Tue, April 23, 2013

Alaska’s Historic Canneries

By Anjuli Grantham

During the early twentieth century, the most visible signs of human settlement in most of coastal Alaska were dozens of isolated canneries. These industrial processing facilities were mini-towns in their own right, with their own stores, metal shops, and carpenters, in addition to port facilities and housing. Alaskan canneries were the most ethnically diverse enclaves in the territory, with Asians, Natives, Latinos, and Europeans rubbing shoulders as they sauntered down the docks. After all, it was the riches of the sea that brought the bulk of the then new immigrants to our coastal communities, just as it is the riches of the sea that sustain our ports today.

Northwest Fisheries cannery at Naknek, 1918

However, today you are more likely to find the worn down nubs of a dock piling than a standing cannery structure as you cruise our waterways. Our canneries are critical to the history of our state, yet they are neglected resources that are actively deteriorating before their histories and structures are documented. Yet Alaska’s historic canneries are architectural treasures, not due to their high design, but due to the significance of the stories that they embody.
The Alaska Historical Society’s cannery committee is dedicated to educating individuals about the importance of our state’s canneries to Alaska history, culture, and identity. We are eager to share the history of our canneries and advocate for their preservation and documentation. One way that we hope to accomplish this aim is through our blog, Alaska’s Historic Canneries. This blog is meant to be a place for cannery history buffs to gather. It is not only a forum for cannery histories, but also a place to share personal stories that relate to canneries, photos, art, etc.
Please visit us at: alaskancanneries.blogspot.com
So many Alaskans and visitors have a cannery story – what is yours? Please be in touch if you are interested in contributing.