Funter Bay History: A Commemorative Plate

September 15, 2017

This somewhat mysterious artifact rests in the Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s collections. A fancy gold-edged plate or dish with a portrait of five Native Alaskan women from Funter Bay.

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The plate has no indication of when or why it was made, the only marks other than Museum collection numbers being a “Made in Germany” stamp on the bottom.

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The artwork is not attributed on the plate itself, but is clearly based on a 1907 Case & Draper photo from Funter Bay.

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39

Whether the plate was commissioned by the Thlinket Packing Co, or by Case & Draper studios, or by someone else, I don’t know. I’m also not sure if it were a one-off product for a company executive or family member, or some mass-produced item sold as a souvenir or offered as advertising material. Such plates with Alaska scenes were sometimes commissioned by companies as advertising, but there is no company name on it.

The JDCM catalog notes that this was donated by Mamie and Marcus Jensen, and used by the Feusi family of Douglas.

I would love to find more information on this curious Funter Bay plate, if anyone knows more they are encouraged to contact me!

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Thanks again to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for letting me see and photograph this artifact!

 

 

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Funter Bay History: Cannery Licenses

September 13, 2017

Earlier this summer I visited the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on a research trip. Among the many interesting pieces in their collections were a set of business license and related paperwork for the Thlinket Packing Co cannery at Funter Bay.

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There are separate application forms in the file for both the cannery and the saltery side of the operation, for the season starting in 1908.

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There are also applications for the 1907 season:

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A letter from the district court in 1908 reminded the Thlinket Packing Co that they had not yet paid their taxes on the 1907 salmon pack:

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These documents are all from the Juneau Douglas City Museum’s collections, Item #2008.21.073, “Application for cannery license for Thlinket Packing & Trading Co.” and 2008.21.075, “Application for saltery license for Thlinket Packing & Trading Company“. Much thanks to Jodi DeBruyne for helping me locate and view these items!

 


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

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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.

 


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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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.


Funter Bay History: Cannery Shipping and Maintenance

June 30, 2016

I recently received a few Funter Bay images from Michael and Carolyn Nore, collectors of historic Alaska postcards and photos. These show some of the Thlinket Packing Co’s operations between about 1914 and 1920. Most are prior to 1918 (based on the cards used), but some are from the same summer as the photos seen previously in this post.

The first photo is a great shot of the Cannery wharf and main buildings, marked “Front View of Cannery”. The large “Thlinket Packing Co” sign is visible above the warehouse. The mess hall and store is barely visible in the rear right, and the Superintendent’s house with its large porch is seen on the left.

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Moving inland, a set of two images show the rear of the cannery buildings. The large chimneys were from the main boiler house.

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The previous photo shows a number of handprints marking the foreground building. I am not sure what this building is, as it does not appear on either the 1964 or 1942 property maps.

Another set shows one of the cannery’s steam-powered pile drivers. I am not sure how many of these units the Thlinket Packing co owned, the remains of a smaller one is on the beach at Funter Bay. A large unit nearly identical to the one in these pictures appears in a 1926 photo at the mine wharf (seen on this page).

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Some scows, rowboats, and a gas boat are seen at the dock and wharf in the next photo. This is a little later than the others, dated May 21 1920:

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The photo below shows a gas boat or launch under the pipeline from the cannery’s oil tank, in June 1920.

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The next photo is labeled “One of the company tugs with a diver repairing her rudder”. It shows a sailing vessel alongside the cannery’s steam tug Anna Barron and a variety of smaller boats. Men on the sailboat are operating an air compressor and have lowered a ladder and several pipes and ropes over the side. What appears to be a diving suit is draped over the sailboat’s boom.

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Moving up in vessel sizes, the next photo shows the Pacific Coast Steamship Co’s City of Seattle at the cannery wharf. The appearance of the ship dates this to 1914 or later, as the City of Seattle was completely rebuilt that year and converted from coal to oil fuel. Prior to 1914 the ship had a different superstructure and the foremast was aft of the wheelhouse, as seen here. The re-built ship can also be seen here and a description of the refit is here. Like other commercial steamers, the ship would call at canneries as needed to transport supplies, products, and workers.

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Next is a photo of the “Indian Village” located Northeast of the cannery. While postcards tend to call this a village, most accounts state it was not occupied year round. The area was more of a seasonal camp for native employees of the cannery who lived there in the summer.

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And the last photo shows an interesting gazebo on the hill behind the cannery, with some Tlingit employees relaxing on benches. What appear to be a number of halibut can be seen hanging from the boardwalk below. The date is not given but is probably between 1914-1918.

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Thanks again to the Nores for sharing these great images!


