Just two years after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, the first cannery opened in the territory. The region’s rich salmon bounty spurred a rush of canneries. As many as 160 canneries operated in Alaska and the largely unregulated salmon harvest peaked in 1936 when nearly 130 million fish were caught. 

W.H. Case took this photo in August 1907 of a Thlinket Packing Company trap being unloaded. Case wrote that this boat load was just half of the 36,000 salmon caught in the trap. 

Even with harvest numbers declining in the late ‘30s and through the ‘40s, salmon was still the largest industry in territorial Alaska and generated about 80 percent of tax revenue. A desire for local management of salmon is often cited as central to the push for statehood. When delegates convened to draft Alaska’s founding document, they decided to write requirements for a sustainable salmon fishery into the state constitution. 

Author

Alexander Deedy is the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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