Book Review – ‘The Fleet Book of the Alaska Packers Association, 1893–1945: An historical overview and list’ by Paul O’Brien
Donald H. Dyal offers a detailed and exhaustive account of a relatively obscure American industry which emerged in the late nineteenth century and rose to considerable prominence by the mid-twentieth century. Dyal draws most of the detail from the surviving (though incomplete) series of fleet books preserved in various repositories throughout Alaska. The illustrated volume is well researched and presented. Dyal’s chronological account of the history of the association is informative and focuses on the endeavours of the entrepreneurial and industrious Henry F. Fortmann, who established a salmon-canning business in the late nineteenth century, and his innovative business practices are carefully analysed in the study. Dyal’s comprehensive account of the fishing industry of Alaska during a time of technological advancements, developments in systems of transport, and changes to business practices means this study also provides a useful background to the canning industry.
However, the primary focus of the study is firmly on the extensive fleet of largely second- hand ocean-going vessels that underpinned the near 50-year success of the association …