Lecture on Lewes' menhaden industry set Feb. 15 at Zwaanendael Museum

February 11, 2014
Atlantic menhaden SOURCE SUBMITTED

The Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, will host a lecture at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, on Lewes’ menhaden industry by Tom Brown, Lewes Historical Society volunteer and former chief of staff of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The program is the 1950s chapter of Delaware Decades, an eight-part series of lectures exploring successive decades in Delaware’s history from the 1930s to the 2000s. Admission to the event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited due to space restrictions. For details, call 302-645-1148.

Used for industrial purposes rather than as a source of food, menhaden, also known as bunker, is processed for its oil and to make fertilizer, feed, paint and perfume. The fish’s name is derived from the Native American word “munnawhatteaug” meaning “that which manures” (fertilizer). In the 1950s, Lewes was the largest menhaden port in the nation, processing an estimated 390 million pounds of the fish in 1953. However, in little over a decade, the town’s menhaden fishery collapsed due to overharvesting. It never returned. Luckily, Lewes later saw its fortunes rebound due to tourism.

Thomas E. Brown, PhD, CA, serves the Lewes Historical Society in a wide variety of voluntary capacities including membership on the board of trustees as well as work as a docent and program speaker. Prior to his retirement, he served as chief of staff of the National Archives and Records Administration for four years, as an archivist for eight years, and as the manager of the Archival Services Program in the Center for Electronic Records at the National Archives and Records Administration. In addition, he has held leadership positions with the Society of American Archivists, the International Association of Social Science Information Services, and the Academy of Certified Archivists.

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state's first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631.