Historical Collections of the Great Lakes
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Lay Brothers Fisheries, Inc. - GLMS 94
This 6.5 cubic foot collection was donated to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes on November 7, 1989 by Edward C. Lay of Sandusky, Ohio. Additional transfers were made by Mrs. Patricia W. Lay on October 8, 1990 and July 30, 1991. Literary and property rights were dedicated to the public. Photocopying is permitted for the purposes of conservation and research. The collection was processed in September 1996 by Mark J. Barnes.
The company known as Lay Brothers Fisheries, Inc. began as a one-person operation in Sandusky, Ohio in the 1860s when John Lay, Sr. launched and crewed his first fishing boat. Lay was born December 4, 1849. Jacob Lay and Mary Bolzmeyer were born in Germany and migrated to Ohio before their son John was born. John Lay began his career in the fish industry in 1869. In one year business was sufficiently good to make adding a partner necessary. John's brother Jacob Lay joined him in the trap net boat and Lay Brothers Fisheries was inaugurated. John Lay's participation in this company lasted until his death on February 23, 1937.
Lay Brothers, Inc. grew rapidly in terms of new boats and employees. A third Lay brother, Henry, joined the management of the expanding company in 1881. The fleet reached a peak size in the 1930s at approximately thirty vessels.
Management began to shift to a second generation of Lays when Jacob Lay retired in 1902. John's sons John Jr., Oscar, and Charles began to assist in running the business.
The business was so successful, even during the Great Depression, that fish products were sold to an international market. Expansion into subsidiary companies before the 1930s helped the Lay brothers keep their business in sound condition. Albert Matt managed the Huron Fish company for the Lays as of 1906. John Lay, Jr. began operating the Port Clinton Fish Company in 1910 and the Ashtabula Fish Company was founded in 1915. As late as 1942, Charles Lay was a partner in the Lake Manitoba Fisheries, Ltd. of Winnipeg. This company provided winter harvest catches to be distributed by the Lays.
The 1950s marked a severe decline in the fortunes of the Lay Brothers Fisheries. Several factors were identified as the causes. A decline in the pickerel population decreased a prime source of profit. Competition from Canadian fleets that fished on a full year schedule with no winter layup cut down catch totals for the Lay company. Improved freezing and shipping methods allowed more distant companies to compete in the Lay Brothers' market. John Lay Sr's. grandson, Jack Lay, stopped using the company fleet in 1957 and closed the business in 1961. The Port Clinton Fish Company was used to provide fish to the processing part of the company.
This 6.5 foot collection allows researchers to examine the operations of a Lake Erie fishing company from 1889 to its closing in 1961. The Lay family of Sandusky, Ohio retained ownership throughout the company's history. Series on financial and legal papers form the largest part of the collection.
Financial records for the Lay Brothers company (2 cubic feet) cover the years 1889-1956. Account ledgers, payroll information, sales figures and fish catch data give a detailed view of the growth and decline of a Great Lakes fishing company over nearly six decades.
Scattered financial information on other businesses (one-half cubic foot) owned by the Lay Brothers or with whom they transacted business dates from 1893-1951. The Ashtabula Fish Company, Huron Fish Company, Port Clinton Fish Company, and the Stockholm Fish Company are represented here.
Legal files for Lay Brothers Fisheries (.66 cubic feet) are present for 1910-1970. Deeds, leases, bills of sale, family estate files and stock certificates are found in this series.
A drawing series (three cubic feet) contains items from 1894 to 1960. The drawings show plats for Lay Brothers property and plans for company buildings. Eighteen diagrams of trap nets record how their fishing industry tools were constructed and used.
A set of 109 photographs was separated from the collection and placed with the port files of Sandusky, Ohio, under the heading Lay Brothers Fisheries.
Box 1, Folders 1-9
Arranged alphabetically by subject
Correspondence of a scattered nature. The primary subject matter is the condition of the fishing industry on the Great Lakes in the 1930s. National Fisheries Institute and National Recovery Administration documents are included. One file on Lay family history appears.
LEGAL FILES, A-Z
Box 1, Folders 10-28
Arranged alphabetically by company name
Legal papers acquired by the Lay Brothers Fisheries staff in business transactions with other companies. Warranty deeds, mortgage deeds, leases, stock certificates, Lay family estate files, and bills of sale form most of the series.
