B A C K   T H E N


Winter Scene


World’s Largest Sardine Factory


The William Underwood Company sardine factory, said to be the world’s largest, on Moosabec Reach, is shown here circa early 1950s. Built in 1900, it was always considered to be an industry leader. Not in view is the large, attached “Tenement House” for workers; a ferry brought workers from neighboring Beals Island.

At left we see the bow of the 1941 sardine carrier William Underwood, and to the right of it the stern of the 1949 carrier Henry O. Underwood. Splice them together with your eye and you have a classic sardine carrier, which were among the handsomest and easiest-driven of all power vessels. Carrier skippers were master pilots, and even though the boats worked among ledges and shoals on dark and foggy nights to reach “shut off” coves where a school of small herring had been trapped, they were said to be insured at the lowest of rates.

The smaller boats are Jonesport-model lobster boats, also timeless classics. They have been receiving fish cuttings with which to bait their traps.

Wartime over-expansion, foreign competition, the growth of snack foods, declining numbers of fish inshore, and changing public tastes put Maine’s sardine industry into a fatal decline after the early 1950s. In 1962 the Jonesport factory closed. Happily, the William Underwood is today undergoing restoration for a new life as a cruising yacht.

Text by William H. Bunting from Maine On Glass. Published by Tilbury House Publishers, 12 Starr St., Thomaston, Maine. 800-582-1899.

Maine On Glass and prints of the photographs are available through the Penobscot Marine Museum: PenobscotMarineMuseum.org.