Long ago Native Americans used lobsters as bait or to
fertilize their fields. They were so plentiful along the shores
that during colonial times lobster was primarily considered
'poverty food.' It was served to prisoners and indentured
servants. Servants finally rebelled and listed in their
contracts they were not to be forced to eat lobster more than 3
times a week.
Trap fishing started in Maine around 1850. Before that they
were mostly harvested by hand along the shores. As demand grew
for the lobster in the New York and Boston markets, Smackmen
were used to carry the lobsters from Maine to these ports. The
term Smackmen was derived from the type of boat they used. A
smack is a small sailing vessel with a tank inside that has
holes cut to allow seawater to circulate.
The first lobster pound was founded in Vinalhaven in 1875. It
was located in a deep tidal creek. The lobster pound made it
easier to store lobster for longer periods of time. There the
lobsters are kept in tanks with water passing freely through
Canning began in 1836 to reach an even larger demand. Canning
overcame some of the difficulties in shipping lobsters. By the
second half of the 19th century, the value of canned lobster had
surpassed the value of live lobster. According to an 1880
history of Cumberland County, the Burnham & Morrill Co., being
one of the early canneries in existence in Maine, at that time
advertised they were sending canned lobster to all parts of the
habitable globe. The company is now called B & M and primarily
produces baked beans.
Today, Maine is the largest lobster-producing state in the
United States. With current technology and transportation, it is
now possible to have live lobsters shipped across the country.