The Iron Chink

Iron chink fish processor Seattle WA, ca 1909, MOHAI 3458, Wikimedia Commons

Here is a photo of the Iron Chink machine on display at Seattle’s Expo in 1909. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was a world fair held in Seattle to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. Since salmon canning was a major industry in Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, it made a lot of sense for the Iron Chink, a fish cleaner, to be displayed in the fair.

Edmund Smith invented the machine in 1903, which he named Iron Chink. By 1909, the machine was gaining acceptance by the canners and Smith was becoming wealthy. The participation in the Expo was supposedly his triumphant moment. Smith can be seen in the photo standing next to the Iron Chink at the rightmost position. However, tragedy soon stroke before Smith was able to participate in the opening days…

I have thought about putting the Iron Chink photo-story together for a long time, and finally I was able to publish the Iron Chink web-page last month, you can find it under the tab “Canning History”. In this web-page, you will find the state of the canning industry before Iron Chink was invented, how Edmund Smith invented the machine, and how it became one of the last missing pieces that made full mechanization possible in the canneries. It was the most important invention of the salmon canning industry in the early 20th century.

A side note: The Expo’s fairgrounds became the campus of the University of Washington, which happens to be my alma mater. I believe there are still a few buildings left over from the Expo days, including the fountain facing the majestic Mount Rainier.

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