J.R. Heckman – A brief History

J.R. Heckman

J.R. Heckman was a local Ketchikan Businessman and the superintendent of the Alaska Packers Association.

J.R. Heckman (hatless), Pop Gilmore (hat in hand), and Fremont King (hat on head) standing on a Ketchikan street. Mrs. Connel, wife of captain Connel who operated the Stedman Hotel at that time is behind the men.

Donor: Mrs. Al Hagmoe, Photograph courtesy Tongass Historical Society
The Floating Fish Trap

In 1908 Heckman designed the Floating Fish Trap, a revolutionary new method to catch salmon. In it’s most basic terms, it is a large underwater net that traps salmon as they swim by. These Fish Traps were anchored and would float in locations offshore. Salmon would be brailed into a tender boat and brought to the cannery.

Brailing salmon from trap

Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife – Fisheries Collection

U.S. Patent Application and blueprint by J.R. Heckman in 1908

Ketchikan, The Salmon Capital

Heckman’s Floating Fish Traps were so efficient, it led to a production boom in the salmon industry, which saw it’s peak in 1929. J.R. Heckman was reported to have said “Well, boys, we got ’em all”.

Knee-Deep In Salmon –  Southeast Alaska: Salmon being transferred to a large boat on which they are iced and hauled to a cannery. Photo 1938

Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife – Fisheries Collection
Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS

Brailing salmon – buy boat at Independent Canneries Fish Trap No. 1.  – 1943

Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife – Fisheries Collection
Photographer: J. Dassow
The Historic Heckman House

About the time J.R. Heckman was patenting his Floating Fish Trap, he built his home centrally in downtown on top of Ketchikan’s Knob Hill. This unique location sits right above downtown, and would later have a tunnel built right through it far below the Heckman House. Yes, cars actually pass through Knob Hill down below on the street.

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