codfish aristocracy love

codfish aristocracy

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  • The last line: Haha!

    July 15, 2009

  • Maybe this should go on my "Vicious Sheep" list...

    "By the eighteenth century, cod had lifted New England from a distant colony of starving settlers to an international commercial power. Massachusetts had elevated cod from commodity to fetish. The members of the "codfish aristocracy," those who traced their family fortunes to the seventeenth-century cod fisheries, had openly worshiped the fish as the symbol of their wealth. A codfish appeared on official crests from the seal of the Plymouth Land Company and the 1776 New Hampshire state seal to the emblem of the eighteenth-century Salem Gazette—a shield held by two Indians with a codfish overhead. Many of the first American coins issued from 1776 to 1778 had codfish on them, and a 1755 two-penny tax stamp for the Massachusetts Bay colony bore a codfish and the words staple of Massachusetts.

    When the original codfish aristocrats expressed their wealth by building mansions, they decorated them with codfish."
    —Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (New York: Penguin, 1997), 78–79

    Two centuries later, however...
    "... New England, a key player in the American industrial revolution, became much less dependent on its fisheries. The old merchant families moved their money into industry. The term codfish aristocracy was now used by an emerging working class to remind the establishment that they had gotten rich in lowly trade, and therefore, for all their airs, were simply nouveau riche....

    Worse yet, in the 1930s, Boston's Irish-American mayor, James Michael Curley, a feisty populist who took on the Boston establishment, objected to calling them sic codfish aristocracy. He said the term was 'an insult to fish.'"
    —Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (New York: Penguin, 1997), 105–106

    July 15, 2009