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Early Fish Canneries in Brooklin

This Exhibit Contains 19 Items


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Item 12749

Sardine Canneries at Brooklin

Sardine Canneries at Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Center Harbor is located within the town of Brooklin; the harbor is well protected which helped make it a desirable location for fish canneries. By the 1900s, canneries were located on the northern edge of the small harbor. Sardines were the primary product that were processed, although over the years, other fish, as well as clams and even blueberries, were packed.
Historically it is hard to identify the exact locations of different buildings on the small harbor; over the years the various canneries were sold, renamed, and finally closed.
This photograph, looking toward the southeast, shows one of the early sardine canneries. Prior to the opening of the processing plants on Center Harbor, other fish products of the area included hake, haddock, mackerel, clams, lobsters and porgies (for the oil); most were for home use or local export.

 

Item 12754

Fish Cannery, Brooklin

Fish Cannery, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

One of the early fish canneries located on Center Harbor in Brooklin, circa 1900, as seen from the water. Until Stevens began packing sardines in 1890 in his factory, fish canneries in the area were for smoking and packing pogies.
In 1902, A. E. Farnsworth bought the Steven's Sardine Cannery; both clams and sardines were packed. Farnsworth owned his own boats and had one weir placed at the end of Flye Point.
A reservoir was located on the hill above the factory with a windmill used to pump water into the reservoir.


 

Item 12761

Workers at Steven's Sardine Cannery, Brooklin

Workers at Steven's Sardine Cannery, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Steven's Sardine Cannery was one of the first canneries in Brooklin to pack sardines. It was owned by S. G. Stevens. The cannery was located on the east end of Center Harbor. Later the plant was sold to A. E. Farnsworth.
This photo, taken around 1900, is notable in that the workers are primarily men.
Twenty years later, when it was the Farnsworth cannery, the workers were largely women. [See the Farnsworth Cannery worker photos elsewhere in this series.]


 

Item 12750

Fish Cannery workers, Brooklin, ca. 1910

Fish Cannery workers, Brooklin, ca. 1910 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Workers at one of the early fish canneries located on Center Harbor in Brooklin, around 1900. Note the predominance of women in this workforce.


 

Item 12748

Canneries at Brooklin

Canneries at Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Fish canneries on the shore at Brooklin, seen from the water ca. 1925.
The products from the canneries were usually shipped out by sailing schooners and later by the Eastern Steamship Company.
In the early 1930s, as the trucking business grew, it became too expensive to ship by water. About 1932, the Eastern Steamship Company stopped runs to Brooklin. At that time, the Ramsdell business was moved to Rockland, and the plant was abandoned.
In the upper left corner it is possible to see the tower of the Odd Fellows Hall; the IOOF Hall was built in the late 19th century, but the tower was removed in the 1930s as it was considered unsafe.


 

Item 12752

Sardine Cannery with House & Store, Brooklin

Sardine Cannery with House & Store, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

The Farnsworth Sardine Cannery and wharf at Center Harbor in Brooklin, around 1920. The white house at left center was Charlie Tyler's; he had a store in the lower level of the building.

 

Item 12764

Farnsworth Packing Co. label, Brooklin, ca. 1910

Farnsworth Packing Co. label, Brooklin, ca. 1910 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Label from the Farnsworth Sardine Cannery. Maine clams and sardines were canned there.

 

Item 12766

Women workers at Farnsworth Fish Cannery, Brooklin, 1920

Women workers at Farnsworth Fish Cannery, Brooklin, 1920 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

By the 1920s, the majority of workers in the fish factories were women. The sardines were caught and packed from early spring to late fall. Big dip nets were used to take the sardines off the boats; the fish were then put on large racks called "flakes."
From there the fish would go to the women's worktables. If there were work on a particular day, the workers were notified by a whistle blown ahead of time.

 

Item 12767

Women employees, Farnsworth Fish Cannery, Brooklin

Women employees, Farnsworth Fish Cannery, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Right half of group photo of the workers at the Farnsworth Sardine Cannery in the early 1920s. Packing the fish was considered women's work.
The women wore no particular uniform; caps were required to prevent hair from getting into the fish cans and aprons were worn as packing fish was messy work.
"As you packed them, you had your can, and you had one [fish] in each hand and you put them right in [the can]. For small fish, the heads could be broken off; large ones had to have the heads and tails cut off." (Bryle Carter, Interview, 7/15/95)

 

Item 12757

Waterfront, Brooklin

Waterfront, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

W. A. Ramsdell bought the Farnsworth packing plant in 1923. When Ramsdell bought the plant, many of the workers stayed on under the new ownership.
Again, the packers were usually women; the men performed the other jobs, particularly those involving hard labor. Even though workers were paid low wages, there were limited opportunities for work in the area.

