Sardine canneries lined Lubec’s wharves in the early 1900s. They operated day and night, employing hundreds of workers of all ages. Each cannery fabricated its own sardine cans until 1908, when the American Can Company opened and began manufacturing the cans.

In this c. 1910 photograph, children pose near the American Can Company plant built in Lubec village after its North Lubec factory burned. The first mechanized “tin” can manufacturer in Lubec, it soon erected a much larger building, and those shown here became warehouses. In a few decades the company was turning out 350 million cans a year. Sardine production peaked in 1950 at 3,806,000 cases of 100 cans. The can plant went out of business in 1972, and the last structures were moved in the early 1990s. The last sardine packer closed in the 1990s.

Lubec and Eastport canneries employed many children, attracting the attention of well-known documentary photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine. In August 1911 he photographed young workers, many under the age of 12, cutting and packing fish in local canneries.

Info provided by Ronald Pesha

Catalog Number LB2007.1.101270