ALTHOUGH in modern America fish culture is not commonly regarded as a branch of agriculture, the British works on agriculture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries frequently dealt with the subject. Worlidge Systema Agriculturae was one of these. The section "Of Fishing" occupies ten pages, and treats of Angling, of Taking Fish by Nets, Pots, or Engines, and of Fish-Ponds.
It is easily understood how such a treatise would be of interest to the farmers of colonial America, for fish comprised a major source of food in the New World. To the colonial agriculturist, fishing might be an important side-line to farming. It is not surprising, therefore, that Read devotes a part of his agricultural notebook to fisheries, particularly since, as we have seen, in 1763 he established a commercial fishery on the Delaware River.
Pertinent to his fishing enterprise are the description of his shad net, made in 1760, the diagram of a fishing weir, and the recipe for making glue from sturgeon. The last item reflects a colonial industry that reached beyond the scope of the household. It is of special interest in this setting because it is headed with the comment, apparently in Read's own handwriting: "In a Letter from London to B. Franklin Esqr. wch he sent me." The recipe, dated July 29, 1763, at East Smithfield, London, was from one H. Jackson. Such a subject would naturally have been of interest to Franklin. We may reasonably infer that the philosopher knew of Read's fishery and with this in view, passed the information on to him.
My Nett made 1760 is knitt on a Mash Stick 2 ⅞ in. round & has in ye body 78 mashes in Depth. This Makes a Shad nett.
Some say that Camphire & Assafetida made into an Ointment wth sweet oyl & touch your bait wth it makes fish bite.
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Publication information: Book title: Ploughs and Politicks:Charles Read of New Jersey and His Notes on Agriculture, 1715-1774. Contributors: Carl Raymond Woodward - Author. Publisher: Rutgers University Press. Place of publication: New Brunswick, NJ. Publication year: 1941. Page number: 399.
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