the Storied Salmon section with salmon can labels, salmon cans, and marketing material

Gallery view – photograph by Brian Wallace.

STORIED SALMON: How to Eat Canned Salmon

A family of sportsmen from Maine built the first salmon cannery on the West Coast in 1864 along the Sacramento River. In 1878, the first two salmon canneries in Alaska opened in Klawock and Sitka in Southeast Alaska.

Soon after, amazing tales of “red gold” trickled down the Pacific coast. A rush of diverse entrepreneurs came to Alaska, establishing over 30 salmon canneries that packed salmon from Ketchikan to Bristol Bay throughout the 1880s.

Soon, the volume of mass-produced canned salmon overwhelmed local markets. Too few Americans knew how to eat canned salmon.

The field of advertising emerged as an essential component of the salmon industry. Teaching Americans to eat canned salmon took a massive change in how people heard about and bought their food. Salmon canners and advertisers tried new ways to convince Americans to eat salmon from a can, including using colorful labels, appealing to specific market segments, and using the allure of Alaska to entice consumers.