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San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

The Alaska Packers

 
 
The Alaska Packers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, December 18, 2014
1. The Alaska Packers Marker
Caption: "Wise in the ways of seas and ships - soaked in brine to their finger tips." Photographs #1 and #2.
Inscription.  The Fremont Street Wharf angled 500 feet northeast into the bay from this place from 1869 to 1907. At that time the Alaska Packers; fleet of wooden and iron square rigged ships and barks loaded here, sailing 2,500 miles north to Alaska each spring with fishermen and cannery hands. As many as 300 men crowded on board each vessel to make the trip north - Italian fishermen from San Francisco's North Beach, Scandinavian and some North German fishermen and sailors, as well as Chinese and Mexican workers to operate the canneries. They sailed the square-rigged ships, fished from small boats in Alaskan waters, packed the salmon in the local canneries, and sailed back to San Francisco each Autumn with a full salmon pack.

(photograph 2)
The Star of Alaska noses along with a brisk wind filling her canvas, Said to be the fastest windjammer of the fleet, she made the trip from San Francisco to Bristol Bay, Alaska, in fifteen to twenty days. Christened Balclutha in 1886, the big steel-hulled ship sailed around the horn seventeen times before the Alaska Packers bought her for $500 in 1904 when she ran ashore on
The Alaska Packers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, December 18, 2014
2. The Alaska Packers Marker
Photographs #3, #4 and #5.
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a reef near Kodiak Island. Worth about $50,000 when salvaged and repaired, and given the name Star of Alaska, she sailed for the Alaska Packers when they operated twenty-three canneries in Alaska and employed seven thousand workers - brought up from San Francisco each sprig to put up the lucrative salmon pack. Now a National Park Service museum ship and given back her christened name -Balclutha - she and the museum ship Star of India are the sole survivors of the Alaska Packers fleet.

(photograph 3)
Axel Widerstrom recalls shipboard life as a cabin boy on the Star of France, when his father, Captain John Widerstorm, was master. "On board the Star of France in 1918 - before she got stuck in the ice. There was a lot of trouble that year - the Italians complained about the food. They wouldn't eat in the mess room, instead, they insisted on eating out on deck, as you can see here. All kinds of food was thrown overboard - mush, bread, bacon, salt beef, salt pork. They demanded fresh meat: the old man told the they could have dog." Later Captain Widerstorm found out that the man responsible for buying provisions bought the cheapest food he could find and pocketed the difference. He never sailed with Captain Widerstorm again.

(photograph 4)
Fishing started in the middle of June, and the boats would be busy
The base of The Alaska Packers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, December 18, 2014
3. The base of The Alaska Packers Marker
These are the men that kept her going through fog and big gales blowing: skipper and bosun, mates and sails, tough as leather, hard as nails.
all July - it would be the first part of August before they were called back. Fishing crews worked two to a boat to handle the nets and pick the fish out. When their boat filled with salmon - two thousand or more - they sailed to a barge at anchor and tossed the fish aboard, counting each fish. The tallyman kept track; fishermen got so much a fish, regardless of size.
Once a day they would sail over to a bunk-scow, anchored in the river, to get a hot meal, pick up supplies and water - but they slept in their fishing boats. These are Scandinavian; you can tell by the way they unstepped their masts to rig small tents.

(photograph 5)
The Alaska Packers' fleet winters at Alameda in the Oakland estuary - it was the last large commercial sailing fleet out of San Francisco - operating from 1893 until 1929, when the last sailing ships went north.

(on the back of the pylon)
The Vessels Whose Names Appear Here Were Owned by the Alaska Packers and Sailed from this Pier

George Skofield, a wooden ship • James A. Borland, a wooden bark • Will A. Case, a wooden bark • Nicholas Thayer, a wooden bark • Merom, a wooden ship • Llewelyn J. Morse, a wooden ship • Prosper, a three-masted wooden schooner • Oriental, a wooden ship • Sterling, a wooden
The Alaska Packers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, December 18, 2014
4. The Alaska Packers Marker
ship • Bohemia, a wooden ship • Levi J. Burgess, a wooden ship • Santa Clara, a wooden ship • Carondolet, a three-masted wooden ship • Eclipse, a wooden ship • Centennial, a wooden ship, converted to a four-masted barkentine • Reaper, a wooden bark • Indiana, a wooden ship • Issac Reed, a wooden ship • Tacoma, a wooden ship • Two Brothers, a wooden ship • Star of India, Formerly Euterpe, an iron bark - restored as Star of India • Star of Chile, formerly Coalinga, formerly La Escocesa, an iron bark • Star of Russia, an iron ship • Star of Peru, formerly Himalaya, an iron bark • Star of Alaska, formerly Balclutha, a steel ship - restored as Balclutha • Star of France, an iron ship • Star of Italy, an iron ship • Star of England, formerly Blairmore, formerly Abby Palmer, a steel bark • Star of Scotland, formerly Kenilworth, a steel four-masted bark • Star of Iceland, formerly Willscott, a steel bark • Star of Holland, formerly Homeward Bound, Otto Gildenmeister, Zemindar, an iron bark • Star of Greenland, formerly Hawaiian Isles, a steel four-masted bark • Star of Finland, formerly Kaiulani, a steel bark • Star of Bengal,
The <i>Balclutha</i> docked in San Francisco image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wikipedia
5. The Balclutha docked in San Francisco
an iron bark • Star of Lapland, formerly Atlas, a four-masted steel bark • Star of Zealand, formerly Astral, a four-masted steel bark • Metha Nelson, a wood three-masted schooner • Star of Poland, a steel four-masted bark • Star of Sydney, a six masted barkentine • Star of Shetland, formerly Edward Sewall, a four-masted steel bark • Star of Falkland, formerly Arapahoe, Northern Light, Steinbek, Durbridge, a steel ship
 
Erected by San Francisco Art Commission for the Waterfront Transportation Projects.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels.
 
Location. 37° 46.994′ N, 122° 23.277′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Marker is on The Embarcadero near Brannan Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 675 The Embarcadero, San Francisco CA 94105, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Building the Seawall (within shouting distance of this marker); Fremont Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Remnants of Rincon Hill (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Oriental Warehouse (about
The <i>Star of India</i> docked in San Diego image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Wkipedia
6. The Star of India docked in San Diego
400 feet away); Brannan Street (about 600 feet away); Townsend Street (about 600 feet away); Beale Street Wharf (about 600 feet away); Whaling Out of San Francisco (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
 
More about this marker. This marker is on the San Francisco Bay Trail, just north of Pier 38.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. The "Star of India"
 
Also see . . .  Alaska Packers' Association. The APA is perhaps best remembered for operating one of the last fleets of tall ships. Although this invoked the romance of the days of sail, reliance on wind rather than steam was a way for the company to economize. The salmon packing industry was a very seasonal business and old sailing ships were relatively cheap and available. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the APA began to replace its wooden ships with iron-hulled vessels... (Submitted on March 9, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on March 9, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 586 times since then and 94 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on March 9, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Oct. 4, 2022