The Price of Salmon

I hope you will judge this book by its cover and content. Jim and l are publishing “The Price of Salmon” this summer. We designed the book cover ourselves. However, our principal roles are editors. We compiled, in digital and book format, a series of newspaper articles that were first published on the San Francisco Daily 100 years ago. The writer was Max Stern, a reporter best known for his exposé of the Alaskan salmon canning industry. The original articles are available online only in facsimiles that are difficult to read and almost impossible to enjoy. The articles are valuable historical documentation of a failing and fading Chinese contract system, the so called “Chinese gang”, and the involvement of big business in the salmon canning industry in the 1920’s.

The centerpiece in the design of the book cover is a three masted windjammer making its way through the Pacific ocean. The ship typically departed from San Francisco in early summer and delivered men to Alaskan salmon canneries. It also brought them and the canned salmon back at the end of the season. The cannery men were mostly Asian migrants, consisting of Chinese, Filipinos and Japanese, among other nationalities and minorities. American capitalists and Asian laborers joined hands in a most unusual enterprise – the canning of Alaska salmon. Graphically, the marine blue sky behind the sail merged seamlessly into the Pacific ocean connecting the two continents. In terms of the color scheme, the gold yellow and salmon red accents took hints from the title – The Price of Salmon, with all of the irony it contains.

The back cover features a photograph of Max Stern we purchased on the open market. This is the only high quality original photo in the book. The description is taken from San Francisco Daily News, September 21, 1922. It reads: “The Daily News sent Max Stern, reporter, to Alaska on a ”hell ship.” He signed a contract to work for a Chinese boss through the salmon season for $170. He landed his job by buying his outfit from agents of the Chinese boss. He lived in the stinking hold of an ancient ship for a month, with the vessel plowed her way north. Gambling, bootlegging, exploitation, disease, danger, even death, marked voyage that Stern took for the readers of the Daily News. Stern’s trip is the most unusual newspaper assignment of the year. it’s more interesting than fiction, more colorful, more instructive.”

Let’s all look forward to its publication!

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