150 Years of Fishing History: Emma C. Berry at Mystic Seaport

Emma C. Berry is celebrating her 150th anniversary this year. She was built in Noank, CT, as a well smack, a fishing vessel designed to keep the catch alive and fresh for delivery to places such as New London and New York. The well smack design features a pyramid-shaped well amidships. Holes were drilled into the hull so that fresh water could flow through the well, thus keeping fish alive.

Well smacks were known as able fishing vessels along the East Coast from Maine to the Caribbean, and Noank was known for building the very best. In 1866, Emma C. Berry was launched into the Mystic River. Captain John Henry Berry named his new vessel after his daughter Emma, and fished the coastal waters of Southern New England.

As one of the oldest surviving commercial vessels in America, Emma C. Berry connects us to a time when fishing was one of the main industries along our coastline. This connection, along with her stunning shape, makes her such a significant vessel that she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

Exhibited afloat at Mystic Seaport, she was hauled out in the fall of 2015 to have some careful maintenance done to make her look her best for her 150th year celebration this summer.