Cover Image: The Fulton Fish Market

The Fulton Fish Market

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You can only quote Joseph Mitchell so many times in a book before it starts making more sense to just go and read something by Joseph Mitchell instead.

This book has some interesting and valuable information if you’re a huge fan of New York City history like I am, but this is one of those nonfiction offerings that probably would have made more sense as a long form article than a full book. 

If you’re hugely interested in the general history of commercial fishing, you’re likely to enjoy this more than I did. I was personally more interested in the history of the space itself and in the sociocontextual significance of the market throughout time as it and society evolves, and while those things are well-rendered in the book, there isn’t enough there to justify slogging through the rest.

The research is thorough and thoughtful, and I’ve no issues with the book on that front. The writing, while technically fine, does leave something to be desired. Rather than an immersive social history and captivating narrative nonfiction, the book reads more like a well-conceived book report. It has no real momentum, lacks engaging tone, and is often repetitive. 

In all, I’m not unhappy that I read this, but would have appreciated it more in a concise format and with greater focus on social history.
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*This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley.

Admittedly, I had never heard of the Fulton Fish Market before reading this book.  Fish markets, sure, but not that specific one.  But I'm down for anything food-history adjacent, which this definitely is.  And so I embarked on a journey that I never really expected (supply chains, fish, and the mafia, oh my!).  

This is definitely a historical narrative about the Fulton Fish Market in New York.  Specifically, the older one (although there is a newer, seemingly more industrial one now).  From its origins hundreds of years ago, to the various troubles with production and supply, to its eventual move to the Bronx and change of clientele (well sorta, less market, more wholesale it would seem), this book covers what seems to be the entire history.

While it could get dry at times (a failing of non-fiction that focuses on one thing sometimes), overall I thought this book had a lot of interesting facts that were interspersed with pictures and even some anecdotes and facts about how the mob was involved.

If you're interested in historical supply chain, fish, or even just very focused history on New York, this book will be right up your alley.

Review by M. Reynard 2022
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I worked at South Street Seaport and got a lot of experience of the Fulton Fish Market, so this book was particularly appealing to me. I appreciated the material on the Rouse Company (my employer) and what the market was like at that time-- particularly the organized crime aspect, which I experienced first hand.

Overall it was a good, well-researched book.
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Being a food and wine lover this book offered an insight to the East coasts most prominent fish source, the Fulton market that I enjoyed learning about. Much detail, history and general information from the 1800's until today offers a great insight how important this market is.
A definite read for any foodie, historian or New York lover. I am thrilled to recommend this definite study of the fish industry.
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This was fine there’s nothing technically wrong with it I didn’t love it I didn’t hate it I think maybe I just read too much into Sean are lately
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Years ago, when I lived in New Jersey, I'd take weekend trips into 'The City' to explore its nooks and crannies. When I mentioned to a friend that I'm always interested in a city's history, I was immediately instructed to visit the Fulton Fish Market, which has been in business since 1822. That was good advice! 

Nowadays, I'm living in the Midwest writing fiction books set in the late 1800s. One of my contrived cities has a fisherman's wharf, lots of independent fishmongers, and a fish market. When I saw "The Fulton Fish Market: A History", I grabbed it without hesitation. The Fulton Fish Market had been my original inspiration for my fictional fish market, and here was a golden opportunity to learn about the business in more detail, and kick my own fictional fish market up a notch in future stories.

I was not disappointed. Especially valuable was learning about Alfred E. Smith, who in 1892 climbed on Fulton's roof every morning to look through a telescope at the fishing boats. He knew that if a boat was sitting low in the water, it was full of fish. He even knew where each boat liked to fish and could make an educated guess about what type of fish they were bringing in. This advance knowledge helped the company have a game plan in place even before the first fish was unloaded and put up for sale.

That's the sort of gem a writer goes nuts for.

If you are interested in urban history, or love everything about New York, or are a fishmonger wanting to learn from the best, you're going to love this book. Oh, and if you're a writer, I found it first! Mine!

My thanks to Jonathan H. Rees, Columbia University Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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The Fulton Fish Market gives a comprehensive history of the iconic New York City fish market which was founded in the 1800s. The journey to what the market is today weaves in the history of fish mongering in the US and worldwide. If you are interested in historic institutions and how they come to be, this book is a wonderful read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Columbia River Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book will be out 12/6/22.
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Publication date: December 6, 2022

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader's copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own, are not a result of compensation and may be affected by the fact that  I currently have nothing better to do than read multiple books a day sitting at the nursing home or in front of the a.c!

The Fulton Fish Market stands out as an iconic New York institution. At first a neighbourhood retail market for many different kinds of food, it became the nation’s largest fish and seafood wholesaling center by the late nineteenth century. Waves of immigrants worked at the Fulton Fish Market and then introduced the rest of the city to their seafood traditions. In popular culture, the market—celebrated by Joseph Mitchell in the New Yorker—conjures up images of the bustling East River waterfront, late-night fishmongering, organized crime, and a vanished working-class New York.

This book is a lively and comprehensive history of the Fulton Fish Market, from its founding in 1822 through its move to the Bronx in 2005. Jonathan H. Rees explores the market’s workings and significance, tracing the transportation, retailing, and consumption of fish. He tells the stories of the people and institutions that depended on the Fulton Fish Market—including fishermen, retail stores, restaurants, and chefs—and shows how the market affected what customers in New York and around the country ate. Rees examines transformations in food provisioning systems through the lens of a vital distribution point, arguing that the market’s wholesale dealers were innovative businessmen who adapted to technological innovation in a dynamic industry. He also explains how changes in the urban landscape and economy affected the history of the market and the surrounding neighbourhood.

Bringing together economic, technological, urban, culinary, and environmental history, this book demonstrates how the Fulton Fish Market shaped American cuisine, commerce, and culture.

This is a great read about an institution and cultural icon that shaped "downtown" New York before 
it moved to The Bronx. Much like The Tsukiji fish market (the commercial size) in Tokyo which moved from near the Ginza, it was a major part of the neighbourhood that had to recover from its move as chefs from nearby restaurants are now having to take a train or car up to its new location as there is no other wholesale fish market like Fulton. 

Regarding the interesting fact mentioned above ... 
Beginning in the 1920s, the Fulton Fish Market had been controlled by mobsters, mostly the Genovese Crime Family.  Unloading crews would extort "parking fees" and kickbacks from out-of-town fish companies. If a company refused to pay, the unloaders would let the fish spoil. Mob employees and mob-controlled companies received special benefits. The Market’s security force operated a protection racket for retail shops and vehicles located on the margins of the Market waterfront.   In 1994, new mayor Rudy Giuliani launched a campaign to end mob control of the market. Through civil suits and new regulations, the city expelled mob employees and vendors and ended the extortion rackets against honest seafood vendors. The Genovese family retaliated with arson and wildcat strikes but were unable to stop the city.

Beyond interesting, this is a slice of NY history that cannot be missed: I will recommend it to food buffs, friends, family and anyone who lives in NYC wanting to know more about their own backyard's history!
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