The Fulton Fish Market stands out as an iconic New York institution. At first a neighborhood 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.
The new book The Fulton Fish Market: A History (Columbia Univ. Press, 2022) by Jonathan H. Rees 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 change in a dynamic industry. He also explains how changes in the urban landscape and economy affected the history of the market and the surrounding neighborhood.
Jonathan H. Rees is a professor of history at Colorado State University–Pueblo. His books include Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America (2013) and Before the Refrigerator: How We Used to Get Ice (2018).
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