When the shipbuilding industry began to fail in the early 1800’s people living along the shore of the Northumberland Strait began to look at the lobster and fishing industry for a way to support their families.
In the mid 1800’s, may fisherman worked for cod, herring, salt fish and lobster and took them to the factories to sell. At this time, fish was much cheaper than compared to today’s costs, and more plentiful.
Lobster was considered a “poor man’s meal” and fisherman even used the lobster to fertilize their fields, and often children were teased when they would take lobster sandwiches to school.
The lobster fishery was slow to grow because of the difficulty in preserving the meat. Other fish could be dried or salted but lobsters were only edible for a short time after they were caught.
Before factories became popular along the North shore of Nova Scotia, lobsters were canned in the homes of the fishermen by their wives. The women would boil the lobster, extract the meat and pack them into cans. Each can contained one pound of meat, and were usually sold in packs of 48.
“green in the sea, red in the pot, and black in the can.”
The lobster fishery began to boom in the 1870-1880’s, and since lobster meat would go bad quickly the meat had to be canned immediately.
Most wharves and ports had a cannery or factory on site so that the lobster could be canned as quickly as possible.
Canning lobster allowed the delicacy to be exported to other countries and the lobster industry suddenly became an important economic anchor to the Atlantic economy.
Fishermen would haul in their traps and nets in a considerable shorter amount of time since lobster was so plentiful. They would then take the fish to canneries where they were packed into cans, and the covers were soldered on with a stick of solder and a hot soldering rod.
Then, the cans were put into a hot water bath for a couple of hours. When the cans were taken out, a small hole was punched in the top to allow the steam to escape. The hole would be soldered back in and the cans were put back in the water baths.
Since each can had to be done individually, canning the lobster was a long process.
In the 1930’s the export of fresh lobster became available because of new technology, such as the railroad, gas engines and refrigeration. The number of canneries soon dropped as live lobsters could be transported to other parts of the world for processing.
(Provided by Northumberland Fisheries Museum)