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The commercial fisheries took in salmon by the hundreds of thousands per year in the lower reaches of the Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Early methods incorporated those used by natives including the use of fish traps, or weirs, but also came to include the use of large gill and seine nets and both stationary and floating fish wheels. The canneries themselves were located near the most plentiful source of fish near the mouth of the Columbia as the map at right suggests.
These early canneries, like the first at Eagle Cliff, were labor intensive operations, often taking advantage of the availability of cheap Chinese contract labor. These workers were the first to be displaced as mechanization in the form of equipment like this fish cleaning machine were brought into the canneries.
Oregon salmon from the Columbia was shipped world-wide, although by far the largest portion went to Great Britain for shipment throughout the British Empire.2 Warehouses of fish ready for shipment were literally filled to the gills during the height of the season.
Salmon production went from zero in 1866 to a peak of over 600,000 forty eight pound cases in 1883. The graph below provides a picture of production in the Columbia canneries from 1866 to 1928 during the industries most profitable years and as it leveled off during the depression of the 1930s: