Alaska State Historian Explains How to Can Salmon and More in Last Mug Up Weekend


“Mug Up” (Photo courtesy Jasz Garrett/KINY)

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) — Mug Up Project Leader and Alaska State Historian Katie Ringstrum spoke on Saturday about the Mug Up exhibit at the Alaska State Museum.

Bristol Bay Night at the State Museum of Alaska Saturday was 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with free admission.

Mug Up is a term used by Alaska Canneries for a coffee break.

Above: Mug Up time, approx. 1940s. Courtesy of Alaska Packers Association (APA) Museum, Drayton Harbor Maritime, Blaine, Washington.

He brought together a diverse team that shared the common working language.

Mug Up has brought together a diverse workforce: men and women, young and seasoned, global and local.

Mug Up breaks brought distant people together in unique ways.

Katie Ringstrum explained how the idea for the Mug Up Alaska Cannery exhibit came about.

“Really, this was part of a much larger project called the NA Cannery Project which was a collaborative community effort to document and preserve the history of an Alaskan cannery in South Naknek called the NA Cannery. I realized that it was coming to a point in my career that we needed to just tell the story. Because you know, if I didn’t, it would be a long time before someone actually did. environment, conservation and fisheries management. Not to mention the salmon and seafood economy in general. I mean, it’s still our number one employer. It still puts food in people’s plates and gives them a paycheck and so yes, our seafood is super important.

She commented on the personal significance that the Cannery exhibit has for her.

“I actually grew up in Washington State, but my dad was part of the industry job, the superintendent, and worked for the APA, the Alaska Packers Association. So we were going up north , like salmon, we used to spend our summers there and then come back and then work for the park service.I met my husband and now we live in Alaska and we live in Eagle River with our two boys. Also really interesting about canneries is that there are several hundred canneries here in Alaska In many ways you’re telling the story of a cannery, you’re really telling the story of most of the canneries.”

Above: A Norm Rockness suitcase, circa 1960s. Courtesy Pete Rockness.

Early superintendents, often trained as machinists, captains, or sailboat fishermen, used local knowledge of landscape features such as streams and tides in site selection and the design and layout of the cannery complex. . By mid-century, business acumen replaced local wisdom and know-how. This briefcase represents the transition to business principles of the entrepreneurial “businessmen” who rose through the ranks to become cannery superintendents after World War II.

Ringstrum explained the idea behind the exhibit setup.

“Kind of following the flow of the fish, from the working waterfront and the beach gate to you know, the inside of the cannery and the inner workings of the fish shop, the egg house. Where the fish is put in the box, the labeling process, and then the second part was the social aspects.”

Ringstrum developed the social aspects.

“What we were most interested in was telling the stories of the multicultural communities that did the work. It was actually a real challenge, how do you tell the story of a place where a lot of people have never been? so many different layers of stories. From Chinese to Mexican, Filipino, women’s stories, African American stories, business owners and Alaskan natives who Direct the. So what we decided to do is to use one place and allow the visitor to experience a cannery by going building by building.”

The canneries relied on highly-skilled Chinese workers to perform nearly all of the tasks necessary to canning salmon.

Despite their contributions to the canned salmon industry, Chinese immigrants faced racial discrimination in the late 19th century.

White workers, mostly out of work, blamed Asian competition for lower wages.

The increasing shortage of Chinese labor forces the canneries to mechanize the canning operation.

In 1900, the only part of the cannery that was not mechanized was the butchery process.

Smith’s machine proved to be a great success, cleaning 40 salmon per minute, the equivalent of an eighteen-man Chinese butcher gang.

As a result, Smith Cannery Machines Co. called its product an insulting ethnic slur, for the machine that replaced the once prominent Chinese butchers.

Above and below: An example of the exhibition, and the different “buildings” to walk through and relive.

Some of the other exhibits included a dining hall, Monkey Wrench gang (mechanical), laundry room, tagging, hospital, egg house, and fish house.

She also summarized her lecture given at the APK Lecture Hall at the Alaska State Museum on Saturday afternoon.

“I gave my lecture today on how to can salmon and the rise of advertising, national advertising, and how canned salmon played a central role in the sale of a product to a nationwide audience versus face-to-face sales. Gallery 1, the salmon gallery story tells that story through the various labels we have.”

Above: Salmon and How to Serve it Advertisement, Gift of Karen Hofstad, Alaska State Library, MS 300.

Below: Sledge Brand Can by Schmidt Lithography, Gift of Karen Hofstad, Alaska State Library, MS 300.

Canned or canned salmon usually contains 48 one-pound cans or 96 half-pound cans.

Initially, salmon crates were made of wood, as shown below.

Stencils were used to mark wooden salmon crates.

To save money and labor, canneries converted to cardboard in the 1930s.

On Saturday evening, Ringstrum gave a second lecture on the NN Cannery and the 1919 flu pandemic.

The Bristol Bay epidemic of 1919 was the last outbreak of influenza in Alaska, where more people died in higher percentages than any other people in America.

The flu buried most of Bristol Bay’s adult population, claiming between 250 and 400 people, a higher death rate than the Seward Peninsula in the fall of 1918.

Alaska Territorial Governor Thomas Riggs wrote that only 238 orphans out of Bristol Bay’s entire native population of 800 to 1,000 lived until 1920.

Above: A woman and child netting salmon in Bristol Bay, c. in the 1930s. (Collection of the Heinbockel-Payne family.)

While the men of the village were drift fishermen working from drift boats, the women participated in the salmon fishery as filleters, placing their nets along the beach. The women also worked in the dining room, the laundry room and the chicken coop.


Comments are closed.