The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- This glazed, earthenware jug held drinking water for the use of fishermen working out of small dory boats. The jug, which holds one gallon of liquid and has a cork stopper, was used by cod fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, before the early 1880s.
- Small, flat-bottomed dories were not used in the American commercial cod fishery until after 1850, when trawl-line fishing expanded. Dories were ideal for the purpose: they could be nested together on the deck of the larger, fishing schooner until needed. On the water, they were light and easy to handle, as well as stable. When fishing long trawl lines, fishermen would leave the relative comforts of the schooners to work in pairs as dorymates. Because they were away from the schooners for many hours, the fishermen carried provisions and gear in the dories, including water, food, oars, a mast and sail, anchors, buoys and markers, several trawl tubs, pen boards for holding the fish, several scoops and bailers, fog horns, a compass, and more.
- A paper label indicates the jug was displayed at the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. The United States’ portion of the display was organized by the U.S. Fish Commission and included a wealth of gear, models, photographs, fishery products, and everyday objects used by American fishermen. The international exhibition was on view between May 12 and November 1, during which a daily average of 18,545 people toured the buildings and grounds. When the exhibition closed, the collections that represented the United States were sent to the Smithsonian Institution and a catalog was published: Descriptive Catalogues of the Collections Sent from the United States to the International Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1883, Constituting A Report Upon the American Section. Prepared under the direction of G. Brown Goode, U.S. Commissioner, and a staff of associates. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1884.
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- National Museum of American History