Pearls

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Pearls




In the News~

March 8, 1861 [Daily Evening Bulletin]: “Pearl Fishing. It may not be generally known that pearls are found on our coast and island, yet such is the fact, the Chinese being the most successful, as they are principally engaged in the collection of abalones, in the shells of which pearls are found. We have heard of two pearls being found on the Island of Catalina, which sold for $200 each. We saw some of the pearls taken on the island, which looked very well, and we suppose are valuable. The Chinese collect a good many, but very little can be ascertained by their success in this department.”


May 14, 1897 [NYT]: “Hunting otters and abalones… Another singular California industry in the hands of the Chinese is the collection of abalones, the Haliotus of science, several species of which are found on the Pacific coast… A crude, high-pooped junk, with a big eye forward, was the source of supply, and had landed a band of ten men on San Clemente Island… She had deposited another band at San Nicolas… providing the men with provisions and carrying the shells to the coast. The men were in camp on as little bay, and near by were great gunnysacks of abalones, ready for shipment. Every morning the hunters started out, some wading along the rocks at low tide, armed with a long pole, on the end of which was an implement like a chisel, intended for prying off the shells from the rocks. The majority of abalones are found just below tidewater, some in water ten feet deep, and in a sea way they are difficult to secure. The men are sometimes bruised by being thrown against the rocks, and an occasional death by drowning has been known… Abalone pearls are found loose in the folds of the animal or attached to the shell…”


May 16, 1897 [NYT]: “There are several industries in California which are unique. One is otter hunting on the offshore islands, another abalone collecting… Another singular California industry in the hands of the Chinese is the collection of abalones, the Haliotus of science, several species of which are found on the Pacific coast. The shell when polished presents a beautiful appearance. The abalone has a threefold value: first, for the meat it produces; second, the shell; and third, for the pearls…”


February 13, 1898 [LAT]: “Use of the abalone… Quite a considerable business is carried on by Chinese in abalone shells and meat on the Islands of the Santa Barbara Channel. In the abalones pearls are sometimes found…”


March 11, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The gathering of abalone pearls is an infant industry attracting some attention here. Wilson, the Isthmus fisherman, came down yesterday at the request of people here to dispose of a lot of pearls which he has accumulated. They are from the abalones, which have heretofore abounded about the island, but which are now becoming rather scarce. Wilson’s hoarde of pearls numbers several hundred, but are mostly small, though some are of good size and perfect in shape. There are many ‘freaks’ among them, one being almost an exact representation of a shoe.”


April 7, 1905 [SBMP]: “Mr. McGuire will also start a trade in abalone meat, shells and pearls, and may gather other shells for the market. Abalone shells are constantly increasing in value, as their worth in manufacturing purposes is becoming well known all over the country.”


April 22, 1905 [SBMP]: “The fishing sloop Peerless left for the islands yesterday with a number of fishermen and a load of supplies, for the purpose of establishing abalone camps on Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands. Besides gathering abalone shells, meat and pearls, they will also collect sea grass, which commands a good price in Chinese markets.”


July 4, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez will sail this morning with a load of supplies for Captain Waters, San Miguel Island. From there he will go to San Nicolas Island in order to bring Frank Nidever and Clarence Libbey, abalone fishermen, who have been on the island for three months. Their catch of abalone meat, shells and pearls will also be brought in on the boat.”


October 1905: “At the end of October Ira [Eaton] went to bring Clarence Libbey and Frank Nidever back from San Nicolas Island. They had seventeen hundred pounds of crawfish, three tons of abalone and four tons of shells. They also had found some good pearls in the abalones, which they could sell for two or three hundred dollars. Abalones brought a good price in the market; they were boiled, dried and sold to the Chinamen, who shipped them to China for food and medicinal purposes. The shells were shipped to Germany and made in to jewelry and fancy articles…” [Eaton Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife p. 26]


