Maine Sardine Council

The collection contains more than 2500 photographs, decades of statistical reports, industry regulations and standards, marketing and publicity plans and materials, newspaper and magazine articles, correspondence, and historical writings documenting the fisheries, canneries, and consumption of sardines at a time when the sardine industry was a major contributor of the Maine economy.

The Maine Sardine Council was established by the Maine Legislature in 1951 for the purpose of promoting high quality standards for the sardine industry. A staffed, independent state agency, the Council was made up of active members of the sardine packing industry. Its work was supported by a tax levied on each case of sardines produced in the state. The Council, which had a quality control lab in Brewer, was responsible for grading and inspections as well as promoting the sardine industry. The Maine Sardine Council donated its records to Penobscot Marine Museum when it disbanded in 1998.

Photographs, including many promotional images by the well-known photographer Kosti Ruhomaa, show the weirs and netting techniques used by fishermen, the sardine carriers that transported the catch from the trawlers to canneries, and the unloading of the small silvery fish at the canneries. Images of cannery operations, from cooking, packing, inspecting, and preparation for shipping, highlight the modern production equipment and quality control that the state promoted as well as the timeless process of hand packing by the women line workers in canneries around the state. Other photos show promotional events, including sardine festivals and the annual crowning of Maine’s “Sardine Queen.”

Also included in the collection are the Council’s marketing and media plans, posters, store displays, ads, brochures, recipe booklets and nutritional guides, children’s comic books, and videos and fact sheets, all illustrating the Council’s extensive promotional activities.