March 04, 2009

The Gloucester Fisherman

Today's recipe booklet is a bit of a fluke, mainly because I found it at a thrift store in the nearby suburbs. This is only the second or third time I have ever found a recipe booklet with a publication date as early as this one in a thrift store here in the nation's fourth largest city.

Although it's really not that old at all, Old Gloucester Sea Food Recipes (1936, 32 pages) is way older than those I usually come across by chance here in Texas (outside of an antique sales venue, anyway). I was quite surprised to see it there, mixed in with the meager selection of other used cookbookbooks that hadn't changed much since the last time I'd visited.

The artwork on the cover sets it apart immediately from the glossy photographic covers of fairly recent supermarket checkout booklets which are the kind I usually find. Sadly, I can find no artist's name in which to attribute the delightful illustrations found on the covers and throughout the booklet.

The Gloucester Fisherman was otherwise known as Frank E. Davis of the Frank E. Davis Fish Company which was located in Gloucester, Massachusetts. His company, established in 1885, specialized in mail order fish, supplying canned and salted fish products to people all over the country.

On a page in the rear of the booklet is a color illustration of some of their canned products: shrimp, mackerel, codfish, crabmeat, salmon, sardines, lobster, Finnan Haddie, herring, fish flakes, tunny and clam chowder, as well as a package of codfish steaks.

This illustration was for a "Get Acquainted Assortment" and was not all-inclusive of their available products. The recipes call for other items not pictured, such as clam juice, clam soup, clam bouillon, clam cakes, codfish fluff, fresh codfish, fresh mackerel, codfish, haddock and mackerel roe, caviar, anchovy paste, oysters, sea moss, fresh halibut, fish chowder, Norwegian fish balls, and fish flakes.

The booklet also shows renderings of their place of business, first a small fish shack, as shown in the Introduction below, and then later, a large, modern concrete stucture.

This being the 1930s, the booklet also mentions the use of "sanitary methods" in the new building, a marketing point that advertisers used extensively back then when people were more cautious of processed food.

Cameos of Frank E. Davis and his son Arthur C. Davis are also shown.

There are quite a few recipes inside, occasionally illustrated in color. There's an alphabetical recipe index on the last page, as well as recipe suggestions divided into breakfast, lunch, dinner and those suitable for luncheons, suppers and parties.

I thought the following were a couple of the more unusual recipes:


2/3 cup Davis Sea Moss
3 cups Cold Water
1/2 cup Sugar
4 tbsp. Cocoa

Wash Sea Moss well, measuring after washing, pressing down firmly in cup. Put in pan with cold water and boil fast for five minutes or until the Sea Moss is partly dissolved and liquid quite thick--strain through cheesecloth. Mix suar, cocoa and hot water, add strained sea moss, put over fire and boil for a second or so, so it will mix well. Pour into moulds which have been wet in cold water, set in a cool place for one-half hour. Will keep a number of days without getting tough.


Davis Sea Moss
Lemon Juice

Place a little Sea Moss in cold water and set on back of stove until somewhat glutinous or syrupy and strain, adding a little sugar and lemon juice. A spoonful or more, occasionally, will be found very soothing to the throat.

What are Fish Flakes? Is that similar or the same as tunafish? Maybe it was the fish equivalent of tater tots. This recipe sounds like Creamed Tuna to me:


1 can Davis Fish Flakes
1 pt. Milk
1 tbsp Flour

Add a pint or more of milk to the Fish Flakes, according to the size can used. When it boils slowly, add butter, a little pepper, and thickening of one heaping tablespoonful of flour in enough cold water to make a cream. Stir well, and cook about five minutes longer.

The recipe for Devilled Crabs on this page was used at least once or twice as is apparent by the stains and the notations in fountain pen ink and pencil:

This old Davis Fish Company ad from 1901, as do many of their other advertisements, speaks of a free Recipe Book that's included with each order. Perhaps this booklet is one that came with someone's order. Someone from landlocked Kansas, who might have been deliriously happy to acquire ocean fish and seafood in any shape or form.

The rear cover of the booklet has a wonderful map showing locations of the company plant in Gloucester and their fisheries in Nova Scotia.


At 2:28 PM CST, Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

What a "pretty" booklet Kathy. Some of those colorful booklets from the 30's have some amazing art work. I do wish they would have given proper credit back then.

I'm thinking your right about the fish flakes. I have an old Gorton's book which calls for fish flakes in a recipe for codfish patties. I wonder if cod fish once came canned???

I can't get over the use of Sea Moss. I'm wondering whether it was anything like what is now claimed to be healthy and full of minerals, or perhaps Irish Moss (once used for beer making.) Hmmm...I will have to do some fishing and dig deeper someday:)

Thanks for sharing...

At 10:01 PM CDT, Blogger Rochelle R. said...

What a great find! The front and rear cover illustration is charming. They certainly had a big product line. My Mom used to buy some canned fish to make codfish cakes when I was a child so I guess cod fish was sold canned.

At 2:13 PM CDT, Blogger P-Dot said...

Remember the TV commercial with the's the Gloucester Fisherman.....
One of my residents at the last building I managed was in advertising in NY before she came to Seattle. She did that commercial. When ever I heart that phrase, I think of her.

At 5:14 PM CDT, Blogger Donna said...

Those are some unusual recipes, I think the only thing worse than chocolate jelly would be tough chocolate jelly...

At 8:59 AM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

Hi Donna, thanks for stopping by!

At 8:09 PM CDT, Blogger Sam said...

I was feeling depressed this evening and decided to look at old magazines to cheer myself up. I like the cheery advertisments in them more than the actual articles. Today's advertisments make me feel, well, depressed.

You might be interested to know that there is an advertisment for The Gloucester Fisherman in the February, 1935 edition of National Geographic. This is why I stumbled upon your blog.

In his advertisment you could send off for a salted bucket of individual sized fish fillets for $2.00. It looks like the trend of many of the advertisments in the same magazine was that you didn't have to send any money until you tried the product and decided you liked it.

I feel as if I've seen The Ghost of Customer Service Past.

At 9:31 PM CST, Anonymous Joel said...

found a book, paper, 18 number pages, say on front "Correct Recipes for Sea Food Cookery Including the preparation of all of Davis' Fish Products Compliments of Frank E. Davis Fish Company S Central Wharf Gloucester Mass." Has a picture of a three legged flame stand with lid and handle. If you want more let me know. Joel


Post a Comment

<< Home