August 27, 1906 [LAT]: “Abalone Japs are nabbed. Constable Peter Storni and Henry J. Abels of the State Fish and Game Commission brought three more Japanese abalone fishermen to justice this past week for taking abaline shells under the legal size from the shores of Santa Cruz Island. The offenders were arrested on John Doe warrants and contributed $100 in fines in Justice Wheaton’s court. It has been known for several days that Fish Commissioner Abels was on the track of some offenders against the game law. Three Japanese fishermen brought a boatload of abalone shells from the islands three days ago, and stored their property in sacks on the wharf for shipment to San Francisco. There were several tons of shells. Abels suspected that some of the shells were under size, but could not locate the fishermen. He therefore prevented the shipment of the shells on a northbound steamer, and in company with Constable Storni went to the wharf and examined them. A dozen or more shells that were smaller than the law allows, were found and were confiscated as evidence… The law allows no abalone shells to be taken of a circumference less than fifteen inches around the outer edge of the shell, but the black abalone, which does not grow so large, may be taken when twelve inches in circumference. Japanese divers reap a good profit from abalone meat and pearls…”


February 1, 1909 [LAT]: “Long Beach. Big pearls on neck of dead. Immense jewels rattle on island skeleton. Thirteen of them, the size of walnuts, but somewhat decomposed, are dug up at San Nicolas along with bones of Indians. They came from extinct red abalone. C. B. Linton of this city, who has spent several years in the study of archaeology and ornithology, has just returned from a month’s exploration of San Nicolas Island. Although nominally his object was gathering of shells and fauna, he also had a curiosity to solve the mystery of the disposal of the pearls, which he judged were found in large numbers in the red abalone. This now extinct shellfish once formed the major part of the food of the Indians who formerly inhabited the San Nicolas group. After weeks of fruitless search over desert hills and sand wastes, he, by accident, found his quest. While prospecting the sand dunes near the western extremity of the island, he noted a bright spot in one of the mounds. Investigating, he found it to be the back portion of a human skull. After an hour’s excavation with a knife, he found an entire Indian skeleton, face down, and with arms and legs drawn up beneath the trunk. Linton and two assistants made further investigations and during the next three days uncovered nineteen skeletons. In the center was what he judged to be the remains of a chief, because of the care taken in his burial and the number and value of the decorations. On the top of the skull was the major portion of another skull. On the center of the back were two large spears laid crosswise and several stone rings. Near his feet were five bone daggers, and a bone implement of some kind. Around the neck, however, was the greatest find. Among the large and small stones and shell pendants were buried thirteen immense pearls, each one with a small hole drilled in the smaller end for stringing. These average the size of an English walnut, and if freshly taken from the shells would be worth easily $3500. As it is, they are valuable only as archaeological specimens, as they are somewhat decomposed, though still retaining some of their luster. Below the face and breast of the chief were found numerous tiny shell beads and a quantity of wampum. Most of the skull bore evidences of being crushed and broken, and Mr. Linton believes the remains are those of a chief and his warriors, who are reputed to have been killed by sealers over 100 years ago. All of the curios were brought home by Mr. Linton, and will be presented to the Los Angeles Society, of which he is an active member.”


July 15, 1909 [LAT]: “Long Beach. C. B. Linton, the naturalist, has placed on exhibition at Hotel Virginia his collection of abalone pearls, about 2000 gems. They were all secured from San Nicolas Island, and this year, fourteen prehistoric pearls taken from the skeleton of an Indian chief, are among the curiosities.”


December 9, 1911 [LAT/LB]: “Would limit abalone catch. C. B. Linton who controls the abalone and pearl concessions of San Miguel and San Clemente islands, is much interested in the application of the Catalina Tuna Club to have the Board of Supervisors limit the daily catch of abalones to fifty pounds each day for each fisherman. Mr. Linton believes the catch should be limited so far as red and green abalones are concerned, but will protest against its application to the black abalones, which he says, are in no danger of extinction since 20 percent of them live within the lines of the surf and are not within the reach of divers or ebb workers. He says that the green and red abalones are easy pickings for the Japanese divers, most of whom are no respecters of the Fish and Game laws, but denude the localities in which they work. The Linton concessions have shipped sixty tons of shells to eastern manufacturers this year. They also have a plant, or bed, of 3000 abalones which are engaged just now in making abalone pearls. The plant is soon to be moved nearer the mainland. The process is new, pearls being developed in the course of one or two years around a composition nucleus that is planted inside the abalone shell. Some of these have been removed from abalones after being planted eight months, and show the scheme is a success. The pearls can be produced in any color of the Oriental pearl, and will be very valuable.”


