Funter Bay History: Captain George Whitney Photos

August 24, 2017

Captain George H. Whitney was an agent of the government’s Steamboat Inspection Service between 1898 and 1928. His career saw him traveling to many Alaskan ports for safety inspections on steam powered merchant vessels. The agency was later merged with the Bureau of Navigation and then superseded by the US Coast Guard.

A photo album in the Alaska State Library & Archives has a few of Captain Whitney’s photos from Funter Bay in 1907. He seems to have been traveling on the steam liner Georgia, possibly to inspect vessels of the Thlinket Packing Co.

View from a steamship (possibly the Georgia) approaching the Funter Bay wharf. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-82

In the photo above we see the Thlinket Packing Co’s steamer Anna Barron at the wharf. The smokestack from a steam engine is also seen sitting on the wharf, possibly a steam donkey or pile driver engine.

Three friends on the steamship Georgia near Funter Bay. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-83

SONY DSC

Funter Bay cannery residence. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-92

The above photo is likely the cannery superintendent’s house, which had a large covered porch.

 

Advertisements

Funter Bay History: A 1919 Honeymoon Trip

July 20, 2017

One fascinating source of historic Alaska photos are the vacation albums created by past visitors. The Alaska State Library & Archives has several such albums donated by collectors and families of the original photographers. These provide a great cross section of historic Alaskan tourism, as well as a glimpse into the interests of the tourists (some photographed glaciers while others focused on wildlife and still others on industry).

An album from July of 1919 follows the journey of some newlyweds from Seattle to Southeast Alaska. Unfortunately the names of the couple is not known. They sailed on the steamship Admiral Evans, which made stops at the canneries in Funter Bay and nearby Hawk Inlet.

1919 Album 1

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

It’s not clear if the following photo of salmon on a cannery floor was taken at Funter or Hawk Inlet. Both canneries would have looked similar inside.

1919 Album 2

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 3

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

The next photo of the USS Marblehead is quite interesting. I mentioned the Marblehead’s anti-piracy visit and showed a postcard photo from a different angle in this post.

1919 Album 4

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A newspaper article from Juneau mentioned the Marblehead that same month:

Marblehead article

Getting back to the photo album, a wider view shows the cannery with native worker village on the right, and a denuded small island in the foreground (probably Gauge Is.)

1919 Album 5

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A pair of photos show the young couple taking turns posing in the woods at Funter Bay:

1919 Album 6

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 7

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

And finally, a shipboard photo as the steamer left Funter Bay:

1919 Album 8

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

If anyone happens to recognize these people, I would love to hear about it!


Funter Bay History: Letterhead Evolution

June 26, 2017

In the days before email, every successful business needed a snappy letterhead. Even short-lived businesses which existed only on paper would create fanciful letterhead logos and designs to adorn their correspondence. For the companies that stood the test of time, letterheads would evolve and change as styles moved in and out of fashion. Usually they became fancier and more ornate. The Thlinket Packing Co was no exception, updating and improving their corporate logo several times over the years.

The earliest letterhead for the company was from 1902, when the cannery at Funter Bay was built. This is the first and only reference I’ve seen to “Elizabeth Point”, apparently named after founder James Barron’s wife Elizabeth.

SONY DSC

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1905 the corporate letterhead featured a photo of the cannery by an unknown photographer (I have not yet located an original).

letterhead 1905

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

In 1906 there seem to have been a few minor changes. A letter sent in January shows a slightly updated version of the 1905 letterhead, adding a new canned salmon product. It also added a house flag (indicating which company owned a vessel), with the “B” perhaps standing for Barron. A message sent later in 1906 from Funter Bay apparently re-used the 1905 letterhead.

SONY DSC

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1912 the Thlinket Packing Co’s letterhead was quite ornate, featuring a new font and new photos from the 1907 visit of photographers Case & Draper:

SONY DSC

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

 

Thanks to Alaska historian and collector Robert DeArmond, we have a very nice cross section of these letterheads to see! Among other documents, DeArmond collected a huge file of corporate letterheads from companies located or operating in Alaska. This material is not yet online, but can be viewed in person at the Alaska State Library & Archives under Manuscript Collection MS 43.


Research Sources for Alaska History

June 22, 2016

Updated 6/22/17

Here are some of the resources I use in my Alaska and Funter Bay history research. Specific source documents can also be found in the links embedded in my posts and write-ups.

Alaska’s Digital Archives – Excellent collection of digital photos and documents from Alaska history.

Alaska DNR Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys – Mine and mineral publications for the state.

Alaska Land Records – Modern and historic land surveys and plat maps.

Alaska Resource Library – Archives of historic Alaska documents and government publications.

Alaska State Library DASH – Full text of several historic Alaska newspapers.

Bob DeArmond Alaska History Project – Searchable archive of Rober DeArmond’s articles in Juneau papers, including reprints of historic news snippets and details of Southeast Alaska historic topics.

British Columbia Archives – Documents and media from Western Canada and Alaska.

Coast Survey Historic Maps and Charts – Historic nautical charts and other maps.

David Rumsey Map Collection – Historic maps and atlases.

Google Books – Also contains old government reports and publications.

Juneau-Douglas City Museum Collections – Many photos of the Juneau area and Southeast Alaska.

Juneau Nature – A website which has many historic Southeast Alaska photos, including early aerial photo surveys.

Library & Archives Canada – Includes many photos of Alaska and Western Canada not found elsewhere.

National Archives – Digital copies of many Federal government publications.

National Archives Alaska Records Project – records from the AK division being digitized in Seattle. Evolving collection that is in progress as of 2016.

National Geologic Map Database – Can be helpful for locating mines and related infrastructure.

NOAA Hydrographic Surveys – The original surveys from which nautical charts were based, containing additional notes and information.

NOAA Photo Library – Collection of fisheries, wildlife, scientific, and other photos.

Northern British Columbia Archives – Photos and documents pertaining to Alaska and Northern BC

Northwest Digital Archives – Indexes & finding aids to historic photos and documents of the Pacific Northwest (in various libraries and collections)

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection – Older topographic maps of Alaska, and other material.

University of Alabama Map Collection – Older geologic and topographic maps of specific regions.

University of Washington Digital Collections – Another great collection of Pacific Northwest photos, magazines, and documents.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Digital Library – Many modern and historic photos of wildlife, fisheries, boats, and scientific research.

USGS Historic Topo Maps – Collection of old versions of topographic maps. Goes back generally to the 1940s or 1950s in AK.

USGS Photographic Library – High Resolution copies of photos from USGS publications

USGS Publications Warehouse – Contains many old documents and reports on mines and mineral prospecting.

Washington State University Digital Collections – Fewer photos that UW’s archives, but more newspaper and print articles.

Yukon Archives – Includes some Alaska photos and Alaska Highway construction photos.

This post/list may be updated as I come across more sources. Feel free to contact me if you know of something I’ve forgotten or overlooked!


Funter Bay History: Annual Cannery Reports

August 8, 2015

Salmon canneries such as the one at Funter Bay were required to file annual reports to the government, detailing statistical information on their catches, employees, and financial situation. These are recorded in the National Archives Record Group 22, Records of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Formerly the US Fisheries Bureau). A number these records can be downloaded from the NOAA document library, although they are not clearly indexed. I was able to find the annual reports for 12 of the 29 years (1902-1931) that the Funter Bay Cannery was actively working. The original PDF files can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

1904 header

Some of the information in the reports seems to contradict other sources in regards to the size and number of boats, demographics of workers, etc. I am not sure which sources are the most reliable, but the official nature and later requirement for notarized reports suggest some degree of accuracy with these. That does not necessarily mean they are *complete*, as there are plenty of hints elsewhere of “creative” legal loopholes. For example, boats described elsewhere but not listed here may have been owned privately by company executives rather than the company itself. It is also not clear if wages were calculated before or after any deductions for room & board, company store, etc.

In 1904 the Funter cannery was valued at $150,000 and had $80,000 in stock. It paid $27,000 in wages to 75 plant employees, including 25 White, 20 Native Alaskan, 30 Chinese, and 20 Japanese workers. In addition, 28 Fishermen were employed, including 17 Whites and 3 Natives. There was one 82 ton steam vessel worth $17,000 with a crew of 5, 8 skiffs, 3 lighters, 3 scows, and 2 pile drivers, together worth $12,500. The cannery handled mostly Red (210,000) and Pink (330,000) salmon, with smaller numbers of Silver (48,000), Dog (6,500), and Kings (800). Market value of the catch for 1904 through Ocbober was $147,463. All traps were in Icy Strait, Chatham Strait, or Lynn Canal.

In 1906 the value of the plant had increased to $300,000, and wages to $51,000. The number of fishermen dropped to 20 White men, while Cannery workers increased to 12 White, 35 Native, 44 Chinese, and 18 Japanese. An additional steamer was added but was not in regular use. One pile driver, 3 skiffs, and all 3 lighters vanished from the roster, the small boats were replaced by (or perhaps reclassified as) dories. Two more scows were added. In 1906 the cannery handled 600,000 Pink salmon, 220,000 Reds, 110,000 Dogs, 42,000 Silvers, and 900 Kings, worth $214,719.

