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June 25, 1936: Who were these fish-packing men?

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: November 25, 2010 - 10:15 PM
In the depths of the Great Depression, the Minneapolis Star sought to reassure readers that happy days were just around the corner with a dry, statistics-heavy series on the “convalescing” economy of northern Minnesota. Editors used the photo below to illustrate a page one story headlined “Duluth Centers Trade Drive on Good Roads.” Bad call: The story made no mention of commercial fishing or fish packing.

With little to work with, the poor caption writer had to go fish, writing: “PACKING SUPERIOR TROUT / Duluth plants also pack fish shipped from the Pacific coast.” The poor reader was left to wonder (then as now): Who were these three men, and which plant employed them? The photo offers a few tantalizing clues. But the answers, so far, have proved to be frustratingly elusive. Perhaps a reader can help me out here.

 

Examine the photo closely and you'll see clues in the printing on the men's caps ("American" and "Beav-") and the objects on the wall ("Duluth" and "Elliott" and "-Parker Co").
UPDATE: An e-mail from Peggy Johnson arrived on Nov. 24, 2010:

Your article entitled "Who were these fish-packing men? was sent to me by a relative who thought the man in the picture on the left side was my father. She was right. This is my father Henry Saaski who worked at Rust Parker in Duluth in the 30's. I was one year old in 1936 when the picture was taken. He also worked at Kemp Fisheries and at a Cooperative in Hancock, Michigan in the fish department. He was employed at the Bell Telephone Company in Duluth before he passed away in l968. For a title....Our Family did not starve during the depression...we had plenty of fish and my father had a job. And, it is nice to have this picture of my father from those days.

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