Cannery workers swimming in a fish bin filled with water

Fish House Hot Tub at the NN Cannery, ca. 1979. Tom Connelly private collection.


"The cannery was a community. Like leaning over the fence in your backyard, talking to your neighbor."

 — Brad Angasan, former cannery worker

Contrary to notions of isolation, salmon canneries were social and cultural hubs that brought together people from around the world.

In the early days, diverse cannery workers endured discrimination, deplorable work conditions, segregation, sexism, stereotypes, even epidemic diseases. Over the years, cannery people negotiated social and labor constraints and working conditions.

They formed unions, unlikely alliances, and enduring friendships. Cannery people’s unique customs and traditions eventually shaped the cannery’s labor landscape and linked Alaska canneries to the Pacific Rim, the Mediterranean, the Southern Hemisphere, and the Circumpolar North.

Contained in the century-old buildings are stories of the workforce—the so-called intimate strangers—who, within the ubiquitous industrial landscape, created cannery communities.