Sail is still strong here in what is probably a pre-World War I photograph. Eleven sloop boats (Friendship sloops) and a three-masted cargo schooner are in evidence, along with one schooner yacht. Flat bottom skiffs and double-enders are inboard of the lobster floats. “Gasolene” and the “Machine Shop” are both on barges. Many boats are in need of paint and dirty transoms show that many of the sloop boats carry auxiliary engines.
In the background is the Lane-Libby Fish Company, incorporated in 1908 which, by 1910, had the first cold storage plant in New England. It specialized in and patented various salt fish products, importing salt from Italy. It was dissolved in 1928 and dismantled in 1940. As fishing fleets became motorized, the advantage to a processing plant of being close to rail lines and offshore fisheries outweighed the former advantage of being near to an inshore fishery, which could not supply fish in the quantities needed.
(caption information provided by the Vinalhaven Historical Society)
Here is a pivotal moment in the transition of working waterfronts from wind and people power to today’s fully engined harbors. While there is a yacht and possibly some pleasure motor boats in the photo, commercial craft still dominate this scene. By making “Gasolene” and “Machine Shop” the focal points of the composition, Eastern’s photographer shows the shape of things to come. The water’s mirror-like surface is likely a result of a longer exposure than we would use, an exposure which allow the lens to sharply focus the whole scene.