The dangerous lives of Gloucester fishermen

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
31 PHOTOS
Inside the history of one of America's oldest fishing towns
See Gallery
Inside the history of one of America's oldest fishing towns

c. 1900

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A fisherman mends his nets, c. 1900 

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Fishermen play cards on the docks, c. 1937 

(Photo via Library of Congress)

The son of a fisherman hangs out on the docks, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Relatives of fishermen lost at sea gather for a memorial service, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Seagulls pursue the Alden in search of scraps, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the Alden rest on deck, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men from the Alden haul in their seining nets from dories 45 miles off Gay Head, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the Alden haul in their nets, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the deck of the Alden, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the Old Glory dump excess ice from the hold to make room for more fish during an especially successful trip, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men load their ship with rosefish. Only a thin slice from each fish is usable as food; the rest is used for fish meal and fish oil, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Contending with wartime shortages of twine and hemp, men mend their nets at sunset, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the Alden clean mackerel, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men from the Alden haul in a school of mackerel in their nets, c. 1943 

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men on the Old Glory haul in nets full of rosefish, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men aboard the Old Glory haul up a load of fish, nearly all of which is destined for consumption by the armed forces, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A man shovels loads of rosefish into the hold of a ship, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men review the record of the day's catch, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A man aboard the Alden rests after working for 24 hours straight, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men play cards as their ship heads home with a hold full of fish, c. 1943

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A monument to fishermen lost at sea, c. 1942

(Photo via Library of Congress)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Incorporated in 1642, the Massachusetts town of Gloucester has been one of the centers of the North Atlantic fishing industry for centuries. And it's seen more than its fair share of heartbreak.

The town grew rapidly in the 1800s, as it provided a convenient launching point for trips to the fertile offshore fishing grounds of George's Bank and the Grand Banks.

Gloucester fishermen sailed in specially designed schooners optimized for speed and holding capacity to reach the banks, fill up on cod and other fish and return as quickly as possible. Many of these ship designs were unsafe and prone to capsizing in bad weather, however: Between 1866 and 1890, some 2,450 men and 380 schooners were lost at sea.

Aid organizations eventually established funds and boarding houses to support the widows and families of lost fishermen.

In the 20th century, Gloucester fishermen switched from schooners to motorized trawlers. Yet the profession remained hazardous. The vessels featured in these photos, the Old Glory and the Alden, both lost men in the 1940s.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners