Chapter 27



The Magician who Makes Gold Swim—$30,000,000 in a Shoal of Cod—200 per cent. Profits in Salmon—How French Sardines are Made in Maine—Vast Money in Bivalves—John Bull, Brother Jonathan, and the Seal Fisheries—Chasing a Greenland Whale—Old Salts who Have Made their “Pile”—Why Salt Fish is Worth More than Fresh—The Greatest Reservoir of Wealth—A Leaf from a Business Ledger.

Gold floats in the air, swims in the sea, springs up out of the earth, and lies deep hid in the mountain bed. How can gold swim? In the form of millions upon millions of tiny creatures whose destruction brings gold into the pockets of their captors. Literally, the ocean is the biggest field of revenue on the planet. It is a reservoir of wealth which all the ages are not likely to exhaust. Further, the ocean, unlike the land, has not been and cannot be partitioned out among individual owners. Any man can enter upon any body of water not actually occupied by another, and appropriate all that he finds there. The following are among the most profitable of the fisheries:

  1. Oregon Salmon.—The female salmon lays a thousand eggs for every pound of her weight. For salmon profits go to Oregon. Immense factories, making enormous profits, are already in the field, but there is room for more.
  2. Massachusetts Cod.—Professor Huxley estimates the number of cod in a single shoal at 120,000,000. What do you think of that, you who pay twenty-five cents for a small codfish? A shoal of fish worth $30,000,000! Go to Newfoundland if you want to catch cod.
  3. French Sardines.—So-called French sardines are put up in Maine. They have a foreign label, and command twice the price they would if it were known that they are a native product. The deception, however, is only in the name, for they are in no way inferior to the foreign brand. As an example of the enormous profits, we have it for a fact that herrings worth when fresh not more than $50,000, were put up as sardines in cans holding one pound each, and in that style they brought $770,000. This is the secret of the way some people get rich.
  4. Sea Otters.—These are not so plentiful as formerly, but the increased price of the skins partly makes up for the less number of furs. A few years ago a schooner sailed from Boston to the Northern Pacific in quest of these slippery sea tenants, and in the course of three trips netted $75,000.
  5. Arctic Whales.—Rivals of whale oil have reduced the price of that lubricant, but there are yet many vessels engaged in the enterprise. When we consider that the whaling industry has contributed $680,000,000 to the wealth of England, Holland, and the United States, we can see what enormous profits have been reaped by those engaged in the business. From Sandy Hook to Cape Cod, all along the coast, there are retired sea captains who have “feathered their nest” with the sales of whale-blubber.
  6. Behring Seals.—Go aboard a sealing vessel. The business is very profitable. Above 1,000,000 seals of all kinds are taken yearly, a single vessel sometimes catching as many as 5,000. As these seals are taken by vessels owned and manned by legalized companies, the profits are not so subject to fluctuation as in what is called individual luck. To be a member of a sealing company you must have some capital, but the business is so profitable that it pays at least twenty-five per cent. John Bull and Brother Jonathan have had many disputes about the right to catch these seals. They are undoubtedly United States property, but England bases its rights in old treaties. However, if the catch is not restricted, the indiscriminating slaughter will soon diminish the number so that there will not be enough seals worth fighting about.
  7. Sea Gold.—Though this product of the sea has no fins, it falls more appropriately under the heading of this chapter than any other. The South Sea Bubble has had a parallel in the recent excitement over golden sea waves. A clergyman, a, Connecticut Yankee by the name of Jernigan, together with his brother, after many experiments, announced that they had discovered a process for extracting gold from the sea. A stock company was formed, a large capital raised, and a mill erected. But the bubble exploded with loss to all except the reverend projector of the enterprise, who is said to have made $100,000 out of the scheme. At least, a loose leaf from his ledger, which he left behind in his flight, indicates that about that sum was inveigled from the pockets of the deluded members of the “company.” However, some of them still have faith in the enterprise. It has been known to chemists for a long time that gold is contained in sea water. The only question is whether it is in sufficient quantities to pay for the cost of its extraction. It may yet be found that what is at present regarded as a gigantic swindle contains the seeds of a profitable industry.

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