Fishing and canneries

Japanese Americans found work at salmon canneries along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington, and their labor was welcomed in Alaskan towns such as Ketchikan and Petersburg as early as the 1890s. They traveled by ship to the cannery towns, where they slowly developed small communities whose population swelled with the yearly arrival of workers. Issei (Japanese immigrant) entrepreneurs started the oyster industry from scratch in Puget Sound. Japanese American oyster farms became thriving businesses before World War II.

Industry and employment (480)
Fishing and canneries (256)

Related articles from the Densho Encyclopedia :
Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission


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256 items
Steerage ticket cover (ddr-densho-15-24)
doc Steerage ticket cover (ddr-densho-15-24)
This ticket belonged to Norio Mitsuoka, who was eighteen at the time he traveled to Japan.
Workers traveling to canneries (ddr-densho-15-21)
img Workers traveling to canneries (ddr-densho-15-21)
These cannery workers are aboard the steamship "Aleutian" on its way to Alaska. Three individuals are identified: Hiroshi Yamada (middle front), Hiro Nishimura (right front), and Kenny Nakatani (back right).
Oyster farmer taking a bath (ddr-densho-15-95)
img Oyster farmer taking a bath (ddr-densho-15-95)
Norio Mitsuoka taking a bath. The water supply was limited, and workers had to depend on rainwater, which was collected in vats (behind the barrel), for bathwater.
Two men with oyster shells (ddr-densho-15-120)
img Two men with oyster shells (ddr-densho-15-120)
Hiroshi (left) and Masaru Odoi punched holes into oysters shells. The shells were strung on wire and hung on racks in the water to catch oyster spawn. Afterwards, farmers spread the shells over a bed. This was an experimental way of hatching oysters in the 1930s.
Caulking an oyster bateau (ddr-densho-15-110)
img Caulking an oyster bateau (ddr-densho-15-110)
Norio Mitsuoka caulking an oyster bateau to make it waterproof.
Marking an oyster bed (ddr-densho-15-111)
img Marking an oyster bed (ddr-densho-15-111)
Emil Nakao marking an oyster bed. The bed was marked with long poles at low tide, allowing farmers to gather the oysters with tongs at high tide.
Oyster  farmer (ddr-densho-15-97)
img Oyster farmer (ddr-densho-15-97)
"Turk" Fujiya picking oysters at low tide. A bateau, or small barge, that carried the oysters is seen in the background to the right. Long poles were used to mark the cleared areas so that the bateau would not sit on unharvested oysters.
Men on ship's deck (ddr-densho-15-39)
img Men on ship's deck (ddr-densho-15-39)
These Japanese Americans are relaxing on deck on their way to Alaska to work in the canneries. The man glancing at the camera is George Izui, whose family ran the Panama Drugstore in Seattle's Nihonmachi.
Motorized scow (ddr-densho-15-117)
img Motorized scow (ddr-densho-15-117)
This scow belonged to G. T. Mogan, one of the organizers of the Willa Point Oyster Company. The scow was equipped with a motorized dredge that farmers used to harvest oysters at high tide. The empty dredge can be seen on the left side of the boat toward the back. Two bateaux are connected to the …
Cannery workers (ddr-densho-15-41)
img Cannery workers (ddr-densho-15-41)
These workers are at Shear Water Bay near Kodiak Island. They appear to be playing cards. Left to right: unidentified, Tom Matsudaira (cannery foreman), "Cannon" Watanabe, (first name unknown) Yamasaki, and Paul Sakai.
Two men holding their halibut catch (ddr-densho-15-25)
img Two men holding their halibut catch (ddr-densho-15-25)
George Munato (left) and Takeo Dozen hold their catch of halibut from the Shear Water Bay area of Kodiak Island. The item on top of the halibut is a skate.
Men leaving for Alaska (ddr-densho-15-38)
img Men leaving for Alaska (ddr-densho-15-38)
These Japanese Americans are en route to Alaska to work in the canneries. Several can be identified: "Turk" Fujiya and Jim Yoshida stand fifth and sixth from the left; Ben Uyeno and George Yano stand third and second from the right. Ben Uyeno later became a well-known doctor in Seattle's Japanese American community. He was interviewed …
Unloading oysters from a bateau (ddr-densho-15-114)
img Unloading oysters from a bateau (ddr-densho-15-114)
Workers unloading oysters at the Willa Point Oyster Company, where the oysters were canned for shipping.
Seed oyster boxes (ddr-densho-15-112)
img Seed oyster boxes (ddr-densho-15-112)
These boxes once contained seed oysters from Japan. The oysters were strewn in the beds where oyster spawn or "spats" would attach themselves to the shells. The oysters were harvested the following season.
Cannery workers (ddr-densho-15-20)
img Cannery workers (ddr-densho-15-20)
These workers are sitting on plywood in front of the cannery.
Oyster processing machine (?) (ddr-densho-15-31)
img Oyster processing machine (?) (ddr-densho-15-31)
This photo was taken at the Yamashita oyster farm. The machine might have been used to process oyster shells.
Oyster farmer (ddr-densho-15-100)
img Oyster farmer (ddr-densho-15-100)
Norio Mitsuoka is farming oysters. Two long tongs allowed farmers to harvest oysters before the tide was completely out. Each tong had a "rake" at the end, and the farmers would scoop the oysters together between the rakes and haul them up. When full, the load weighed approximately 20 to 30 pounds. Oyster harvesters were paid …
New Washington Oyster Company (ddr-densho-15-92)
img New Washington Oyster Company (ddr-densho-15-92)
Oyster companies, such as New Washington, hired many Japanese American workers during the harvesting season.
Station-house dock (ddr-densho-15-94)
img Station-house dock (ddr-densho-15-94)
Oyster-farm workers often lived in station houses built on pilings in the bay. Since the only way to access the house was by boat, the houses had floating docks, such as the one shown here.
Interior of cannery (ddr-densho-15-43)
img Interior of cannery (ddr-densho-15-43)
Interior of the cannery before it was opened for the season. Note that several of the machines are disassembled.
Oyster farmer (ddr-densho-15-101)
img Oyster farmer (ddr-densho-15-101)
"Turk" Fugiya pushes a bateau, a small barge, with a pole. The harvested oysters were loaded on bateaux and moved by towing or by digging and pushing off on long poles.