In 1910 the reporting form changed slightly. The cannery was reportedly worth $500,000 and had 3 resident superintendents and 20 salaried clerks and employees. Wages for salaried employees were $18,600, cannery workers $47,800, fishermen $25,000 and transporters $3,600. The total work force included 51 White, 106 Native, 77 Chinese, and 38 Japanese. The cannery had 2 steamers, 15 rowboats, 10 lighters and scows, and had added back one pile driver for a total of two. Eight fish traps were reported. The sailing vessel General Fairchild is mentioned as being owned, but not used. Production is listed this year in terms of cases, with 9,610 cases of Coho (Silver), 16,668 of Dog (Chum), 40,805 of Pink (Humpback), and 31,583 of Red (Sockeye). Reds were in two can sizes.  In addition, pickled or salted fish are reported in this year, including 2 barrels of whole King salmon and 11 barrels of King bellies. Total value appears to have been $392,081.80 (from 1910 to 1915 the totals are not given explicitly, and the income sheet seems to have been used as a scratch pad). This year also introduced the notary requirement, with company secretary M.G, Munley acting as notary for owner James T Barron.

signatures 1910

In 1911 there were 61 White, 90 Native, 75 Chinese, and 48 Japanese employees. The company now had 25 rowboats and 11 lighters and scows. There were 12 stationary fish traps. 10,946 cases of Coho, 20,224 of Dog, 43,844 of Pink, 341 of King, and 23,928 of Red salmon were produced, apparently worth $415,477.06. No pickled fish were reported this year. Manager Fred Barker signed off on the 1911 report instead of Barron.

The 1912 report deals mostly with the type of salmon caught, and does not contain income, equipment, or employee data (one or more pages may be missing). 750 Kings were caught in Icy Straight between Excursion Inlet and Point Couverden (the Homeshore stretch). 187 Kings were caught in Chatham between Funter Bay and Point Retreat. All Kings were caught between June 10 and July 10. A total of 351,309 Reds were caught between June 12 and Sept 1. 508,050 Pinks were caught between June 20 and Aug 20. 69,853 Coho between July 15 and Sept 12, and 354 Dog salmon between June 12 and Sept 12. Most of the fish of each species were caught in the traps at Homeshore.

The 1913 report goes back to detailing workers and boats. This year saw 79 White, 48 Native, 44 Chinese, and 44 Japanese employees at the cannery. There were 13 stationary traps and 3 pile drivers. One skiff had disappeared since 1911. 6,164 cases of Coho, 19,766 of Dog, 60,230 of Pink, 220 of King, and 25,494 of Red salmon were packed. No salt/pickled fish were reported. Total value seems to have been around $413,192. A detailed report similar to the 1912 data is appended showing how many fish were caught where on which dates.

The 1915 report changed format again, now reporting vessel names (Gas launch Buster and Steamer Anna Barron were the two large boats, there was also an unnamed gas launch). 17 staked traps were listed. Employees included 62 White, 51 Native, 75 Chinese, 30 Japanese, 4 Filipino, 1 Korean, and 4 Mexican (earlier reports did not have so many categories, and could have lumped Filipino and Korean workers into another category). Sockeye were packed in three different can sizes, for a total of 22,231 cases, King production was 339 cases, Coho 4,996, Pink 48,450, and Chum 16,873. Total value was $311,547.64.

1916 saw 107 White, 63 Native, 64 Chinese, 38 Japanese, and 4 Filipino workers, with total wages paid of $100,000. 23 staked traps are listed. The pack included 134 cases of Kings, 15,560 of Red, 15,028 of Coho, 65,809 of Pink, and 25,292 of Chum worth $495,015.80. A note stated that the cannery did not count individual fish, but estimated catch numbers based on cases packed and average weights. superintendent H.W. Chutte signed off on the 1916 report.

1918 saw 93 White, 50 Native, 46 Chinese, 44 Japanese, 14 Filipino, and 3 Mexican employees, paid a total of $129,500. The gas boat Barron F was added to the roster. The number and type of traps stayed the same. More species were packed in different can sizes, including 1/2 lb “48s”, 1lb flat cans, and 1lb tall cans. 6,570 cases of Coho were packed, 41,590 of Pink, 28,732 of Chum, 577 of King, and 26,274 of Red, worth $568,438.46. James Barron went back to signing off on the reports.

