Document Type


Publication Date



At the turn of the twentieth century, Connecticut was known for its oysters, and the men who harvested them came in two basic types. Henry Rowe was a prominent example of the first. Rowe was a prosperous business owner and the leader of Connecticut’s major oyster cultivators. His firm raised oysters on thousands of acres of seabed, to which Rowe possessed legal title. He used the latest cultivation techniques, and his employees piloted several handsome steamers on the grounds he owned – each capable of taking up hundreds of bushels of oysters a day.

Captain Bob was a typical example of the second sort of oysterman.[1] Unlike Rowe, Captain Bob went to sea in a sail-powered sloop, the Broadbill, with only a few hired hands to help him haul in the dredges. Nor was Captain Bob an owner of the seabed. Instead, he worked the vast natural bed off Bridgeport, where hundreds of small boats like his competed to gather wild oysters. At the end of the day, if conditions were favorable, he might have forty bushels to show for his labor.

[1] Captain Bob’s last name has been lost to the ages. He was the subject of a 1904 profile in the New York Tribune, from which I have taken this description. See Oyster Dredging: Long Island Sound Is Yielding Well This Year, N.Y. Tribune, Nov. 6, 1904, at B6 (available via ProQuest Historical Newspapers) [hereinafter Oyster Dredging].