1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gloucester (Massachusetts)
GLOUCESTER, a city and port of entry of Essex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., beautifully situated on Cape Ann. Pop. (1890) 24,651; (1900) 26,121, of whom 8768 were foreign-born, including 4388 English Canadians, 800 French Canadians, 665 Irish, 653 Finns and 594 Portuguese; (1910 census) 24,398 Area, 53.6 sq. m. It is served by the Boston & Maine railway and by a steamboat line to Boston. The surface is sterile, naked and rugged, with bold, rocky ledges, and a most picturesque shore, the beauties of which have made it a favourite summer resort, much frequented by artists. Included within the city borders are several villages, of which the principal one, also known as Gloucester, has a deep and commodious harbour. Among the other villages, all summer resorts, are Annisquam, Bay View and Magnolia (so called from the Magnolia glauca, which grows wild there, this being probably its most northerly habitat); near Magnolia are Rafe's Chasm (60 ft. deep and 6—10 ft. wide) and Norman's Woe, the scene of the wreck of the “Hesperus” (which has only tradition as a basis), celebrated in Longfellow's poem. There is some slight general commerce—in 1909 the imports were valued at $130,098; the exports at $7853—but the principal business is fishing, and has been since early colonial days. The pursuit of cod, mackerel, herring and halibut fills up, with a winter coasting trade, the round of the year. In this industry Gloucester is the most important place in the United States; and is, indeed, one of the greatest fishing ports of the world. Most of the adult males are engaged in it. The “catch” was valued in 1895 at $3,212,985 and in 1905 at $3,377,330. The organization of the industry has undergone many transformations, but a notable feature is the general practice—especially since modern methods have necessitated larger vessels and more costly gear, and correspondingly greater capital—of profit-sharing; all the crew entering on that basis and not independently. There are some manufactures, chiefly connected with the fisheries. The total factory product in 1905 was valued at $6,92O,984, of which the canning and preserving of fish represented $4,068,571, and glue represented $752,003. An industry of considerable importance is the quarrying of the beautiful, dark Cape Ann granite that underlies the city and all the environs.
Gloucester harbour was probably noted by Champlain (as La Beauport), and a temporary settlement was made by English fishermen sent out by the Dorchester Company of “merchant adventurers” in 1623—1625; some of these settlers returned to England in 1625, and others, with Roger Conant, the governor, removed to what is now Salem. Permanent settlement antedated 1639 at least, and in 1642 the township was incorporated. From Gosnold's voyages onward the extraordinary abundance of cod about Cape Ann was well known, and though the first settlers characteristically enough tried to live by farming, they speedily became perforce a sea-faring folk. The active pursuit of fishing as an industry may be dated as beginning about 1700, for then began voyages beyond Cape Sable. Voyages to the Grand Banks began about 1741. Mackerel was a relatively unimportant catch until about 1821, and since then has been an important but unstable return; halibut fishing has been vigorously pursued since about 1836 and herring since about 1856. At the opening of the War of Independence Gloucester, whose fisheries then employed about 600 men, was second to Marblehead as a fishing-port. The war destroyed the fisheries, which steadily declined, reaching their lowest ebb from 1820 to 1840. Meanwhile foreign commerce had greatly expanded. The cod take had supported in the 18th century an extensive trade with Bilbao, Lisbon and the West Indies, and though changed in nature with the decline of the Bank fisheries after the War of Independence, it continued large through the first quarter of the 19th century. Throughout more than half of the same century also Gloucester carried on a varied and valuable trade with Surinam, hake being the chief article of export and molasses and sugar the principal imports. “India Square” remains, a memento of a bygone day. About 1850 the fisheries revived, especially after 1860, under the influence of better prices, improved methods and the discovery of new grounds, becoming again the chief economic interest; and since that time the village of Gloucester has changed from a picturesque hamlet to a fairly modern, though still quaint and somewhat foreign, settlement. Gasoline boats were introduced in 1900. Ship-building is another industry of the past. The first “schooner” was launched at Gloucester in 1713. From 1830 to 1907, 776 vessels and 5242 lives were lost in the fisheries; but the loss of life has been greatly reduced by the use of better vessels and by improved methods of fishing. Gloucester became a city in 1874.
Gloucester life has been celebrated in many books; among others in Elizabeth Stuart Phelps-Ward's Singular Life and Old Maid's Paradise, in Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous, and in James B. Connolly's Out of Gloucester (1902), The Deep-Sea's Toll (1905), and The Crested Seas (1907).
See J. J. Babson, History of the Town of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1860; with Notes and Additions, on genealogy, 1876, 1891); and J. R. Pringle, History of the Town and City of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1892).
- According to some authorities (e.g. Pringle) a few settlers remained on the site of Gloucester, the permanent settlement thus dating from 1623 to 1625; of this, however, there is no proof, and the contrary opinion is the one generally held.