1920 saw a change in name from Thlinket Packing Company to Corporation. The fishing method also started to shift drastically towards floating traps (12 reported) and away from staked traps (9 reported). Buildings were valued at $257,500 and trap sites at $400,000. Workforce included 94 White, 22 Native, 40 Chinese, 44 Japanese, and 7 Filipino, and wages were $115,500. One floating trap worth $1,200 was reported lost. 5,126 cases of Coho, 12,663 of Chum, 17,971 of Pink, 167 of King, and 15,445 of Red were packed, for $262,916.23.

After 1920’s drastic decrease in sales, 1921 saw a smaller workforce of 52 White, 65 Native, 24 Chinese, 15 Japanese, and 8 Filipino, paid a total of $63,152.42. The Steamer Anna Barron was reportedly taken out of state. The company by now had 31 rowboats and 16 scows. 1 pile driver is listed. Only 5 staked traps and 6 floating traps are listed, along with 1 rented trap and 6 trap frames which were hauled out on the beach and not in use. Production ceased on the smaller cans (except for Reds), total pack was 8,250 cases of Coho, 10,114 of Chum, 13,820 of Pink, 126 of King, and 9,916 of Red, worth $187,095. Sales Manager C.F. Whitney signed off on this year’s report.

1922’s report had 68 White, 42 Native, 23 Chinese, and 25 Filipino employees, paid $51,020. 4 staked traps and 6 floating traps were used, 3 trap sites were leased from another company. 2 Floating traps were reported washed away, for a loss of $8,400. The smaller cans made a reappearance and were especially popular for Sockeye, with a total production of 4,901 Coho cases, 4,017 Chum, 17.023 Pink, 30 King, and 11,755 Red. Value was $103,025.

stats

These falling numbers may have led to the property’s 1926 sale to Sunny Point Packing. The marked decline of the salmon runs after 1920 was due to overfishing and the ongoing proliferation of fish traps (which peaked around that year). After 1920 there were many new regulations and attempts at protecting the fish stocks, but by 1953 Alaska’s salmon industry was declared a major disaster by the Federal government. Fish traps were outlawed after statehood in 1959, and modern boat-based fisheries are more tightly managed and regulated.

For those still awake and wanting more statistics, the original reports are below:

1904 Report of Salmon Operations for Funter Bay Cannery
1906 Report of Salmon Operations for Funter Bay Cannery

1910 Report of Operations by Funter Bay Cannery
1911 Report of Operations by Funter Bay Cannery
1912 Report of Salmon Operations by Thlinket Packing Co
1913 Report of Operations by Thlinket Packing Co
1915 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1916 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1918 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Co
1920 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation
1921 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation
1922 Statistics of Fishing Industry by Thlinket Packing Corporation


Funter Bay History: Mystery Photos

April 9, 2015

These photos were mixed in with some of the 1920s postcards and photographs that I’ve recently been posting. They are not labeled or otherwise identified, and the exact locations are uncertain. As they were included with a large amount of Funter Bay material, it is possible they are from the Funter area. However, the same collection also had some identifiable pictures of Juneau and Taku Inlet.

This photo shows a woman in a white dress and white shoes, standing on steps in front of a building:

mystery1

The above photo was possibly taken at one of the Tlingit Native houses on the hill behind the cannery, as seen in the zoomed-in image below (from a photo earlier posted). The windows, doors, and steps seem to match. Some of these houses look like they could be very small duplexes:

house_zoom

The next mystery photo shows a waterfall. I don’t recognize this as immediately near Funter Bay, but it could be higher on the mountain or somewhere else on Admiralty Island. It could also be somewhere closer to Juneau.

mystery2

The last photo shows a group of people, possibly about to light a fire. These may be local Tlingit Natives. The setting suggests the shore just above the high tide line.

people

If any readers have ideas or suggestions, please let me know! As usual, you can email me at gabe@saveitforparts.com.


Funter Bay History: Canning Process

March 4, 2015

I have previously mentioned some of the techniques and methods involved in early 20th-century cannery operations, but this post follows the entire salmon canning process from the ocean to the grocery store!

At Southeast Alaska canneries like the one at Funter Bay, the first step was the fish trap, either the floating or pile variety (I discussed fish trap types and issues here, and have a location map here).

trap_diagram

Image courtesy of Historic American Engineering Record / Library of Congress, Tim Whitely 1993. Modified from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ak0437.sheet.00002a/

After the trap was filled with fish, it would be “brailed” or emptied into a scow (barge) by lifting the nets and dumping the fish. I previously posted a set of postcard images showing this process here.

funter_brailing_1908

Courtesy University of Washington Freshwater and Marine Image Bank

Full scows were then towed by cannery tenders to the wharf. Below are several loads of salmon arriving at the Funter cannery:

scows2

Courtesy of the Alaska State Library, William R Norton collection, P226-445

The following diagrams from the Historic American Engineering Record show the canning process at a typical Alaska operation (The Kake cannery, which was under the same ownership as the Funter Bay cannery in the 1930s):

kake1

Courtesy of Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service, Tim Whiteley and James Creech, 1993 & 1995.

kake2

Courtesy of Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service, Tim Whiteley and James Creech, 1993 & 1995.

