Obviously, as reflected in the architecture, the fishery had become more concentrated in the hands of large New World-based mercantile interests during this eighteenth century period. As the migratory fishery prospered, merchants built larger stages where more fish could be made. Early nineteenth century sale advertisements indicate that the sizes of these larger stages were usually double or even triple the length of that described by Denys and illustrated by De Fer. Most were approximately 20' to 24' wide, but the length could vary depending on the size of the operation; lengths include: for Lawne in 1810, 101' and 115'; Little Burin in 1810, 125'; Burin in 1812, 70' and 130'; Bay Bulls in 1813, 160'; Burin in 1829, 124'; and a remarkable--perhaps questionable--stage in Renews in 1816 of 250'. These were no longer impermanent structures, rebuilt yearly, but large processing factories, no doubt using substantial timbers and foundation shores for more permanent support. As with the later nineteenth century structures, these large stages were obviously repaired annually, and maintained so that only minor maintenance work was necessary.
If these larger fish stages were part of an eighteenth century production system that involved a substantial number of men working for one mercantile concern, by the nineteenth century the Newfoundland fishery had essentially become a family operation. Individual families received all their supplies from a local merchant; in turn, they sold all their dried fish to that merchant, finally receiving a debit or credit to be carried until the next year. The crew of one small fishing boat would collectively process all the fish they caught; these men were often related. After the fish were caught, family members would help in the processing, with wives and children participating in a wide range of tasks. By the end of the season, the members of one boat crew and their various relatives had caught and processed a season's catch, with work centering on one family stage. It is this nineteenth century stage which today can be more thoroughly documented, and it is this building that holds the key to earlier forms.
From scattered pictorial evidence, as well as several extant structures, it seems that these stages used by individual families were smaller in size than the earlier mercantile premises. In fact, they may well have been closer to the 50' to 80' size stage initially described by Denys. A number of illustrations and early photographs indicate that these stages were usually built using a type of frame construction, covered with horizontal board sheathing at least on the interior of the structure. Many stages were not covered on the outside with planking or clapboard, but the upright framing was merely left exposed (figure 4).
That stages quickly adopted a system of interior planking seems largely a factor of cleanliness, for it was crucial to keep interior spaces (where fish were soaking in salt) free from any offal. Even small amounts of fish guts lodged in the crevices along an upright stud could breed maggots and soon spoil large portions of the catch. Several instances of different exterior covering forms have been noted. In one case, horizontal planking is evident, while in another (this time clearly French) the framing system is left exposed on the exterior, but obviously shows horizontal-rail nailers (figure 5).
Click to enlarge
|(figure4) French shore fishing room. |
The stage's lateral walls have interior sheathing with no external covering; the roof is possibly covered with boughs (Harper's Weekly, July 19, 1890).
Click to enlarge
|(figure5) French shore fishing room.|
The stages have a horizontal framing system, the stage heads are the triangular type described by de Fer and Denys, and the roofs are covered with sails (The Illustrated News of the World, October 22, 1859).
Mid-nineteenth century forms used a wide variety of roof coverings. Sails continued to be used, but usually by the French in their more migratory operations. The roofs of some stages were covered with sod or turf, boards--either horizontally like clapboard (figure 6) or vertically from ridge to plate--or even tree boughs.
Floors continued to be made of small logs called "longers", usually with the bark removed and flattened on one side to provide a smooth working space.
Click to enlarge
|(figure6) French shore fish stage;|
the building has vertical exterior sheathing and most likely a clapboarded roof (Illustrated News, August 27, 1853).