Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/77

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ECONOMIC USES OF NON-EDIBLE FISH.

heretofore have scarcely yielded ten bushels of wheat by the acre, are said, when, dressed with whitefish (menhaden), to have yielded forty. . . . Such, upon the whole, have been their numbers, and such the ease with which they have been obtained, that lands in the neighborhood of productive fisheries are declared to have risen, within a few years, to three, four, and, in some cases, to six times their former value."

I shall give only one other authority for the use of fish and fish refuse as a fertilizer. In 1853 Mr. Ker B. Hamilton, Governor of Newfoundland, said: "In this island the manure universally applied to the soil is fish, consisting of the superabundant herrings and caplins in the process of decomposition, and generally without any earthy admixture; and the heads, bones, and entrails of codfish." From other sources we learn that in Norway, France, Japan, and in the British Islands, fish has been used, in its raw state, for fertilizing purposes, whenever it was found in great abundance.

Although we have evidence in the olden writings that the oil obtained from various fishes was used for lighting and other purposes, fish oil was practically unknown in commerce until about fifty years ago. Since then there have arisen hundreds of purposes to which it is daily applied.

The origin of the present menhaden industry was the discovery of an old lady, named Mrs. John Bartlett, of Blue Hill, Maine, who in 1850, when boiling some fish for her chickens, observed a thin scum of oil upon the surface of the water. "Some of this she bottled, and when on a visit to Boston soon after carried samples to Mr. E. B. Phillips, one of the leading oil merchants of that city, who encouraged her to bring more. The following year the Bartlett family industriously plied their gill nets and sent to market thirteen barrels of oil, for which they were paid at the rate of eleven dollars per barrel." In the following year this family made one hundred barrels. Then, the value of menhaden oil having become recognized, many oil presses—of a more or less imperfect construction were established along the coast, and the industry developed so rapidly that within twenty years the yield of menhaden oil exceeded that of the whale (from the American fisheries). It now exceeds the aggregate of all the whale, seal, and cod oil made in the United States, and Prof. Brown Goode says, "As a source of oil, the menhaden is of more importance than any other marine animal."

The prime object of the first factories established for utilizing menhaden was the production of oil—the residuum, or "scrap," as the pressed fish is called, being looked upon as a secondary consideration. Nevertheless, this by-product was of equal worth, and in some years has exceeded in value the output of oil. This