AHS Blog

Salmon Labels Tell History

Date Posted: December 7, 2015       Categories: Alaska's Historic Canneries       Tags: coen, fishing, Ketchikan, labels, salmon

History can come in all shapes and sizes. University of Washington PhD student Ross Coen was in Ketchikan in mid-November to give a presentation on the history of the canned salmon industry in Alaska, and to research a subject he’s passionate about, salmon can labels.

Ross Coen admits that he’s a “nerd” when it comes to his interest in salmon can labels.  Just like someone might collect baseball cards, there are those who collect labels from fish packers. Coen was at the museum in Ketchikan recently to observe photos, documents and other archival information about the canned salmon industry for his research.  He also helped to document and catalog salmon labels in the museum’s collection.

Coen says the canned salmon industry was at its height in the early 1900’s. At that time, refrigeration wasn’t generally available and canning provided an easy way to transport food throughout the world. Coen says part of his fascination with fish packing labels is that they tell a history of time and place.

Researcher Ross Coen views some of the labels in the museum's collection.

Researcher Ross Coen views some of the labels in the museum’s collection.

“Each label is a snapshot, a moment in time of history, that reflects the political circumstances, the cultural conditions and economic conditions that were going on at the time that these labels were produced and the salmon was marketed.”

To listen to the story by Maria Dudzak of KRBD Ketchikan Radio click here:

Salmon Labels Tell History