Once at the cannery, the fish were unloaded by hand into a “Fish Elevator”, an angled conveyor belt which moved them up to the level of the processing line. A video clip of such a fish elevator in action can be seen here. The salmon were then sorted by species (unwanted bycatch fish were usually discarded at the scow before loading onto the elevator).

The sorted salmon were run through the canning line one species at a time, each species typically had its own brand and label. First the salmon were cleaned and dressed. Originally this was done by hand with a crew of laborers (often Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino, although the Thlinket Packing co initially had many Tlingit Native employees). Later the cleaning process was automated, with an unfortunately-named device replacing many of the labor-intensive steps in preparing the salmon.

kake3

funter_iron

During the fish cleaning process, offal (heads, gills, and guts) was conveyed to a waste bin. It was later loaded back into empty scows for disposal, as seen in this post. A small amount was sometimes sold to fur farms to feed fox and mink, but most was simply discarded. This is still commonly done in many canneries.

The hills in the photo below seem to match the head of Funter Bay, this could have been taken while dumping fish waste near the mouth of the bay.

seagulls

The following five photos are from a standard cannery of very similar design to the Thlinket Packing Co’s Funter Bay plant. These are from the Pacific Fisherman Volume 4 Annual Yearbook, of 1906, and are used as public domain per the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank’s policy. The article describes this as a cannery in Puget Sound, although one of the photos used in the article  is also labeled on a postcard as “Robert Barron’s Cannery” of “Fonters Bay”.

After cleaning, the next step for salmon bodies was cutting, originally by hand and later done by a mechanical gang knife. This sized the fish appropriately to fit in cans.

gang_knives

Cans were filled, crimped, washed, topped, and soldered shut. Again, more and more of this process became automated over time.

crimping_maching

soldering_machine

The soldered-shut cans were cooked in a retort, essentially a large steam pressure cooker (a small vent hole was left in the can during cooking, and soldered shut afterward). At the Washington cannery this was done for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 240 degrees F and 15psi.

retort

After being removed from the retort and given time to cool, the cans were run through a labeling machine to receive the appropriate label for the species and brand. Quality control workers checked the weight and seal at various points during the process.

labelling machine

Some can labels from the Thlinket Packing Co are seen in this post.

Finished cans were packed into boxes built from prefab sections and assembled at the cannery.

The next two images were in a batch of photographs from Funter Bay, taken around 1919. The first photo appears to show cans moving through some machinery (perhaps the soldering machine) and stacking up on a cooling rack prior to being loaded into a retort for cooking. The exposure is long enough that the top row of cans appeared on the pile while the shutter was open (they look transparent). People moving in the background are also blurry. Assembled wooden boxes are seen in the background.

machinery2

The next photo is a little harder to make out, but includes an angled ramp on the right hand side, similar to the can filler machine. Empty cans were stored in the loft above the canning floor, and dropped down to the working stations through these ramps. Overhead belts fed power to the equipment from a central engine. A spare belt is seen wrapped around the top of the machine.

machinery1

The filler machine at Funter Bay can be seen below. empty cans are being fed in from overhead ramps:

funter_filler_machine

Courtesy of Alaska State Library, William R. Norton Photograph collection, ASL-P226-453

The interior of the T.P. Co Cannery at Funter is seen in this 1907 image (below). Metal cooling racks are stacked on the right, while conveyors are in the center. A vent hood near the middle could be a soldering station. A slightly different version of this image labeled “Interior Canning Department” can be seen here.

Another image from about the same time shows 75,000 cases of salmon in the Thlinket Packing Co’s warehouse. The cans have not yet been boxed up. Another warehouse view is here.

Once packaged, the finished product was shipped South on commercial steamers or on freight ships owned by the cannery, to be sold to wholesale grocers for delivery to the consumer. Salmon in a can would appear on the shelf much as it does today, in fact the colors and art used on labels today is very similar to that of historic labels.

2005_06_191_f

Sea Rose Brand Salmon Label from Thlinket Packing Co., c. 1905. Image courtesy of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, 2005.06.191.

 

modern_cans

Modern salmon cans, photo by the author.