Lot Chase Account Books, 1837-1848
Call no.: MS 199
Mariner from Harwich, Massachusetts, who was involved in the cod and mackerel fishing industry in Barnstable County. Two account books include expenses, income, and final settlements with those involved with annual voyages of 1837 and 1848. They also contain lists of crew members and part owners, many of whom were members of the Chase family.
Lot Chase of Harwich, Massachusetts, was a mariner
involved in the extensive cod and mackerel fishing industry
located in Barnstable County. When he captained the schooner
Horace in 1837 he was fifty years old and he remained active
in the industry at least through 1850. These were the waning
years of the cod and mackerel industry’s use of the
traditional hook and line catching of fish. By 1853, the
introduction of the purse seine method of capturing whole
schools of fish began to transform local fishing from a
small-scale labor-intensive enterprise into an expensive,
capital-intensive industry which undermined the family-owned
schooners of the sort captained by Lot Chase.
The two account books detail the expenses, income, and
final settlements with those involved in the annual cod and
mackerel voyages of 1837 and 1848. Included is an accounting
of the large and small bills incurred to provision the
schooner for each voyage — custom-house expenses, wharfage
charges, cook’s wages, bait, supplies, and charges for
errands — divided among the crew and charged as a debit to
each man’s individual account. There is also a credit side
for crewmembers based on the number of fish caught and other
chores for which they received pay. A portion of the total
income from each voyage (about one quarter) was set aside as
the “schooner’s share” to be divided by the owners. Thus,
Captain Lot Chase, for instance, earned two owner’s shares
(one as captain and one as part owner) of the 1837 voyages
plus money for the more than 4000 fish he caught.
For the year 1838, there were eleven crewmembers, five of
whom were also part owners, enabling them to reap two sources
of income from the voyages. There were also two part owners
who were not on the voyages. In 1848, the crew totaled
eleven, but divided the schooner’s share among fifteen
individuals, three of whom were investors, and one — Captain
Nathaniel Chase — who handled all the shore duties,
including the selling of fish.
Lot Chase’s cod and mackerel business was certainly a
family enterprise. The seven part owners of the schooner
Horace who divided the profits from the 1837 voyages included
six men with the surname Chase (residing in Harwich and
Dennis) and a David Wixon who was a neighbor of Freeman
Chase, one of the owners. In 1848, ten of the 15 principals
connected with the schooner Cornelius shared the Chase
surname. Another was Elijah Doane, Lot Chase’s next-door
neighbor, and the other four were married to either a Doane
or a Chase.
Although Lot Chase was the captain, the shore-man
Nathaniel earned the greatest gain from the voyages,
suggesting that he was actually the driving force behind the
enterprise, although that is not clear. Nevertheless,
Nathaniel cleared $923 in 1837 (a considerable sum for that
time) but just $287 in 1848, in part demonstrating the
decline of the fishing industry in these years. Lot, on the
other hand, cleared about $150 in 1837 and about $215 in
1848. Crewmembers netted between $40 and $200 after expenses
for the 1848 voyages.
The collection is open for research.
Cite as: Lot Chase Account Books (MS 199). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Acquired from Second Life Books, Inc., Lanesborough,
Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, 1989.
- Barnstable County (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Chase family
- Cod fisheries--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History
- Fisheries--Massachusetts--Equipment and supplies--History
- Fishing--Economic aspects--Massachusetts
- Harwich (Mass.)--History
- Horace (Schooner)
- Mackerel fisheries--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History
- Chase, Lot
- Chase, Nathaniel
Types of material
- Account books