Emard, Henry J.
1884-1963 | Businessman, Cannery Owner and Operator
Henry Joseph Emard was a noted Alaska salmon canner and pioneer in the salmon canning business. For thirty-five years, Emard operated the Emard Packing Company, with a plant in Anchorage. Emard played a leading role in the fisheries of Cook Inlet, with particular attention to the special qualities of Cook Inlet Red and King salmon.1
Emard was born in Somerset, Wisconsin on September 27, 1884 to French Canadian immigrant parents, Nopoleon Adolphe Emard and Emellia Georgianna Emard.2 Little is known about his life in Wisconsin. According to the 1905 Wisconsin State Census, he worked as a “telephone man.”3
Arrival in Alaska
Emard first came to Alaska as a young man in 1911 and lived or temporarily stayed in Ruby, Juneau, and Fairbanks. For a period of time, he lived in Ruby. He was an engineer in Juneau, possibly at the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company (A.J.).4 In 1911, Emard briefly owned, then sold, a lot in Fairbanks.5
In 1915, Emard settled in Anchorage where he worked as manager for the Anchorage Telephone Company. On June 5, 1915, the Cook Inlet Pioneer and Knik News reported that he had arrived at the new Anchorage townsite with enough telephone equipment to build the first telephone system.6 He shipped in telephone equipment contracted on credit, acting on the assumption that he could install it because “he possessed the qualifications most important in an Alaskan camp—he was first on the ground with the necessary supplies.”7 Characterizing Emard as a stampeder, the Alaskan Engineering Commission (AEC) refused him permission to string his wire and, to relieve an embarrassing situation, purchased all his equipment. On October 4, 1915, the AEC assumed responsibility for installing the first telephone system. Emard and another man named Lynch had formed a real estate company by November 1917 although nothing seems to have come of it. By 1918, Emard was working as a self-employed insurance agent.8
By 1918, Emard had met Loretta Granahan Emard, probably in Anchorage, and they were married in Alaska. In fall 1918 the Emards were part of an American Red Cross and Alaska Railroad sponsored group that went into Susitna area to help the Dena’ina Indians suffering from the deadly Spanish influenza. Loretta came to Alaska with her aunt, Katherine Kane, who was a U.S. Bureau of Education teacher in various Native villages in Alaska. One of Emard’s fleet of fish tenders was later named the Katherine Kane.
Enters the Fish Cannery Business: Lower Cook Inlet and Anchorage
By 1920, Emard’s interest had turned to the fish cannery business. On October 27, 1920, Emard advertised in the Anchorage Daily Times that he was selling canned King and Silver salmon from the Moose Point cannery, located in Lower Cook Inlet, directly to consumers in Anchorage by the case and half-case. In 1921, the Pacific Fisherman’s Yearbook indicated that Emard had put up forty barrels of salted salmon, or about ten tons.9
During the 1922 season, Emard put up 3,200 pounds of mild cured salmon at the Moose Point cannery, the smallest such operation in Alaska.10 The Pacific Fisherman reported that Emard: “has a small canning outfit as well as a saltery plant, [and] has built up a nice business in salt, smoked, kippered and canned salmon at Anchorage and points along the railroad.” 11 The following year, Emard produced nearly 1,500 cases of salmon, overwhelmingly Sockeye with a small run of King salmon.12
In 1920, the Anchorage Packing Company built a new cannery in Anchorage. In September 1923, Emard began operating his own cannery business and took over the Anchorage Packing Company.13
In April 1924, Emard built a cannery at Point Possession on the northwest coast of the Kenai Peninsula, near the Moose Point cannery.14 In 1925, the machinery from the Moose Point cannery was moved to the Gorman Packing Company’s cannery in Anchorage,15 where Emard was hired as superintendent. The Gorman Packing Company put up 14,000 cases of salmon that year.16
Emard Packing Company (Anchorage)
In 1928, Emard sold his holdings at Moose Point to the Gorman Packing Company and opened his own one-line cannery at Anchorage, the Emard Packing Company, at the mouth of Ship Creek. The Anchorage Daily Times reported: “The cannery is said to be the most modern in the territory, equipped with the latest canning machinery and so constructed that the plant is almost automatic in its operation, capable of large output with a minimum amount of labor.”17 The plant was noted at the time of its construction for having rail connections with the Alaska Railroad. Later, the Pacific Fisherman praised Emard and his long-time superintendent, S.T. Olson, for successfully solving the operational problems imposed by the “extraordinary tides of Cook Inlet at Anchorage.”18
The Emard Packing Company cannery in Anchorage operated from about May 25 to late August each year, packing King, Sockeye, and Coho salmon. The 1936 pack of nearly 60,000 cases of canned salmon set an all-time record up to that point of its operations, surpassing the previous record of 42,000 cases in 1934.19
In addition to running a large cannery, Emard had three tenders operating in Cook Inlet and owned five fish traps and leased four others. The Go Get and the Howard D were his first two tenders. He owned four boats that hauled fish to his cannery or took the finished product to Seattle. The North Cape, the Henry J, and the Giant II were his first boats. During the summer of 1936, Emard had about 125 men fishing and operating his boats in Cook Inlet. There were about ninety persons who worked in his canneries, many of them local residents. Emard contributed to the local Anchorage economy and its youth each summer season by hiring high school students, many of whom were working their way through college. Emard operated his fishing and canning enterprises until well after World War II. After World War II he purchased the Smith, a surplus World War I era U.S. Navy submarine chaser, to haul supplies and canned fish back and forth from Seattle. 20
Besides his salmon interests, Emard was moderately active in civic affairs. He was a charter member of the Anchorage Elks. He was a director of what was then the First National Bank of Anchorage, later the First National Bank Alaska. He was also a major stockholder and director of the First Bank of Cordova. Emard was a strong supporter of Father John Buchanan, S.J., who developed the Copper River School—a college prep school for the training of Alaska Natives in leadership roles, which operated near Glennallen from 1956 until its closure in 1971.21
In about 1936, Emard had a residence in Seattle, Washington. Emard spent his summers in Anchorage, fall in Seattle, and the winter in Palm Springs, California.22 In 1941, he bought an imposing house at 1205 22nd Avenue which served as his Seattle home. 23
Henry J. Emard died on September 3, 1963 in Seattle, Washington. His wife, Loretta Granahan Emard, died about six weeks later.
