It’s fun and interesting to me when I find a historical item that then shows up in-use in all kinds of places. Most times it’s quite harmless, and people simply don’t worry about it. What’s fun is when print shops and publishers claim copyright, or “Illustrations by”, when “their” infographics are clearly based on a previous work.
It turns out that learning how to eat a whole lobster is not only a necessary bit of information in the state of Maine for those trying there hand at it for the first time, but most publishers are also using the same set of infographics published by the state in the early 1950s.
A couple months ago while making the rounds of the flea markets and antique shops of downeast Maine, I stumbled onto the above small pamphlets. Published by the State of Maine’s Dept. of Sea & Shore Fisheries, the smaller recipe book had seen multiple printings while the larger single-page folded pamphlets were published sometime between 1950 and 1953. These items were mentioned in “The Maine Development Commission and it’s Duties, 1953”:
“Advertising … Over the years, we have done a great deal of advertising of our seafood products in metropolitan newspapers and food magazines. We have also carried radio programs from Boston and New York calling attention to our fine seafoods. A seafood recipe book was issued and thousands of these booklets have been distributed all over the eastern half of the United States. In fact, we have never been able to keep up with the demand … Publicizing … One member of our publicity staff devotes more than half of his time to publicizing the products of the sea. We have been able to have splendid publicity stories in newspapers and feature stories and pictures in national magazines. We have helped many different groups in putting on Maine seafood dinners in many sections of the country. We have developed a lobster bib with the word ‘Maine’ and a red lobster prominently printed thereon. These bibs are used not only at the seafood dinners but the seafood dealers in many of our large cities use them where Maine lobsters are sold. These bibs are very prominent in news pictures taken at these affairs. A little folder, ‘How To Eat A Maine Lobster,’ profusely illustrated, is also widely distributed.
The Maine State Library tries to keep PDF copies of all the state’s publications online in digital format, but “How To Eat Maine Lobstar” isn’t among them. below is a PDF copy of my own copy, which you can also download here.how_to_eat_maine_lobster
Briefly, it turns out the Maine Development Commission was the department responsible for the publication of these pamphlets. The Maine State Library catalog does show three different entries for “How To Eat A Lobster”:
- D 60.5:Ho 847/950 c.2 1950?
- D 60.5:Ho 847/951 c.2 1951?
- D 60.5:Ho 847/953 c.2 1953? Color Cover by Wayne Buxton
The question marks on the dates are within the catalog, so the publication date isn’t known. Wayne Buxton, however, is an interesting individual to name. On the History page of the Maine Lobster Festival, he’s discussed as a founding member in 1947:
“An executive committee was formed to work with and advise the group from the very first festival and still continues today. The first officers were, Wayne Buxton of the Maine Development Commission; Owen Smith, editor of the Maine Coast Fisherman; Rudolph O. Marcoux, National Sales Director of the Maine Broadcasting System and Percy Keller, Camden’s town manager. In addition, the Maine Sea and Shore Fisheries Commission, in the person of Richard Reed, assisted the executive director.”
I happened to enjoy my first whole lobster at Gurnet Trading Co. in Brunswick, Maine, on September 13, 2018. When the live lobster I’d chosen was delivered steam to our table, the platter the lobster was resting on caught my eye:
In the restaurant I was able to pick up a package of the platters as a souvenir of my first lobster. The platters bore the label “Made in China for Christmas Tree Shops, Middleboro, MA”:
But at the same time the infographics on the platters seemed to be rather familiar to me. Once I got them home I was able to compare them to the inside of “How To Eat Maine Lobster”. Below is a restored image of the inside of the ca. 1950s pamphlet.
In comparing the platters with the pamphlet it was obvious the images were identical, save for some coloring for enhancement of certain aspects of the lobster throughout the process, the final image being reversed, and only some of the text being updated. Here was something made almost seventy years after the original images were published, only slightly modified, and not a copyright notice in sight or credit given.
In browsing through some local stores over the following days I began to notice the same images in rather broad use. Looking around online, I found only one instance if the images being used with proper credit given, in the 1961 “Old Farmer’s Almanac”:
I did find other uses of the same images. Some of these are simply colored as with the platters from the Christmas Tree Shops. Others are “cleaned up” or modified in some manner. But they’re all basically the same. Following are just a few examples:
Sanfacon Industries of Levis, Quebec, Canada, manufactures a line of restaurant placemats. Their Lobster #410 is printed on what’s called greenwood paper.
The New England LobsterBake Co. of Lakewood, Colorado, uses the infographics on their How To Eat A Lobster page.
Lure, a seafood restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, uses a highly-modified version of the Maine infographics on this work, which may be a table card of some sort.
The North River Lobster Co., a floating lobster shack off NYC, uses stylized versions of Maine’s infographics on their table cards.
In 2012 Down East Books published “The Maine Lobster Book” by Virginia M. Wright, with the earlier infographics being cleaned up for pages 98 – 99.