Ship Model, Columbia River Salmon Boat

This model represents the type of small boat used for gill-netting salmon on the lower Columbia River around 1876. Known as sailing gillnetters, these vessels were well suited to the tasks of fishermen working drift nets, which were walls of netting set across the path of salmon swimming upstream. The round-bottom hull is sharp on both ends, a feature that allowed the boat to ride more easily while the net was adrift. Its sprit rig was used for sailing to and from the fishing grounds and was easily stowed while fishing. The boats ranged between 23 and 28 feet in length. This model represents a vessel of 25 feet 6 inches in length, 6 feet 3 inches abeam, and 2 feet 3 inches in depth.
The sailing gillnetter type was introduced to the Columbia River region between 1869 and 1872 and quickly replaced the smaller skiffs then in use. The early gillnetters were shipped north from boat builders in San Francisco, but by 1875 the type was being built locally. While a few fishermen purchased their own boats, the vast majority were owned by salmon canneries, which rented the vessels to local fishermen. When this model was made in 1876, there were about 500 sailing gillnetters on the river. By 1905 there were some 2,700.
This model was donated by Livingston Stone, an early advocate of fish hatcheries, who served as Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries for the Pacific coast from 1872 to 1898, and senior fish culturist of the U.S. Fish Commission from 1898 to 1903.
Object Name
boat model
model, rigged boat
boat, rigged model
Boat, rigged model
model, rigged boat
Date made
before 1876
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
textile (overall material)
overall: 22 in x 27 in x 6 5/8 in; 55.88 cm x 68.58 cm x 16.8275 cm
Place Made
United States: Oregon, Astoria
United States: Columbia River
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
related event
The Development of the Industrial United States
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Natural Resources
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Livingston Stone
Related Publication
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL
Additional Media

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