Dan Cuddy, president of First National Bank Alaska, reminisced for the Alaska Journal of Commerce that his first job, which paid $0.15 an hour, was working at Emard’s cannery in Anchorage in 1938 when he was seventeen. Cuddy said Emard was one of the men who most influenced him. At the time of Emard’s death, Cuddy told the Anchorage Daily Times, that Emard “probably provided a payroll for the City of Anchorage longer than any other private business.”24
- “Henry J. Emard, Anchorage Salmon Canner, Passes,” Pacific Fisherman, v. 61, no. 1, October 1963, 31.
- Emard Family History Site; http://ancestry.com (accessed July 19, 2015).
- Entry for Henry Emard, 1905 Wisconsin State Census, Washburn, sheet 8; Wisconsin, States Censuses, 1895-1905 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed July 9, 2015).
- “Emard Funeral Held in Seattle,” Anchorage Daily Times, September 7, 1963, 14; and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 87.
- “Filed for Record," Alaska Citizen (Fairbanks), August 26, 1912, 6.
- “Telephones in New Town,” Cook Inlet Pioneer and Knik News, June 5, 1915, 3.
- William H. Wilson, Railroad in the Clouds: The Alaska Railroad in the Age of Steam, 1914-1945 (Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company, 1977), 103.
- Card for Henry Joseph Emard, Local Board No. 10, City of Anchorage, October 15, 1918; National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Roll AK1, U.S., World War I Draft Registrations, 1917-1918 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 4, 2014); and “Local Newsettes of the Week,” Anchorage Weekly Times, November 22, 1917, 12.
- 1921 Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1922), 92, 1922 Pacific Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1923, 93, and the 1923 Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1924, 43; [database on-line], http://books.google.com (accesses July 6, 2015) (accessed July 6, 2015); and [Emard Packing Company] advertisement, Anchorage Daily Times, April 27, 1920.
- National Canners Association, Cannery Directory, 1922 (Washington, DC: National Canners Association, 1922), 15, http://books.google.com (accessed on-line, October 4, 2014).
- “Brings Salmon Bellies,” Pacific Fisherman (Seattle, WA: December 1922), 48 and 50; [database on-line], http://books.google.com (accessed July 6, 2015).
- 1921 Pacific Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1922), 92, 1922 Pacific Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1923), 93, and 1923 Pacific Fisherman’s Yearbook (Seattle, WA: January 1924), 43, [database on-line], https://books.google.com (accessed July 6, 2015).
- “Cook Inlet Pack for Season Drops,” Anchorage Daily Times, September 14, 1923, 7.
- “Ray C. Larson to Supply Material for Big Cannery,” Anchorage Daily Times, April 4, 1924, 8.
- Lewis MacDonald, compiler, “Chronological History of Salmon Canneries in Central Alaska,” 11, edited by Jim Mackovjak, in Alaska Historical Society Blog, http://alaskahistoricalsociety.org (accessed on-line, July 6, 2015).
- “Gorman Packing Co. Has Good Year Anchorage,” Anchorage Daily Times, August 14, 1925, 4.
- “New Cannery is Ready for Rush of Red Salmon,” Anchorage Daily Times, June 26, 1928, 7.
- “Henry J. Emard, Anchorage Salmon Canner, Passes,” Pacific Fisherman, October 1963, 31.
- “Salmon Pack Here Sets New Record, Near 90,000 Cases as Season Ends,” Anchorage Daily Times, August 1, 1936, 1.
- “Salmon Pack Here Sets New Record, Near 90,000 Cases as Season Ends,” Anchorage Daily Times, August 1, 1936, 1; and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, 88.
- Entry for “Copper River School,” in Louis L. Renner, S.J., Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska (Spokane, WA: Arthur H. Clark Company for the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, 2005), 115-119.
- “S.U. Willed Bulk of Large Estate,” Seattle University Spectator, October 18, 1963, 1, http://digitallibrary.seattleu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/SeattleNP1/id/4871 (accessed October 5, 2014); and “Emard Case Settled Out of Court,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 3 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed October 5, 2014).
- Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Historical Sites, Summary for 1209 22nd AVE/Parcel ID 1338300200/Inv#, http://web6.seattle.gov/DPD/HistoricalSite/QueryResult.aspx?ID=2108141720, (accessed October 4, 2014).
- James MacPherson, “Banking History,” Alaska Journal of Commerce, October 22, 2001, http://classicalalaskajournal.com/stories/102201/foc_banking_shtml (accessed October 5, 2014).
This entry for Henry Emard originally appeared in John Bagoy’s Legends and Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, Publications Consultants, 2000 2001), 87-88. Photographs courtesy of Patricia Borer and others. Note: revised and updated by Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, July 2015.
Preferred citation: Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, "Emard, Henry J.," Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.
Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.