Cannery Life

The lobster canneries brought a whole new way of life to the area. Lot 64 was mainly a farming district; much of the commerce in the area was done through trade, and despite many local independent tradesmen, not very much was “manufactured” in the area at that time. As Nancy Gorveatt pointed out in her article on the industry:

With the cannery came other components of an industrialized society: a waged economy that depended on industrial technology, markets and marketing strategies, and of course, government intervention.30.   

But for some it was also a unique opportunity. This was especially true for women, who generally had few opportunities to engage in the labour market. For them it could be a chance to contribute to their family in a way they couldn’t before, save money for pursuits like emigration or education, or it could allow them to stay in their community when they otherwise may have had to seek employment elsewhere (like in a Boston factory, or teaching in another community). In the Prowse lobster factory on the Murray Islands, Alberta White had one of the most important roles: cook. She would have been cooking three meals a day for all of the fishermen and canners on the Island, which was no small task! And although it was one of the best (and most thoroughly appreciated) jobs that a woman could get in a cannery, it certainly wouldn’t have made her rich; female cannery workers brought home an average of $12 per month in 1887, although I would imagine the cook would earn more than the average rate. In contrast, male workers made an average of $30 per month.35.  

For an understanding of what a cannery would consist of, this36. article details the Beach Point cannery of Malcolm McFadyen (formerly owned by Daniel Davies), who had the great misfortune of having two canneries burned down by arsonists. The article was written after the second arson incident; no culprit was ever found, but it seems someone had it out for McFadyen. He soon quit the lobster processing business due to money troubles and returned to Cape Breton, where he had grown up. In 1891, he became the lighthouse keeper in the community of Mabou.37.

In Partnership with