21 May 2020

Fish Given to SLC's Poor in 1910s

Current view of the old warehouse distribution site
at 325 W. Pierpont Ave SLC. May 2020.

In February of 1915 and 1916, this former Hancock Brothers Warehouse at 325 W. Pierpont Ave was once the scene of a massive fish giveaway to Salt Lake’s poor.

Non-game fish (mostly carp, catfish, chubs, and suckers) were seined (fished with a net) from Utah Lake and shipped by rail to Salt Lake City.

The 1914 giveaway was organized by the state fish and game officials who offered to furnish up to 25 tons of fish for a penny a pound- the penny going to the fishermen for their work. Salt Lake County officials did not think they could distribute that much so they bought only 10 tons, enough to feed about 3,000 families for several days. The 10 tons cost the County $200 (~$5K in 2020 dollars).

The 1914 giveaway was so popular that the County purchased 15 tons of fish for the 1915 giveaway.

“When more than a thousand hungry men and women stand in line for hours to get a few fish that are given away, it throws the lie into the teeth of those officials who say there are no unemployment in Salt Lake” said a receiver of the 1915 giveaway.

The distribution of fish was quite orderly. A few policemen were on hand to keep the crowd inline, but their services were not needed. “Men and women, black and white, rubbed elbows in the crowd in apparent good nature and forgetting lines of color or of caste.”

Sources: Utah Lake: a safety net for the needy, By D. Robert Carter, Beehive History 27; SL Telegram 1915-02-08

The old Hancock Warehouse at 325 W Pierpont Ave, ca 2010
from loopnet, before the adjacent Pierpoint by Urbana was built.

News clipping from Salt Lake Telegram 1915-02-08.

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