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Item of the Week: On the Romanticized Baymen

Wed, 03/20/2024 - 20:46

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

Anyone who has driven Bluff Road in Amagansett past the East Hampton Town Marine Museum in the last 20 years also passed the iconic American flag dory fishing boat used by Dan King (b. 1949), the president of the East Hampton Baymen's Association. The dory — and Dan's crew — played a key role in the protests over striped bass and haul-seining restrictions 30 years ago.     

The Maritime Folklife Oral History Collection at the East Hampton Library contains interviews and transcripts with Dan and his crew, along with many other fishermen and their families. The transcript seen here involved Dan's wife, Marsha King (1949-2017).     

During her 1983 interview with John Eilertsen, a folklorist who went on to direct the Bridgehampton Museum, Marsha admitted her family sometimes ate seafood, but she'd never eaten striped bass, because "it's just worth so much money, it's not worth it."     Marsha spoke about the pressures her husband felt to support and guide his friends and colleagues through the fishing restrictions imposed by New York State. She showed a strong awareness of the optics of the romanticized "poor fisherman" in relation to her husband's lobbying efforts. Marsha also discussed her feelings about being part of the "Men's Lives" photo documentation project, organized by Adelaide de Menil, and what she thought made someone a "bubby" (a colloquial term generally associated with longtime local working-class residents and their lifestyle).     

Unfortunately, the photographs from the "Men's Lives" project are unable to be scanned without permission from the photographers, which means they can only be seen in person, but Marsha's interview and some of the photos from the project will be part of a one-day pop-up exhibition next Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Long Island Collection. Stop by and join us for the first of our drop-in pop-up programs.      


Andrea Meyer, a librarian and archivist, is head of collection for the East Hampton Library's Long Island Collection.

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