Search this catalogue
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]

Historical Materials: Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities

Historical Materials  »  Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities  »  Lobstering

Lobstering

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (4) »

Prior to 1840, the lobster fishery had but a minor role in the American fishing industry. The market was limited by the difficulties of transporting live lobsters over long distances, which kept the demand local. As transportation (by rail), improved, the market broadened and demand increased, leading to more fishing and reduction of lobsters, both in size and in numbers.

In Lane's later years, the fishery was growing, but significant decreases of lobsters were not yet considered serious. Decrease  in numbers of very large lobsters (weighing ten pounds or more) was noted, but clamors for regulations on sizes and numbers of lobsters caught were not heard until the 1870s.

Lobster traps in the nineteenth century were mostly of the "round top" design—built of wooden laths with funnel-shaped entries of netting at both ends. The tops were hinged "lids" providing access to the catch; stones were fitted as weights to the flat bottom.

The pots could be set individually or in "strings" with marker buoys at both ends of the string. Individual pots were set on rocky bottom where a string of pots could become fouled and lost. Strings of pots were best for a smooth bottom when lobsters were moving inshore in large numbers. When lobsters were scarce on smooth bottoms, individual pots were set, being easier to move to other places.

Once caught, lobsters were kept in floating boxes (called "cars") with open seams and bored holes to allow water to circulate. A lobster car with a "killick" (stone anchor) is depicted by Lane in the foreground of Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240)

– Erik Ronnberg

Reference:

G. Brown Goode, "Fisheries and Fishery Industries", Section V, Vol. 2, 658–74.

illustration
Dory fishermen hauling lobster pots off Cape Ann
T. W. Smillie
1883
In G. Brown Goode, The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office)
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive, Gloucester, Mass.

See pl. 247.

This photo was most likely taken in Ipswich Bay on the north shore of Cape Ann (visible in right background). During the warm months, lobsters migrate to the shore where they feed and shed their outgrown shells while hiding among the rocks. Dories are the lobstermen's choice for working traps out in the bay or close to shore in rocky shallows. Pots can be set individually or in strings, the latter on smoother ground where the line is less likely to be fouled.

– Erik Ronnberg

photo (historical)
Folly Cove lobster quarters
c.1890
Photograph
NOOA

Also filed under: Folly Cove »

artwork
Lobster car (detail of Gloucester Inner Harbor)
Fitz Henry Lane
1850
Gloucester Inner Harbor
Oil on canvas
24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)

The lobster car was a floating holding tank for lobsters that were kept in the harbor prior to local sale or transportation to fish markets in Boston. 

illustration
Lobster Cove at Lanesville, Cape Ann
T. W. Smillie
1883
In G. Brown Goode, The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office)
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive, Gloucester, Mass.

See pl. 249.

Lobster Cove (Lane's Cove) was a thriving port for the Ipswich Bay shore fisheries from colonial times through the 19th century. Even as late as the mid-20th century, the waterfront was lined with sheds for fishing gear - now all gone. In addition to lobstering, gill-netting, trap fishing, hand-lining, and seining (small-scale) were carried on at various times in pursuit of numerous fish and shellfish types.

– Erik Ronnberg

Also filed under: Folly Cove »

photo (historical)
"Lobster Lane – Magnolia" (detail of lobster traps"
Martha Hale Harvey
1890s
Glass plate negative
4 x 5 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
#10205/418

Also filed under: Folly Cove »

photo (historical)
Lobsterman and dory at Lane's Cove
Photographer unknown
c. 1900
Glass plate negative
Collection of Erik Ronnberg
photo (historical)
Lobsterman at Salt Island
Martha H. Harvey
1890s
Glass plate negative
4 x 5 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
#10028/031
photo (historical)
Weighing lobsters at Salt Island
Martha H. Harvey
1890s
Glass plate negative
4 x 5 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
#10021/023

This photo depicting traditional lobster fishing shows two lobster cars to left of dory and two afloat.

Citation: "Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/historical_material/index.php?type=Maritime+%26+Other+Industries+%26++Facilities§ion=Lobstering (accessed March 29, 2017).
Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Please share your knowledge with us: click here to leave feedback.