Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Becoming A Dependent Class: Quoddy Herring Fishermen in the 1920s

Document type Article
Author Payne, Brian
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 81
Date 2018 Spring
ISSN 1911-4842
Pages 87-117


This article explores the labour history of the Maine–New Brunswick sardine herring fishery. It looks specifically at the impact of the 1920–21 recession on weir fishermen who provided juvenile herring fish for the Maine canneries. The article argues that Maine canneries successfully formed a buyers’ trust, which was a widely accepted form of business integration among government and business leaders during the 1920s, and used that trust to break the independence of weir fishermen. The trust used its power to devalue the market price of herring fish and take control of the supply and production of fish, which forced the fishermen into a dependent class. The article thus sheds light on the impact of recessions and recession recoveries on labourers by illustrating the ill effects of market concentration, which is an economic norm following recessions.