Fish Stages on the Coast of Labrador

Fish Stages on the Coast of Labrador

The following editorial comment regarding Fish Stages on the Coast of Labrador- Southern Greenland  taken by William George Oppenheim appeared on p. 380 of the Dec. 14th, 1894 issue:

Our frontispiece this week possesses much that is interesting, depicting as it does one of the most poverty-stricken places on the face of the earth. The photographer, Mr. Wm. Geo. Oppenheim, says:


“As I remember ‘Fish Cove’ (as shown in the picture), it consisted only of a dozen huts, made of upright logs, with board and sod roofs, and twenty-four souls in the settlement—of these, seven, or more than twenty-five per cent, of the population, have since died of black diphtheria.


“The little island of Anticosti itself, on which it is situated, is, like the other islands along the Labrador coast, a bare mass of rock protruding from the sea. During the two months I was there, the inhabitants had been at the mercy of the black scourge, and not a single person outside of the settlement was to be found to hold out a helping hand to them.


“Not only the diphtheria, but also starvation was staring them in the face, for from natural dread of the scourge and its contagion, the dealers had refused to supply them with provisions, in exchange for their fish and furs.

“The poor of great cities need not be without food; there are charitable societies ready to interpose between them and starvation ; nor need they waste away in disease for the sheer lack of medical aid; but the toilers of the sea, who work on the fishing boats and live in the miserable little ‘Tilts,’ which are the homes of the Labrador and Anticosti fishermen on these rugged northern shores in winter are completely isolated from the centre of supplies; the little they can lay up by the fall must last them during the winter, while on these diphtheria scourged shores, over a thousand miles in length—if the indentations of the coast are followed —there arc only four physicians.


“The casual tourist along these coasts sees none of this; he is deeply impressed with the beautiful scenery, but of the human misery within its shadow he sees nothing.


“No one, however, can sail along Labrador in a schooner, from which he has frequent opportunities to land, without having the wretched conditions of the dwellers in these lonely outposts of civilization brought to him; indeed, the fact that his heart is constantly being wrung by the wretchedness which mutely appeals to him, seriously interferes with his enjoyment of the trip.


“To live means to these people little more than to be able to cover their nakedness, and obtain food sufficient to keep them from starving; their ‘Tilts’ are mere shelters, logs stuck upright into the ground, rough deal boards under them for flooring; other boards are nailed across and on top, for ceiling and roof; the chinks filled in with moss mud and fish glue; the roof is made of branches covered with old sails, sod, fish glue and earth; many of the children have nothing but bare ground for beds; the huts usually consist of one room, about ten feet by fourteen, which is kitchen, bedroom and living room, all in one; in the corner of this wretched shelter is a rough deal platform, used as a bed; it is made by nailing boards across short posts driven into the ground; old clothes, sails with straw mattresses are all the bedclothes they have; the bed is not curtained off; the children sleep in the same bed or on the floor.”

Anticosti Island (French, Île d’Anticosti) is an island in the Canadian province of Quebec, at the outlet of the Saint Lawrence River into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, … (Wikipedia: accessed Jan. 2015)

Fish Stages on the Coast of Labrador

Image Dimensions10.2 x 15.2 cm Dec. 14, 1894: Vol. XXV, No. 691

Support DimensionsDetail: 21.5 x 28.8 cm