Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Fishing Industry in Pennsylvania: Part Four

The Presque Isle Lighthouse
watched over
fishermen after being built in 1873

Erie Fishing

Fish, fish, fish. That is what the people of Erie, Pennsylvania, did daily. They also ate lots of fish. The city of Erie is located next to Lake Erie in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and in the 1900s once had the distinction of being the largest freshwater fishing port in the world.
In the 1700s, residents of the town of Erie bought fish from the first commercial fishermen, the Seneca Indians. Later, many townspeople also fished for profit. The Industrial Revolution brought new inhabitants to the area, immigrants from faraway places. Many of them, accustomed to a diet of fish, purchased the fare from Erie fishermen at the markets. The building of the area’s railroad system extended the market grounds even farther. The Lake Erie catch could then be easily shipped to customers in eastern United States cities, including New York City.

From Canoes to Small Sailboats

            The Seneca, of course, used canoes for fishing, but later small sailboats became the vehicles for fishermen to roam Lake Erie in search of good fishing places. In 1856, the area had three sailboats, and by 1884, a fleet of fifty sailboats traversed the waters.


            The first steamboat to run on Lake Erie, Walk-in-the-Water, built in 1818, made regular trips along the southern side of the lake to convey passengers. The use of steam to power fishing boats began later, in 1881, with big, wooden steam tugs of up to 65 feet in length. Fishing tugs are not the same as the tug boats that pull other boats. Most fish tugs are longer without the high wheel house that a pulling tug boat has.
Four years later, the area had four tugs, each valued at $40,000. By 1892, the sailboat population had diminished to fourteen, but the steam tugs had increased to 28 and employed 500 men in the fishing trade. At first the tugs had open decks, but gradually they changed to closed decks to allow the fishermen some relief from the wind and rain. One hundred fish tugs roamed the lake by 1920. In the 1950s, new fish tugs had steel hulls instead of wooden.

(To Be Continued)


Applegate, Vernon C. and Harry D. Van Meter. “A Brief History of Commercial Fishing in Lake Erie.” Fishery Leaflet 630, April 1970 Washington, D.C.: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Web 24 April 2017 <>

Arway, John A. “Lake Erie Commercial Fishing – 2016.” Web 6 May 2017 <>

“The River as an Employer.” Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Web 16 May 2017 <>

Watkins, Charles A. “A Good Day’s Catch: Commercial Fishing in Erie.” Pennsylvania Heritage, Vol. IX, No. 2, pages 12-17. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Spring 1983.  Print.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Fishing Industry in Pennsylvania: Part Two

Shad Fishing (con't)
In the early 1800s, the construction of the three dams hurt the shad fishing. The Shawmont and Reading Dams on the Schuylkill River were built to make the river more travelable by boat. The Fairmount Dam also on the Schuylkill made a reservoir for a water works company that provided water for Philadelphia.
The dams prevented Read More

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Fishing Industry in Pennsylvania

American Shad

            The American shad is a silver-colored fish with a greenish band along its back and dark spots along the top of its sides. This species is the largest member of the herring family. In weight, American shad average from four to seven pounds and can be anywhere between 16 and 30 inches long.
Prior to the late 1800s, large groups of American shad grew to maturity in the Atlantic Ocean, and then made their way up rivers in April and May. After reaching the Pennsylvania waters Read More

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Jobs from the Past

I haven’t posted in a while. The local homeschool group asked me to help with their co-op this fall. I found that preparing took all my extra time, and my writing took a back seat for a while. We had about 70 people attend from babies through to the oldest, me! What fun I had Read More

Thursday, September 7, 2017

York Agricultural & Industrial Museum

           Years ago I wrote about my favorite museum, the Jimmy Stewart Museum. I just found my second favorite, the York Agricultural and Industrial Museum. Read More

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017


"Young Man with a Flute" by George Romney
shows a garment that would have been made
at a tailor's shop
Until the mid-1800s, American people didn’t have factories that made cloth or sewing machines to sew that cloth. The process of spinning thread, weaving cloth, and sewing proved to be too much for most folks. More men, women, and children, rich or poor, needed Read More