 

Item 12762

Ramsdell Cannery Label, ca. 1925

Ramsdell Cannery Label, ca. 1925 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

The label shown is from Ramsdell's plant in Lubec. However, Ramsdell also had the cannery in Brooklin, previously the Farnsworth Sardine Cannery.
The Ramsdell plant in Brooklin was operated from 1923 to 1931. After the Eastern Steamship Company discontinued the run to Brooklin, the plant was closed and the operation was moved to Portland.

 

Item 12751

Sardine Cannery, Brooklin

Sardine Cannery, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

One of the sardine canneries at Center Harbor, Brooklin, as seen from the water in 1927. A fish cannery owned by Steve and Charles Cousins was located next to the site of the abandoned Ramsdell Packing Plant.
The Cousin's cannery was then purchased by Emery Herrick and Roy Allen in 1930. There they packed not only sardines, but also such items as flaked fish, cat food, mackerel and clams.

 

Item 12756

Herrick and Allen's Fish Cannery, Brooklin, 1927

Herrick and Allen's Fish Cannery, Brooklin, 1927 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Herrick and Allen's Fish Cannery seen from the water at Brooklin. In 1933, the plant burned to the ground, but by the spring of 1934, it had been rebuilt and again was in operation.
Since there was no water transportation, the products were taken to Ellsworth and shipped from there by train to as far as Chicago and California.

 

Item 12763

Fish Cannery Worker Transportation Bus, Brooklin, 1948

Fish Cannery Worker Transportation Bus, Brooklin, 1948 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

By 1948,a bus was used to transport the women workers to and from Herrick and Allen's plant.


 

Item 12753

Label for Canned Fish Product

Label for Canned Fish Product / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

This is a label for canned flaked fish, processed at the Herrick and Allen plant at Center Harbor.
Although the label shows the business location of Herrick and Allen in Brooksville, the cannery itself was on the water in nearby Brooklin.

 

Item 12760

Blueberry Cannery, Brooklin

Blueberry Cannery, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Exterior of the Steven and Charles Cousins blueberry cannery at Brooklin, in the early 1930s.
"Charles Cousins canned blueberries there once, and did clams, one thing or another. He even canned beans once...They had one building that was interchangeable." (Interview, Edmund Williams, 7/20/95)


 

Item 12759

Blueberry Cannery, Interior, Brooklin

Blueberry Cannery, Interior, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

The interior of the Steven and Charles Cousins' blueberry canning plant, 1935.

 

Item 12747

Mayo Sardine Cannery, Brooklin, 1927

Mayo Sardine Cannery, Brooklin, 1927 / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Not all fish packing plants were at Center Harbor. The Mayo Sardine cannery was located at Naskeag Point, Brooklin, shown here in 1927.
It was owned by Alanson H. Mayo, and was in operation from 1902 to 1929.
"When we were kids, there were about four or five factories that were down there." (Interview with Edmund Williams, 7/20/95)

 

Item 12755

Boatyard at Center Harbor, Brooklin

Boatyard at Center Harbor, Brooklin / Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society

Originally this site was the setting for the Ramsdell Fish Packing Plant.
The decline of the canning industry began in the mid-1930s; fish became scarcer and transportation more of a problem. The factory sites began to be used for various boat yards.
This site was sold to Frank Sylvester and Frank Day in 1938 to become a boat yard. Later it was sold to Herrick and Allen. The land was leased to Arno Day as a boat yard in 1952, and he in turn sold the business to Joel White, who started Brooklin Boat Yard in 1960.
These are the first buildings of the Brooklin Boat Yard, shown nearly new in 1962. Now operated by his son, Steve White, the Brooklin Boat Yard has grown into a famous building and restoration center for wooden boats. See www.lymanmorse.com/builders/brooklin_boatyard.htm industry began in the late 1930s.
Bibliography:
Hooper, Jane and Toulmin, Sunny. Memories of Haven Colony, Brooklin, Maine. Haven Publishing Co. 1995.
Lawson, Darlene. "A Fish Canning Industry Once Thrived in Brooklin." Maine Life, September 1978, pg. 53-54.
---Centennial Celebration of Brooklin, ME. Brooklin Centennial Committee. 1949.
Interview. Edmund Williams. 7/20/95, Brooklin.
Interview. Byrle Carter. 7/15/95, Brooklin.


 

 

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