The Fisherman Who Became a SymbolThe Great Lakes Fisherman
Port Washington is located just above Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. For well over a hundred years it has been home to a number of fine fishing families. In decades gone by you never had to look to far in Port Washington to find a fisherman.
The surrounding waters were also known to support a population of sturgeon. By the turn of the century these fresh water giants were being recognized for their true value rather than just as a menace to nets naturally the two came together. Commercial fishermen caught the sturgeon.
It was, therefore, not unusual to see a commercial fisherman toting a sturgeon. As cameras became increasingly popular after the turn of the century, people began to take an interest in recording on film the scenes around them. Ultimately the three things came together. Someone took a picture of a Port Washington commercial fisherman with a sturgeon slung over his shoulder and there the whole matter lay for a number of years.
The photograph might well have been lost or disappeared into obscurity had it not been for a remarkable development in Port Washington in the 1930ís the Smith Brothers Fishery at that time expanded its operations to include a small restaurant noted for its clean premises, fine food and reasonable prices. The rest is history. Smith Brothers Fish Shanty Restaurant grew into an enterprise including branches in Milwaukee and Los Angeles. A large four story motel was recently added. The original restaurant has expanded and become an internationally famous eating spot.
But what about the picture of the fisherman? The early success of the Smith Brothers venture required, of course, a logo or symbol to identify the firm in the eye of the public. An artistís rendering of the photo of the fisherman with the sturgeon filled the ticket admirably. The drawing is now recognized widely in the United States and Canada.
The name of the fisherman and the photographer are, to the best of our knowledge, long lost to memory but, through chance, that fisherman has lived on, immortalized by an artist and a firm that has become one of the great success stories of the fishing industry on the Great lakes.
From Richard D. Smith and Catherine Smith comes this image from an old photograph plate of a fisherman with his sturgeon over the shoulder:
This printing plate was in a box of old time printing plates which came from the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restaurant. The whole box of plates was purchased by an antique dealer that Cathy and I visited in 2008. There were many plates there which included menus, ads and such. They looked to be from between the 1930's through the 1950's. Cathy and I picked out and purchased a few articles we found interesting.
Above is the original photo from the article that it was based upon. The story about this picture is that this picture was setup by Oliver H. Smith. Oliver paid this person (identity unknown) to pose like the family icon. This is the consensus from Dan Smith and Lincoln Smith.
Here's another "Man with the Fish" marked by Daniel H. Smith as "Theodore (Ted) J Blong 1935 or possibly earlier". This one is, according to Daniel H. Smith, the original. Unfortunately the bottom half of the photo was cut off by someone who borrowed the photo.