LAY BROTHERS FISHERIES FINANCIAL PAPERS, A-Z
Arranged alphabetically by record type
Contains account ledgers, payroll information, catch records, and other financial documents for the Lay Brothers Fisheries. The fish catch records are the most extensive materials.
FINANCIAL PAPERS OF OTHER COMPANIES, A-Z
Arranged alphabetically by subject
Contains financial papers from companies other than the Lay Brothers Fisheries. Accounting records and financial statements form most of this series.
1894-1960, no date
Boxes 5, 5A, 5B
Arranged by format (rolled or flat)
Contains drawings in the form of art work and technical drawings. Plat maps for property of interest to the Lay Brothers Fisheries staff are present. Building plans for fishing company structures show the design of this industrial form of building. Diagrams for trap design and use show how this fishing industry tool was used. The artwork and a few plats are in flat storage in Box 5. Box 5A has all the rolled drawings except for the trap net plans. The net plans are in Box 5B (see inventory).
Box 5, Folder 5
Scattered newsclippings regarding the Lay Brothers Fisheries and the Great Lakes Fishing Industry.
1-9. Correspondence, A-Z, 1931-1953
10-28. Legal, Lay Brothers Fisheries Files, A-Z, 1910-1970
Box 2: Lay Brothers Fisheries, Financial
1-7. Account Books, 1922-1924, 1938-1942, 1947
8. Balance Sheets, 1954
9. Bills of Lading, 1955-1956
10. Employee Payroll Ledger, 1937-1945
Box 3: Lay Brothers Fisheries, Financial
1-2. Expense Ledgers, 1936-1944
3. Financial Statements, 1931-1937, 1948
4-7. Fish Records, 1889-1891, 1897-1954
8. Frozen Fish Records, 1939-1955
9. General Ledger, 1925-1927
10. Loan Account Book, 1906-1936
11. Price Lists, 1946-1950
12. Sales Record, 1956 (see oversize items)
13-16. Sales Tax Records, 1935-1940, 1953-1954
17-19. Time Book, 1935-1937, 1946-1948, 1953-1956
20-21. Unemployment Reports, 1939-1940
Box 4: Other Companies, Financial
- Ashtabula Fish Co., Corporate Records, 1915-1931
- Avery Paper Corp., 1893
- Huron Fish Co., 1936
- John Lay, Sr., 1935-1936
- John Lay Realty Co., 1931-1932, 1936
- Lyons and Lay Realty Co., 1925-1926, 1932
- Perry St. Dock Co., no date
- Port Clinton Fish Co., 1935-1936, 1947-1948
- Stockholm Fish Co., 1922-1936
- Stockholm Fish Co., 1922-1936
- Stockholm Fish Co., 1923-1930 (see oversize items)
Box 5: Drawings, Newsclippings
- Drawings of Fish from US Bureau of Fisheries Bulletins, n.d. (11 items)
- Front elevation of Lay Bros. Fisheries office building, Sandusky, Ohio, by Alfred Schnurr, Jr., 1932
- Copies of plats on Catawba Island, Ottawa County, Ohio, re: Alva Barnum property, 1894, 1928, 1955
- Print of fisherman painting by McKell given to Charles E. Lay by Governor Cooper of Ohio, n.d.
- Newsclippings, [1872-1961] (15 items)
Box 5A: Drawings--Rolled Drawings
- Nine blueprints for the Port Clinton Fish Co. grounds and buildings
- Plat of Lay Brothers dock at the foot of Wayne Street in Sandusky, Ohio, 1932
- Plat of Parat of Fractional Section 13 in Bay Township, Ottawa County, Ohio, owned by Leo Hopfingel, 1939
- Floor plan and elevation for summer house of C. O. Weilbacher of Columbus, Ohio, 1960
- Curve data for Sandusky, Ohio Harbor, no date
Lay Brothers Fisheries Artifact Inventory
- Office Equipment: 20 rubber stamps, 1 copper stencil for company name, 1 pencil sharpener cutter
- Fishing Equipment: 1 phonometer timing device, 3 net weights, 48 net needles, 3 fishing knives, 1 key, 65 edged tool bits, 1 cord comb for nets?, 1 wall mounted metal hook for hanging cord, 1 metal tag
Box 2: Taffrail Log
Box 3: Assorted dials and equipment parts
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