Funter Bay History: Seattle High School Students

March 24, 2015

In the summer of 1919, a group of Seattle high school students traveled to Alaska to work at the Funter Bay cannery. One or more of the group took a number of photos during this and possibly subsequent trips. I have been posting photos from this collection over the last several weeks.

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The above photo was likely taken soon after arrival at Funter Bay. The boys are wearing outfits more appropriate for school than for cannery work. One boy on the left has a Ballard HS letter jacket.

A list of the students along with contact information for their parents is labeled “Contracts… Funter Bay”. The back has some of the same names along with numbers, perhaps related to hours or pay.

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The names on the list are:
Clarence Hawley
George Anderson
Malcolm Owen
Harold Hendrickson
Roy F. Swenson
Marvin Kleve
Ed Wilkerson
George Fraley
Gilbert Swart
Elmer Green
Cedric Hilton
Eugene Walby
Robert Stevens
Webster Hallett

Twelve of these boys attended Ballard High School, while two (Owen and Hallett) attended Lincoln High School.

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Professor Carl Milton Brewster taught Chemistry at Washington State University. Some of these students went on to study Chemistry at various Washington colleges. Prof. Brewster is likely the older man seen in several of the group photos (at center, below). The students have acquired more rugged outfits and a variety of hats in this photo:

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Some of these photos are RPPCs, or private photos printed on postcard stock. Several images are wallet-size prints with writing on the reverse side, and some of the smaller prints are partially hand-colorized. There were also a few commercial postcards, likely purchased during the trip. As some of the photos in this set are from later years, one or more of the boys probably returned for subsequent summers. Cannery work reportedly paid better than the summer jobs available in Seattle at the time.

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Written on the back of this photo; “We are rowing boat on the bay”. The cannery bunkhouses are visible in the background:

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And on this photo; “We boys cross the bay and go up to the tunnel of the gold mine”. Apparently a visit to the mine required fancier clothes! This may have been a day off for the boys, or could have been an educational visit to learn about assaying or other mine-related topics.

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This photo of Harold Hendrickson is labeled “Me (Buck)”. He may have been the photographer of some or all of these images:

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After graduation several of these boys attended the University of Washington, including Harold Hendrickson, Clarence Hawley, and Gilbert Swart. Hawley and Swart both went into chemical engineering. Hendrickson seems to have followed the relatively new field of air conditioning, writing several papers on the subject. He is listed in the 1940 census as an Air Conditioning Engineer in California.

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Some associated photos from the same collection were taken at other locations, possibly by the same people on their way to or from Funter Bay. These include more RPPCs, trimmed wallet-size prints, and at least one commercial postcard.

Inside passage view, possibly from a steamship:

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View from a ship, probably of Taku Glacier near Juneau:

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The next two images show the Steamship Admiral Evans, which occasionally called at Funter Bay. The first appears to be a commercial postcard, possibly purchased on board. The 2nd seems to be labeled in the same way as some of the cannery tender photos from this collection. This may have been taken on the way to Funter Bay at the start of the 1920 season.

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Many of the Ballard students seen here went on to form a club called the “Knights of the Moon”, established January 31, 1920 (Per the Seattle Times). As described in a 1994 Times article, the club was started by 13 friends who attended Ballard High School in 1917, 1918, and 1919. Most of the club members were school athletes who played basketball and baseball, and the club fielded Church League and City League teams after high school.  Several members were good singers, who would go to “Ballard Beach” in Seattle to “bay at the moon” according to Clarence Anderson (George Anderson’s brother). The club would put on dances, beach parties, and theater parties. Anderson reported that there was no drinking at these parties, and credits the club for keeping some young people out of trouble.

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Eventually the club reached 50 members, pledging new members like a fraternity, and not missing a monthly meeting until 1987. The Times article went on to report the final meeting in 1994, as only three charter members were still alive.  (Charter Members were listed as Carl Anderson, George Fraley, George Frazier, Clarence Hawley, Harold Hendrickson, Herman Leander, Richard Smith, Roy Swenson, Edwin Wilkerson, Rolf Wiggen, Clarence Anderson, George Anderson, and Harold Shepard).

Several of my recent posts feature other photos from this collection, possibly including and/or taken by some of these people. They are:
Steam Donkey Part II (includes another group photo of the Ballard Students)
1920s Cannery Postcards
1920s Cannery Workers
Cannery Tender Operations
Navy Ships
Dano Mine Part II

I would like to thank Dr. Alice Eagly for providing information about her father, Harold Hendrickson. I would also like to thank the Ballard High School foundation for providing research material on these students.


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).

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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.

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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:

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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):

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

 

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Modern salmon cans, photo by the author.