Karluck [sic!], 25 May 1889; Chignik Bay, 27 July 1889 and 16 August 1890. In all three leaves with 5 ppfrom ca. 28,5x21,5 cm (11 ¼ x 8 ¼ in) to ca. 24,5x19,5 cm (9 ¾ x 7 ¾ in). Brown and black ink on wove and lined paper. All letters docketed in period ink on verso. Fold marks, the paper of one letter age-toned, but overall a very good collection.
Historically significant collection of three early letters documenting the beginning of the salmon canning industry in Alaska. The “Shumagin Packing Company” was a short-lived enterprise that operated in the Chignik Bay (central Alaska Peninsula) in 1889-1891.
“The Chignik Bay Company’s cannery was built and operated in the spring of 1889 by the Fishermen’s Packing Company of Astoria on the eastern shore of Chignik Lagoon <…> The Shumagin Packing Company, composed of capitalists from Portland, Oregon [including a prominent Oregon salmon canning magnate Frank M. Warren Sr.] built a cannery on Chignik Lagoon in 1889, near that of the Chignik Bay Company, and operated in that year, and the same year the Chignik Bay Packing Company, of San Francisco, built and operated a cannery near the two just mentioned. Though these three canneries were built by different companies, they soon became closely allied and finally combined into one organization. The operating agreement of these three canneries was successfully carried out in 1890 and 1891. In 1892 they all joined the pool of the Alaska Packing Association, and the cannery of the Chignik Bay Company alone operated. In 1893 they all became members of the Alaska Packers’ Association. Since 1891 only the Chignik Bay Company’s cannery had been operated. The Shumagin building has been moved alongside that of the Chignik Bay Company and the machinery consolidated, so as to form practically one large cannery…” (Moser, J.F. The Salmon and Salmon Fisheries of Alaska: Report of the Operations of the US Fish Commission… Washington, 1899, p. 165).
A contemporary newspaper titled W.D. Smith as the owner of the “Shumagin Packing Company” (A Salmon Syndicate. Big Combination of Alaska Canners// San Francisco Chronicle, 12 January 1893, p. 12).
In the letters addressed to his San Francisco agents (“Bradley & Co.,” 22 California St.) Smith discusses shipping of supplies in and canned salmon out and mentions the load of “Shumagin Packing Company’s” “Warren’s Alaska Salmon” brand, W.F. Beck & Co. (agents of the Astoria-based “Chignik Bay Packing Co.”), S.B. Peterson (the owner of the San Francisco-based “Chignik Bay Packing Co.”), and several shipping vessels, including steamer “Polar Bear,” schooners “Courtney Ford” and “Robert Searles,” “Alaska Commercial Company’s” steamer “Bertha,” etc. Overall interesting original source on the history of the early salmon canning industry in Alaska, illustrating the difficulty in obtaining supplies and shipping out products, and the formation of the first cooperatives of Alaskan canneries.
Excerpts from the letters:
Karluck [Kodiak Island], 25 May 1889: “Please ship us by first vessel leaving for Karluck or Uyak Bay: 5 cases Eagle brand milk, 5 bbls beef (Meyer & Akman Sacramento St., same quality as last I bought from them), 3 tons potatoes (good), 2 bbls pork, 2 [bbls] corn meal. Herewith please find check for $ 225.00 which ought to cover amt of this bill. Beck & Sons will ship some things for Johnson also so confer with them and ship on same vessel as they as Johnson’s Str. Polar Bear is regarded to transfer this freight from Karluck or Uyak Bay which is about the same place. If the Alaska Com. Cy. will deliver the freight at Chignik pay them 5.00 per ton extra and it will save us the trouble of transferring up here.
The A.C Co’s str. Bertha is now here and will leave for your city in a few days and possibly might bring the freight back but I hardly think so. At any rate get the goods on same vessel as Beck and S.B. Peterson who is sending supplies for his cannery at Chignik. Make check 300 so you can pay freight.”
Chignik Bay, 27 July 1889: “Herewith, please find per courtesy of Capt. Nelson of Brigantine Courtney Ford sailing this afternoon, mate’s receipts for salmon shipped ex Comet. Do not fail to take receipts in full from all the men of all claims against S[humagin]. P[acking]. Cy. The groceries have not as yet been heard from and I think with this reduction of beef eaters we can do without if it does not get here. Comet sailed at 2:00 A.M. Ford will sail this afternoon.”
Chignik Bay, 16 August 1890: “You will please find enclosed S./R. for 9266 cans Warren’s Alaska Salmon [the brand name of the Shumagin Packing Co’s canned salmon] ex Sch. Robert Searles. Also 133 bbls of salt salmon all of which you will dispose of as arranged between you and Mr. Warren.
The salt fish will need some coopering and if any is lost we will receive […?] with the other two parties to the combination. You will provide Capt. Peterson with funds to pay our share of disbursements of R. Searles which will amount to about $15,000 total or $5,000 for our share. Drawing on Frank M. Warren print for same deduct. from our share $ 800 which I have paid one of the men off with Portland check.
I am writing in a great hurry and am probably forgetting a great deal <…> We have made a very good season if we can sell the salmon for any thing, but that seemed doubtful according to last advices from Mr. Warren on Robert Searles.” Smith then ads a postscript, that again confirms the working agreement with the other two canneries were in effect. “I have one fishing boat on the Searles but Beck’s people have one from their company, so they can take charge of the two as well as one.”.