Professor Cronin and I have made progress strides in tracking down the missing corresponding articles and wood engravings. It has proven to be very difficult because it is common practice for people who find the engravings to discard the article that goes with it and frame the engraving to sell. Luckily, we have had luck contacting the collectors and sellers and getting clues as to where we can find the articles. Sometimes they still have them.
The reason the articles are so crucial is because they provide invaluable insight into the the impact the fishing industry had on the Hudson River. It also simply describes what is exactly going on in the image. Some are even as detailed as describing a step by step process or blueprint of the practice of fishing the men were doing in the image. Being a fisherman, John has noticed that some of the same practices are still done today, almost 200 years later.
Working on this project has been incredible. Growing up next to the Hudson River, I always knew of the importance it has to us today in every aspect, but I never knew how important it has been to the country as a whole. While looking through these engravings, I’ve come across images depicting West Point morning drills in the late 1800s, steam boat races, and mass Fourth of July celebrations along the river by everyone in the area. I’ve learned that the Hudson River is rich with history and stories that are rarely spoken about and I’m honored to work with professor Cronin in working to uncover and tell the story of why it is often called “America’s First River”.
Thus far, researching the Hudson River Fishing Industry has been very elightening. I was excited to get back to uncovering more about the history of it all, and furthering my understanding of such a complex time in not only New York History, but also US history.
Luckily, I haven’t run into any challenges in researching besides tracking down relevant information. The books and other sources of media I sift through offer an exorbitant amount of information on the Hudson River and life along the Hudson, but not as much relevant information when it comes to the fishing industry. Regardless, we are making progress in uncovering and understanding the policy decisions. For example, while searching through a book entitled “Life Along the Hudson”, which is a compilation of wood engravings of Hudson River Subjects from Harper’s Weekly magazine, 1859-1903, I stumbled upon an engraving of Seth Green’s Shad Nursery. The article accompanying it explained that in April 1868, the Legislature of the State of New York passed a much-needed act for the protection of shad. At the time, the Hudson River was practically closed by various nets of so small a mesh that mature shad could not ascend to the usual spawning beds. The law imposed regulations on net mesh sizes and designated the season for shad fishery. Then, the Commissioners of Fisheries engaged the services of Mr. Seth Green, and set him to work to restock the Hudson River with shad, and save the food source which would’ve otherwise soon been exhausted.
This is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle that is the Hudson River fishing industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. We hope to continue finding more sources like this in order to properly assemble a comeprehensive history of the fishing industry.
Professor Cronin and I have compiled and began reading through documents including oral interviews, books, and news articles, all of which talk about the Hudson River in the 19th and 20th centuries. We will continue to see if sources, such as the New York Public Library, have more historical data or pieces that we can add and gain insight from. By collecting and reading these documents, I am beginning to fully understand the factors that lead up to the ban on commerial fishery in the Hudson and also the repercussions of it. The interviews have been very helpful in providing context. They also offer a firsthand account that paints a picture of the time. It’s as if I am reading a story that is still unfolding today just a few miles from my doorstep.
While reading through these documents, I’ve learned just how overlooked this story is, and how it needs to be told. Each document I read is a vestige to modern day environmentalism, public policy and the history of this country. I think that if everyone was able to see what this river and the people who survived off of it has seen, it would provide for a greater, more in depth context of how New York state came to be what it is now.
The research topic will be the Hudson River and its fishery in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is the premise for a book to be published by Cornell University Press, entitled RIVERMAN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN ICON. The research will consist of historical records, public and private archives, media, scholarship, and recorded oral histories that will develop a historical portrait of the commercial fishery and its role in Hudson River regional culture and identity.
Professor John Cronin and I will assemble this research from the sources mentioned along with state and federal reports, and scientific research from the era to create a contemporaneous portrait of the Hudson River commercial fishery of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This portrait will help to illuminate the human cost at stake when policy decisions were made inside agencies, and the consequences to an irreplaceable Hudson River tradition when those policy decisions failed. The plight of the Hudson River’s commercial fisherman is an important case study that fully embodies the failures of public policy and and the dire consequences for Hudson River families whose tradition date back centuries. I hope to provide research of these cases in order to avoid further shortcomings from public policy.
This topic is very important to me because I have a deep appreciation and interest in the Hudson River. It has many amazing stories to tell, ranging from its strategic use during the American Revolution to its importance to one of United States’ oldest industries-fishing. I want to carry out this research because the Hudson River commercial fishery of the 19th century is a central but largely unknown chapter of the river’s history, making it a prime topic to research in order to educate. It will also assist me in fully understanding policy and its influence over all aspects of the socioeconomic development of a nation.