Disasters and Calamities, 1840-1867
Drying codfish, St. Johns, NF, about 1900
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Gelatin silver process
14 x 19 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Industry (942) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
In the 19th century, fishing was the main economic activity in Newfoundland and the Golf of St. Lawrence. A bad fishing season had disastrous effects on these communities.
The men in this photo are laying out cod to dry. Cod fishing was traditionally one of the most importance resources of the Newfoundland, Cape Breton and Acadian coasts. Fishing was done from the month of April to the month of November. While one crew was fishing, the other stayed on land and gutted out the fish, opened them and then rubbed them and covered them with salt. After eight days, the cod was green, which is to say soaked with salt. To dry them, the washed flesh was exposed to the sun's rays following a very specific technique that took nearly four months. The long hours of preparation bore fruit: the dried cod was conserved for a very long time.
Cod fishing was dependant upon the migration cycle of this fish. In summer and fall, the fishermen worked from dawn until late at night to catch and prepare the cod.
The first establishments in Newfoundland were essentially places where the European fishermen dried and salted their catch.
From the end of the 15th century, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland attracted the Europeans owing to the abundance of fish found there.
Many Basque and Breton fishermen cast their lines on the coasts of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence even before permanent settlements were established there.