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Cape Cod Codfish Economy

Around the year 1750, there lived in Boston, John Welch, a patriot and citizen of importance, and a captain in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. Captain Welch realized the importance of the codfish in the early economy of the Bay State.

With his own hands, he carved, from a solid block of wood, “a noble representation of that very noble fish.” The carved symbol was presented to the State, and for over two hundred fifty years it has hung in the legislative halls of both the old and the new State House (the old one is at the head of State Street, at Washington Street, Boston.)

Perhaps more than the distinguished flags which form so glorious a collection in the new State House, the carved-wood codfish, suspended for all to see and comment on, has been better known to the people. The “codfish economy” of Massachusetts began long before the carved codfish was thought of, and commenced at Cape Cod itself.

The carved cod that currently hangs in the State House is most likely the third “Sacred” Cod.

The first cod was hanging at the Old State House until it was destroyed in a fire in 1747. It was soon replaced with another, but that one disappeared during the British occupation of Boston early in the Revolution. At the end of the war, the new Massachusetts legislature took up the matter of the missing cod. In 1784, it was moved that “leave might be given to hang up the representation of a Cod Fish in the room where the House sit, as a memorial of the importance of the Cod-Fishery to the welfare of this Commonwealth, as had been usual formerly.” A new fish was duly carved and installed in the House chambers later that year.—(more on the carved cod at Mass Moments…)


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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 03/01/06
Categories: FishingHistory
Keywords: fishing, history, cod, codfish, sacred cod, economy


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