GLMS 77 - McLean Brothers Fisheries Company
|Title||GLMS 77 - McLean Brothers Fisheries Company|
|Subject||Business & Commerce|
The original company records for this seven microfilm reel collection were loaned to Bowling Green State University for microfilming in 1973 by the Province of Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources. Steven Nepszy coordinated this project for the government of Ontario.
Literary and property rights were dedicated to the public. Photocopying from microfilm is permitted for research purposes.
The turn of the twentieth century witnessed a rapid growth in commercial fishing centered in Ontario's Lake Erie ports. Founded in ca. 1895, Enoch McLean and Son began operations at Wheatley, Ontario in the western end of the lake near the Pelee Peninsula. This company became known as McLean Brothers Fisheries by the 1920s.
The McLean company began as a principal pound net operation for Ontario. Construction of rail lines such as the Tillsonburg, Lake Erie and Pacific Railroad in the 1890s allowed Canadian fishing companies to rapidly ship their catch to distributors. The boom of the 1890s and early 1900s was sparked in large measure by the herring catch. In 1904 a record harvest for herring was noted at 2,644,300 pounds. Records for the fishing industry showed 648 men licensed in the Canadian Lake Erie fisheries in 1904. Increasingly large catches were making substantial incomes available to these men.
George McLean's company in the 1920s followed the trend toward use of steam tugs as replacements for pound nets to improve efficiency of operations. Survival depended on successful economizing in order to meet the competition from other companies.
Increased use of local markets for sale of products was recognized as desirable in efforts to keep greater profits in Canadian hands. In the 1890s the New York City-based Peek Slip Market bought most of the Lake Erie catch and paid the fishing companies a fixed rate determined in annual contracts. The price established by Peek Slip was often subject to change at the expense of the Canadians' fee. Spoilage was often cited as the reason for cutting the share received by McLean Brothers.
Increased mechanization in processing plants in Wheatley and other ports allowed the Canadians to pull away from Peek Slip's control of the market. Large freezing and filleting plants prepared a product that could be shipped by rail quickly to other markets besides New York, eliminating spoilage and forcing buyers to make competitive offers to fishermen.
The McLean Brothers Fisheries company was part of the long term trend on the Great Lakes that saw the dominance in the fishing market of the United States over Canada begin to diminish from 1900 to 1970. Around 1900 the United States harvested 80% of the overall annual catch. This figure stayed around 75% until 1950. The United States portion of the Great Lakes is about 64% of the total. One can see the disproportionate share of the harvest obtained by the United States fishing companies. By 1970 a change had occurred to where 40% of the harvest came from Canada's 36% of the Great Lakes.
The career of fishing companies such as McLean Brothers marked a stable component of Ontario's economy for most of the twentieth century. The Lake Erie fishing industry of the early 1900s was concentrated in the western basin. Despite periodic shifts eastward, the western basin remained the focus of Canadian fishing in Lake Erie. The western Lake Erie fisheries are as relatively important today in Ontario's economy as they were in the 1880s or 1890s. Wheatley, Ontario is reportedly the largest freshwater fish-processing center in the world.
|Scope and Content|
This collection of seven microfilm reels of records for the McLean Brothers Fisheries Company in Wheatley, Ontario documents the activities of a Canadian Lake Erie fishing company for the years 1908-1960. Account records form the largest segments of the collection. Reels 1-5 contain forty-eight Fish Account Books for 1908-1956. These volumes records the sale of fish by the McLean Brothers to companies distributing the catch to consumers. Reels 5-7 contain thirty-one Day Books recording office expenses for company operations from 1928-1960. Six Wage Books for 1923-1955 list employees and wages on reel 7.
Smaller series present scattered information on the fishing industry. Correspondence for 1920-1952 discusses fish sales, supply purchases and stock sales. Income tax returns for 1917-1934 provide the reader with a view of the measure of success the company achieved. Gasoline tax refund information for 1935-1939, 1952-1956 describes a Canadian tax benefit available to commercial gasoline purchasers. Miscellaneous employee and supply purchase records for 1946-1956 complete the collection.
The time span covered by the account records offers a lengthy view into the expenses faced by a Great Lakes fishing company and the changes in the catch species over a forty-eight year period.
FISH ACCOUNT BOOKS 1-48
DAY BOOKS 1-31
WAGE BOOKS 1-6
INCOME TAX RETURNS
GASOLENE TAX REFUND APPLICATIONS
|Order of Microfilming|
Reel 1: Fish Account Books 1-6, 1908-1920
Reel 2: Fish Account Books 7-20, 1922-1933
Reel 3: Fish Account Books, 21-32, 1933-1941
Reel 4: Fish Account Books, 33-43, 1942-1950
Reel 5: Fish Account Books, 43-48, 1951-1956 and Day Books 1-8, 1928-1935
Reel 6: Daybooks 8-26, 1934-1951
Reel 7: Daybooks 27-31, 1951-1960; Income Tax Returns, 1917-1934; Wage Books 1-6, 1923-1955; Correspondence 9-27-1920 to 02-11-1952; Gasoline Tax Papers; Miscellaneous Papers