Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/19

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9
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE OYSTER.

to four dollars per day. In fact, it may be safely estimated that about 10,000 men, directly or indirectly, make a living in the oyster-trade of the two cities. Many of the ancestors of the wealthiest Knickerbocker families were oystermen, and at the present day many a bluff, rugged-looking man engaged in this business has a bank account that more pretentious people, living in a brown-stone house, might well envy."

American oysters are now being shipped to Europe by steamer. The first ventures proved disastrous. They were shipped in bulk in the vessel's hold. They "spoiled," that is, perished, doubtless from the warmth and want of air, as oysters are often carried by sail-vessels from the South to the North safely, although they may be longer on the way than the steamer, and even carry larger quantities in bulk. These vessels employed by the oystermen carry, according to the vessel's capacity, from 1,800 to 2,800 tubs, a tub being a bushel and a half. But, though oysters were at first lost in their transit by steamer, they now go more safely, being put up in barrels, instead of in bulk. And this business of oyster transportation is destined to assume immense proportions; hence the following from the World of December 22, 1873, may become an item in history: "N. B. Mulliner, A. W. Mead, Oliver Charlick, and Miles Smith have formed a company for the shipment of oysters to the London market, and made their first consignment during the past week from Freeport. It is proposed to sell the oysters on commission."

An experiment, the results of which, if successful, will be followed by great consequences, is a recent attempt made to acclimatize the New Jersey oyster in California. Joseph Ellsworth, a heavy operator in this bivalve, who owns one of those floating establishments known as scows, affairs of immensely greater importance than the name would imply, made a very interesting venture last fall. He freighted a car with the "seed" for San Francisco. The seed was obtained in Newark Bay, and 60 cents per bushel were given for it in the rough, that is, as it adhered to shells, etc. The best and cleanest were selected, averaging in size about that of the old copper cent. The cost of this seed would be about $8 per bushel at its delivery in San Francisco. It is estimated that two years' growth will suffice for this market, where they will be more easily suited on the question of size than the people East. It is also expected that, after the spawning-season is safely passed over, enough stock, or seed, will be had to make future operations successful. Of course, the whole matter is, as yet, an experiment. The native Californian oyster is a puny affair, and it is to be feared that the Eastern oyster will degenerate in Pacific waters. We shall see. Meanwhile the experimenter deserves great praise for the energy shown in his bold venture.

the risks.—It will be news to many to hear that the business of the oyster-producer is one of great risk. All is not gain to these industrious people, for often capital is sunk in the waters that is never