New book reveals the history and ephemera of salmon canneries in Southeast Alaska

A woman holds a book in an office.
Anjuli Grantham, editor and co-author of “Tin Can Country: Southeast Alaska’s Historic Salmon Canneries,” with a copy of the book. She is giving a lecture on Friday, June 7, 2019, at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building. (Photo by Stella Tallmon/KTOO)

Juneau Afternoon host Sheli DeLaney sat down with the editor of the newly-published book “Tin Can Country: Southeast Alaska’s Historic Salmon Canneries” on Thursday’s show.

The book takes a look at the historical impact of salmon canneries and how they built the economic foundation of Southeast Alaska. The editor, Anjuli Grantham, is also a fisheries historian.

“Canneries are really essential to the identity and the economy of Alaska,” Grantham said. “However, the seafood industry in general hasn’t gotten the attention that other industries have in the history of Alaska. For example, mining. People often think about the gold rush, but they don’t think about the salmon rush that created much of coastal Alaska.”

Grantham is quick to mention that this book was a culmination of years of work and research by many people. One of those people was the late Pat Roppel of Wrangell, an Alaskan historian who spent decades researching the history of canneries across the state, specifically in Southeast.

Roppel died in 2015 before finishing her work. Her best friend, Karen Hofstad of Petersburg, had been collecting salmon can labels, original cans and fisheries materials for 50 years with the intention of creating a book. Hofstad and Grantham collaborated to finish Roppel’s effort, using Hofstad’s extensive collection to illustrate it.

“Pat was a mentor of mine,” said Grantham. “It really is an effort built on friendship.”

Roppel’s manuscripts and other research materials, along with Hofstad’s collection of industry ephemera, are now on display at the Alaska State Library and Historical Collections, located in the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building.

Grantham is especially excited about that.

“So now there’s this publicly-available resource on fisheries history and visual materials that will blow you away,” she said.

“Tin Can Country: Southeast Alaska’s Historic Salmon Canneries” is available at local bookstores and museums across Alaska. Grantham will be presenting more on the topic, along with Alaska historian Bob King, this Friday, June 7, 6-7 p.m. at the APK Building lecture hall.

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