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In Context: Factory Trawlers vs. Wooden Dories

Today we sent to the printer our latest book, Dr. John Morris’s Alone at Sea: Gloucester in the Age of the Dorymen (1623-1939) (Commonwealth Editions, Beverly, Mass.). Stunningly beautiful, thoroughly researched, and comprehensive (448 pages with 76 period photographs and maps), the book chronicles America’s premier fishing port during the age of sail — starting with Morris’s own story of his grandfather, a dory fisherman who drowned at sea. One photo shows the Harbor crowded with 400 masts; in another, a fisherman proudly holds up a 100-pound halibut. The book includes three appendixes — an extensive glossary of fishing terms; a chronology of annual catches beginning in 1808; and a list of ships and crewmen lost at sea since the 1600s, counting the widows and children left behind. Revealing the social history of an independent port build by immigrants and Yankees, the book proves all the more poignant in the context of today, on the eve of the Federal Government’s imposition of a Catch Share system that will essentially privatize the East Coast Atlantic Ocean fisheries as of May 1, turning its vast deeps and the fish therein into a commodity that can be brought, sold, and aggregated by the monied few, the banks and oil companies, ending the era of an open frontier worked by independent fishermen families in ports like Gloucester. Morris’s book makes history come alive, especially juxtaposed to the context of today.

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