The “salmon clause” for apprentices

Oct 2013
121
Uk
#1
Hi All,

A discussion in the comment section of a newspaper article prompted me to have another look at the widespread story that at some point in the past apprentices (or servants) used to to have a clause in their indenture documents that they were only to be served salmon a certain number of times a week. The point of the story seems essentially to be to illustrate how much more plentiful the salmon used to be in times past, such that even the lowest in society would turn their noses up at it.

It seems to be pretty wide spread, versions of the story cropping up all over the UK, and also continental Europe and the US.

There is an interesting paper in this link here, which notes that despite much investigation, no-one has ever tracked down an actual document showing this (a number of people claim to have seen them, but have never managed to produce the document itself).

It is however quite an old paper - it was written in the 1890’s. I wondered if anyone was aware of any more recent research that may have found such a document, or that could shed more light on the matter?

Thanks!

Brutha
 
Mar 2019
1,465
Kansas
#2
It is however quite an old paper - it was written in the 1890’s. I wondered if anyone was aware of any more recent research that may have found such a document, or that could shed more light on the matter?

Thanks!

Brutha
I cant speak to this specific incident but in Russel Shorto's excellent book about early New York he mentions a few times the unrest from laborers and servants at being fed lobster too many times a week.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,713
Sydney
#3
on the north sea Frigg field ( TCP2) while the poms and Frenchies were rushing on the salmon dishes
the Norwegians were going heavy for the steaks , a Norwegian told me that serving salmon to the farm hands for more than six days a week was forbidden by law
then again the place is salmon country and the farmland is poor
 
Apr 2014
165
Liverpool, England
#4
A quick look at the online British Newspaper Archive brings up an article in the Worcester Journal for 18 July 1811, referring to clauses in indentures "binding the master not to give his apprentice salmon twice in the week." I am not currently signed up to see the full article, but it looks as though the increasing cost of salmon was then making such clauses redundant.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,292
Australia
#5
And now salmon is in little vacuum wrapped portions in the expensive section .

But food is trendy. Too much salmon is boring. Oysters and caviar used to be peasant food.

Abalone went in and out of fashion with coastal Aboriginals.

Dont start me on the latests craze ! Covering everything with mushed up avocado ! Blerk! And they are not rare , they are everywhere ! And on the tail of this trend , I note several local farms have now put in HEAPS of avo trees .

As a kid , our family thought we we where doing pretty good having a roast chicken on saturday night .

Chokos used to be poor man food, we where nearly embarrassed when Mum picked them off the vine that grew over the outside toilet, and served them up boiled for dinner , now they $7.99 a K at super. Okra is the same price , a staple food of the 3rd world.

I wonder what those apprentices prefered to see on their dinner plate ?
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,578
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#6
Eel used to be a cheap source of protein along the Thames. Now, you have to find specialist shops to buy eel pie. I've only had eel in Japan, at a quite expensive unagi-don restaurant.

Whale too, used to be a cheap meat eaten in Japan after WW2 (contrary to popular belief, Japan never had a tradition of eating whale meat before that, except amongst some coastal communities). Now, those liberal lefties won't let you kill a whale to make tasty, tasty whale burgers.
 
Feb 2019
651
Pennsylvania, US
#7
I cant speak to this specific incident but in Russel Shorto's excellent book about early New York he mentions a few times the unrest from laborers and servants at being fed lobster too many times a week.
It is interesting how lobster in America was initially viewed with such disdain... lobster shells in a house was a sign of poverty/vulgarity.

In a Dickens novel (Bleak House), the lawyers clerks would eat “Lobster and Lettuce” at the local pub... which at the time in England was not so uncouth, but reflected what was affordable for a working man. Nothing like “Lice of the Sea” for lunch. 😉
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,491
Florania
#8
And now salmon is in little vacuum wrapped portions in the expensive section .

But food is trendy. Too much salmon is boring. Oysters and caviar used to be peasant food.

Abalone went in and out of fashion with coastal Aboriginals.

Dont start me on the latests craze ! Covering everything with mushed up avocado ! Blerk! And they are not rare , they are everywhere ! And on the tail of this trend , I note several local farms have now put in HEAPS of avo trees .

As a kid , our family thought we we where doing pretty good having a roast chicken on saturday night .

Chokos used to be poor man food, we where nearly embarrassed when Mum picked them off the vine that grew over the outside toilet, and served them up boiled for dinner , now they $7.99 a K at super. Okra is the same price , a staple food of the 3rd world.

I wonder what those apprentices prefered to see on their dinner plate ?
Fully cooked salmon is a little like "chicken breast" in texture; sashimi is not my cup of tea.
Have any people tried ling cod in North America? I am not too sure if ling cod is that well-known outside of North America.
The Chinese population in North America uses the Chinese name for "giant grouper" (long dun) or for ling cod, which is somewhat misleading.
In the recent decades, "seafoods" have become the equivalent of delicacies and luxury, especially abalones among the Chinese population.
 
Oct 2013
121
Uk
#9
Thanks all!

A quick look at the online British Newspaper Archive brings up an article in the Worcester Journal for 18 July 1811, referring to clauses in indentures "binding the master not to give his apprentice salmon twice in the week." I am not currently signed up to see the full article, but it looks as though the increasing cost of salmon was then making such clauses redundant.
That’s a good point - I have access to various newspaper archives through the National library of Scotland, hadn’t thought to try that! Will give it a go...
 
Oct 2013
121
Uk
#10
A quick look at the online British Newspaper Archive brings up an article in the Worcester Journal for 18 July 1811, referring to clauses in indentures "binding the master not to give his apprentice salmon twice in the week." I am not currently signed up to see the full article, but it looks as though the increasing cost of salmon was then making such clauses redundant.
Hmm, unfortunately, I don't have access either, apparently this is only on site at the NLS, not online!

Have found various interesting bits and pieces though, via the other searches available, sometimes direct, sometimes a book to track down with google:

- A quote from a book by Thomas Fuller in around 1641:

Plenty of these in this County, though not in such abundance as in Scotland,where servants (they say) indent with their Masters, not to be fed there∣with above thrice a weeke.
- A quote from a book by Richard Franck in 1658, mentioning supposed laws regarding feeding servants salmon in Scotland:

The Firth runs here that washeth and
melts the foundations of the city, but relieves
the country with her plenty of salmon ; where
the burgo-masters (as in many other parts of
Scotland) are compelPd to reinforce an ancient
statute, that commands all masters and others,
not to force or compel any servant, or an ap-
prentice, to feed upon salmon more than thrice
a week.
- A brief note in the Bath Chronicle in 1789 that "before the building of the new weir" (I couldn't establish the date of the weir) the practice of apprentices including the "no salmon more than twice a week" rule was common.

- An 1827 article on the history of the Tyne, that mentions:

The Fisheries on the Tyne were, in ancient times, of great importance; and the salmon (which is the finest of the species) so plentiful, that apprentices covenanted to be fed with it only twice a week.
- Quite a few letters back and forth in various newspapers at times from 1860s-1890s where the topic is discussed, and some claim they have spoken to someone who has seen an indenture, and on one occasion to actually have seen the indenture themselves. But this itself seems a bit strange if the clause/law was already seen as worthy of note in the 17th century.

So, to me it looks like it might be a myth, as the article I linked in my original post suggests might be the case.

Or does anyone have anything to suggest otherwise?