines on that scow schooner in the background

Boats like this, built with simple materials and for a specific purpose, are often more beautiful than the fanciest yacht. Much more graceful looking than any modern glass racing sailboat.

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