Report on the Salmon and Salmon Rivers of Alaska, with Notes on the Conditions, Methods, and Needs of the Salmon Fisheries


The salmon industry in the Alaska Territory during the late 19th century.

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“The Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries is hereby empowered and directed to institute an investigation into the habits, abundance, and distribution of the salmon of Alaska, as well as the present conditions and methods of the fisheries, with a view of recommending to Congress such additional legislation as may be necessary to prevent the impairment or exhaustion of these valuable fisheries, and placing them under regular and permanent conditions of production.” [pg. 165]

This report was originally written by Tarleton Bean just over a year after the aforementioned Congressional request for an inquiry into the salmon fisheries of Alaska. It was published in Washington, D.C. in 1891 by the Government Printing Office as part of a miscellaneous volume issued to members of the Senate. The 40+ pages of text, dozens of lithographic plates, and numerous folding maps provide a detailed overview of the important industry.

The plates include biological representations of different salmon species, photographs of native people, panoramas of important fisheries, and illustrations of canneries. The small folding maps cover the Kodiak Islands, mouth of the Karluk River, Karluk Lake, Port Larsen, Snug Harbor, Olga Bay, and Afognak Lake. A large folding chart (approximately 38″ x 28.5″) titled ‘Map of Alaska Showing the Location of the Salmon Canneries Season of 1889’ is self-explanatory. According to the Alaska Historical Society,

“Fisheries are closely linked to Alaska’s history. While some derided acquisition of the territory from Russia as “Seward’s icebox,” others knew that icebox was packed with fish. Fishermen began to exploited cod on the Shumagin islands and the “Slime Banks” on the Bering Sea. Industry pioneers built the first salmon canneries in Klawock and Sitka in 1878 and they quickly spread along the coast to Bristol Bay.

As the industry grew, canned salmon provided jobs and the territory with over 80 percent of its tax revenues. Canneries attracted people, and their prime locations like Petersburg, Cordova, Kodiak, and Dillingham grew into communities. Statehood advocates seized on widespread opposition to outside-controlled fish traps to win the nation’s 49th star in 1959.”

Sources: Alaska Historical SocietyThe Southeastern Alaska Salmon Industry: Historical Overview and Current Status

Map Details

Publication Date: 1891

Author: Tarleton H. Bean

Sheet Width (in): See Description

Sheet Height (in): See Description

Condition: A-

Condition Description: 44 pp. printed report (pgs. 165-208) accompanied by 35 lithographed plates (XLVI-LXXIX) and 8 folding maps. The last folding map has a 1" repaired tear where previously bound and shows a moderately toned strip in the margin and others are lightly oxidized where folded, but overall in very good condition. The contents are loose and were rescued from a busted and incomplete set of Congressional volumes. As a result they are slightly ragged along the binding edge.


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