The Salmon King of Oregon: R. D. Hume and the Pacific Fisheries

The Salmon King of Oregon: R. D. Hume and the Pacific Fisheries

The Salmon King of Oregon: R. D. Hume and the Pacific Fisheries

The Salmon King of Oregon: R. D. Hume and the Pacific Fisheries

Excerpt

This study attempts to fill some gaps in American economic history. The activities of the frontier capitalist and the businessman-conservationist, although not unfamiliar to American historians, deserve greater attention than they have received. More specifically, their roles in developing the salmon-canning industry of the Northwest have been neglected. The career of Robert Deniston Hume on the Rogue River frontier of southwestern Oregon illustrates some of these overlooked aspects of nineteenth-century United States history. Hume's business records and files of his newspapers are ample, yet they are not too full for the individual historian to manage; unfortunately, there is a dearth of personal materials: letters, diaries, and mementos, which prevents the writing of a full biography. But an economic history can be essayed.

Hume was significant specifically in the history of the Northwest in two ways. He was a salmon canner of prominence--a member of the pioneer family in the industry and an innovator in developing the techniques of the trade --and an early apostle of conservation. Although the scale of his operations was much smaller than that of his competitors on the Columbia River, his problems were the same as those of larger cannerymen: relentless competition; the search for larger domestic and foreign markets; relations with distant commission men; the supply of salmon; the securing of labor; and the difficulty of manufacturing reliable cans. Hume's solutions to these problems were vigorous, imaginative, and colorful.

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