Funter Bay History: Cannery Workers in the 1920s

My last post displayed some 1920s-era postcards (RPPCs) from Funter Bay, showing buildings and boats of the Thlinket Packing Company’s salmon cannery. Other postcards from the same set show some of the workers and people associated with the cannery in the same time period. It is not clear if these are commercial mass-produced postcards or personal images printed on postcard stock.

Here we see a group of men unloading items from the hold of a ship. The items are likely knocked-down cases for canned salmon. These would be assembled, filled with cans, and then shipped out again. An example of assembled cases can be seen here. In the background are Tlingit native houses and a scow or barge.

Unloading Ship

The next two photos are not labeled as Funter Bay, but were found alongside Funter Bay photos in the same collection. The firewood behind the seated man looks very similar to the wood stacked next to the boardwalk seen in a previous post. Also visible in the background is a wooden frame for clotheslines with hanging laundry, and some fencing or netting, similar to the garden fencing and clotheslines seen before. I suspect this fellow was one of the Tlingit Natives who worked at the cannery during the summers.

Lumberman

The next photo is labeled (in reverse) “Native Cannery Hands”. The photo seems to be printed in the correct orientation based on the product held by the small boy, reading “Sw… Pr…” (perhaps candy?). In a previous post I linked to a report indicating native children as young as 8 sometimes worked 9-hour days for 10 cents an hour.

Native Cannery Hands

There is a lot going on in the above photo. The man on the right is making some sort of gesture or counting 3. The younger people are all looking at the camera and many are smiling, while the older woman stares away with a stern expression. This phenomenon is noted in “The Tlingit Encounter with Photography” where author Sharon Gmelch points out that Tlingit women photographed at Funter Bay tended to look away from the camera unsmiling. One explanation is that smiling for a picture was considered disrespectful by elders. (As another side note, the 1907 photo of the Tlingit women apparently found its way onto a commemorative porcelain plate made in Germany in 1910, which is now at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum).

Another notable feature of these 1920s photos is the popularity of hats or headgear. The children display a variety of hats, including what looks like a naval hat on the smallest boy (marked with a steering wheel at the front). The men unloading the ship mostly have caps, while someone in the hold and someone in the foreground seem to have fedoras (perhaps the bosses?). Earlier photos of Funter Bay workers also show a wide variety of hats, especially among the men. I am not sure if hats were universally popular among all Alaskans/Americans at the time, or if this were a local cultural habit.

A man rowing a boat near the cannery may have been another cannery employee. He appears to have several cut logs in the boat, perhaps for firewood.

rowboat

Another portrait shows a man of possible Asian heritage, standing on the wharf at the cannery (Mt. Robert Barron is barely visible behind him). He appears to be the only hat-less person in this post!

man

Several people are shown on the cannery wharf with fish in the photos below. These may be some Ballard (Seattle) High School students who visited Funter Bay in 1919, as the images were in the same batch and are colorized similarly to some photos of that group (to be detailed in a later post).

These two have caught salmon, likely with rod and reel:

salmon

And here we see a large halibut (probably in the 150-200lb range). The men are standing on nets, but halibut are usually caught with rod or ground tackle (longlines).

halibut

If any readers happen to recognize any of the people shown here, I would love to hear about it!

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