Chesapeake Bay Oyster Canning Industry

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Canning Industry

The Chesapeake Bay has been a major source of seafood for as long as man has lived near its bountiful waters. After maybe the famous blue crab, the Chesapeake’s most valuable resource was the oyster. In the years after the Civil War, oysters from the Chesapeake Bay were, in fact, one of the most valuable commodities on the Atlantic Coast.

Oysters from the Chesapeake Bay were one of the first foods to be preserved by canning. Oysters sealed in a can could keep for up to six months. This allowed people from all over the world to buy oysters from the Bay.

Before canning began, oysters were eaten close to the place where they were caught. One of the problems the canners had was to convince people used to eating fresh oysters was to eat steamed oysters from a can. Good advertising was the key. Since all Chesapeake oysters were basically the same, canners used brightly designed labels to differentiate their products.

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Oyster canning labels were the prime advertisements for the oysters and the packinghouses. With such stiff competition, the labels on the cans needed to be attractive and catch the eye of the consumer. This advertising on the cans was an attempt to convince people that their product was fresher, tastier or healthier than anyone else’s. The labels usually also included pictures and words that made it seem that the oysters were fresh and locally harvested.

The canning of the Chesapeake Bay oyster together with the packing industry’s use of smart advertising fueled the boom years of the late nineteenth century when the Chesapeake Bay produced more oysters than any other region in the world.

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

Oyster Cans, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The images here are of a display of oyster cans at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. These images show just how many different packing houses competed for the business and how they tried to differentiate their wares.

Summary
Chesapeake Bay Oyster Canning Industry
Article Name
Chesapeake Bay Oyster Canning Industry
Description
Chesapeake Bay oyster canning industry fueled the boom years of the late 19th century when the Bay produced more oysters than any other region in the world
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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