A Terrible Mortality

Gloucester’s dependence on the North Atlantic meant a close acquaintance with tragedy and death. “The history of the Gloucester fisheries has been written in tears,” wrote an anonymous reporter in 1876.

Between 1866 and 1890, more than 380 schooners and 2,450 Gloucester men never returned from the fishing grounds. In a single storm on August 24, 1873, nine Gloucester vessels and 128 fishermen were lost. In 1865, community members formed the Gloucester Fisherman’s and Seaman’s Widows and Orphan’s Aid Society Fund to help fishermen’s families.



Widows’ Home

This house was built for fishermen’s widows in Gloucester around 1870. It had ten apartments of three rooms each. Rent for each apartment was $3 per month.


“When will the slaughter cease?”

In 1882, Capt. Joseph Collins asked this question in Gloucester’s newspaper, the Cape Ann Weekly Advertiser. Too many fishermen perished at sea, and Collins and others lobbied for new schooner designs featuring deeper, more stable hulls and sail plans that didn’t require a long bowsprit, the spar that projected forward from the bow.


It’s Good for You

Cod liver oil was a byproduct of the cod fishery. The oil contains essential vitamins and helped prevent rickets, a common disease among malnourished children in the late 1800s. Children dreaded the taste of their daily dose, and this sample from the early 1900s recommends three doses a day.

Gift of Mario Casinelli