December 11, 1911 [LAT]: “Information has been received by President Newbert of the State Fish & Game Commission, that an abalone pearl farm established on San Clemente Island by private enterprise has proved successful and that several of the islands of Southern California may be devoted to the production of the pearls, which are said to be unusually large and beautiful… The abalone farm was established on San Clemente Island over a year ago by C. B. Linton of Long Beach, who has abalone concessions on that island, also San Nicolas, Santa Barbara and San Miguel islands. For years the abalones wree almost cleaned out by Japanese divers, who were not generally known to have secured pearls. They sold the meat and shells and pocketed the pearls without ostentation, and it is only of late years that it has been discovered that the brown men have carried off fortunes in pearls.”


July 26, 1912 [VNN]: “Will grow pearls at beach. The U. S. Bureau of Fisheries is soon to establish a preserve on an island near here, where pearl-giving oysters will be planted in beds, according to C. B. Linton, who has just returned from Washington, D.C.”


October 31, 1912 [LAT]: “Abalone pearls. The largest collection of abalone pearls ever gathered on the Pacific Coast has been completed by C. B. Linton, who has returned from a trip up and down the coast, and secured practically the year’s output at every fishing point south of San Francisco. They are being shipped to Long Beach by freight and weigh 2400 pounds. The pearls are in abalone shells, but will be removed during the next thirty days. The exhibit will find a place in the San Diego Exposition and is worth several thousand dollars.”


February 28, 1913 [LAT]: “Pearl Culture. The C. B. Linton Company today received word from the government notifying it of the granting to the company a special lease on a portion of San Nicolas Island for the propagation of pearls in abalones. The company previously sublet its abalone beds from another party and was unable to punish vandals who destroyed their beds. The lease gives them exclusive rights to twelve and one-half miles of coastline, both below high tide line and for a specified distance shoreward. The Linton Company will establish a laboratory on the island and keep two men there to attend to their pearl culture experiments.”


June 1913: “…At Avalon, in 1870, when the [abalone] meat sold forfive cents a pound, the green shells brought eighty dollars a ton. At the present time the green shells are sold at one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and eighty dollars a ton, the black, at eighty to one hundred dollars a ton, and the red, at forty to seventy-five dollars a ton… Mr. C. B. Linton has succeeded in producing similar culture pearls by drilling a hole through the shell center, pushing in a round ball, made from the shell, and filling the outside end of the hole with beeswax and cement…” Edwards, Charles Lincoln The Abalones of California in Popular Science Monthly LXXXII:532-550 June 1913.


July 26, 1913 [SBDN]: “The finest abalone pearl found at the islands for many a day was secured by Captain Ira Eaton while taking some abalones out of their shells yesterday, and he was proudly showing his find to his mainland friends today. It is of large size, showing excellent color and of exceptional good shape, being quite round, a shape rarely seen in pearls of this variety.”


1913: “Mr. C. B. Linton of Long Beach has succeeded in growing similar culture pearls. He drills a hole through the shell center, pushes in a round ball, made from shell, and fills the outside end of the hole with beeswax and some cement.“ » Experiments in the Production of Blister Pearls and Free Pearls in Fish Bulletin No. 1 (10) Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library, 1913.


October 30, 1938 [LAT]: “Throughout the ages the legend of a race of white Indians has intrigued the fancy of man… Do these Indians exist?… Whatever the answer may be, Ralph Glidden, owner of the Indian Museum at Catalina Island, has both documentary and physical indications that white Indians did inhabit the chain of islands of the Southern California coast. Whether you agree, and he does not expect you to, you must lend credence to his theories, for he knows this extinct race of people as does no other man. He has devoted more than thirty-five years to the piecing together of their history and has exhumed more than 6,000 skeletal remains of the Channel Islands Indians. Glidden went to the Channel Islands for pearls. He remained to dig up skeletons. About the turn of the century, he was searching for pearls on the bleakest of all islands—San Nicolas—where the wind gods constantly unloose their fury. He thought he would find pearls in abundance in the shells of the abalones that then crowded each other for space from the water line to as many fathoms as the bravest diver dared to reach. He found three pearls. They were of poor quality and turned a worthless black in a short time. But he did find his life work—archaeology…’ I found my first skeleton on San Nicolas, quite by accident… The wind had blown the sand away from it and I stumped my toe on a skull. I became so fascinated by my find that I have devoted my life to this work ever since’…”