There is on Hudson Street a tall handsome building where the fish reporter goes, which should be enjoyed in this way: Up in the lift you go to the top, and then you walk down, smacking your lips. For all the doors in that building are brimming with poetry. And the tune of it goes like this: “Toasted Corn-Flake Co.,” “Seaboard Rice,” “Chili Products,” “Red Bloom Grape Juice Sales Office,” “Porto Rico and Singapore Pineapple Co.,” “Sunnyland Foodstuffs,” “Importers of Fruit Pulps, Pimentos,” “Sole Agents U.S.A. Italian Salad Oil,” “Raisin Growers,” “Log Cabin Syrups,” “Jobbers in Beans, Peas,” “Chocolate and Cocoa Preparations,” “Ohio Evaporated Milk Co.,” “Bernese Alps and Holland Condensed Milk Co.,” “Brazilian Nuts Co.,” “Brokers Pacific Coast Salmon,” “California Tuna Co.,” and thus on and on.
The fish reporter crosses the street to see the head of the Sardine Trust, who has just thrown the market into excitement by a heavy cut in prices of last year’s pack. Thence, pausing to refresh himself by the way at a sign “Agency for Reims Champagne and Moselle Wines—Bordeaux Clarets and Sauternes,” over to Broadway to interview the most august persons of all, dealers in fertiliser, “fish scrap.” These mighty gentlemen live, when at business, in palatial suites of offices constructed of marble and fine woods and laid with rich rugs. The reporter is relayed into the innermost sanctum by a succession of richly clothed attendants. And he learns, it may be, that fishing in Chesapeake Bay is so poor that some of the “fish factories” may decide to shut down. Acid phosphate, it is said, is ruling at $13 f.o.b. Baltimore.
And so the fish reporter enters upon the last lap of his rounds. Through, perhaps, the narrow, crooked lane of Pine Street he passes, to come out at length upon a scene set for a sea tale. Here would a lad, heir to vast estates in Virginia, be kidnapped and smuggled aboard to be sold a slave in Africa. This is Front Street. A white ship lies at the foot of it. Cranes rise at her side. Tugs, belching smoke, bob beyond. All about are ancient warehouses, redolent of the Thames, with steep roofs and sometimes stairs outside, and with tall shutters, a crescent-shaped hole in each. There is a dealer in weather-vanes. Other things dealt in hereabout are these: chronometers, “nautical instruments,” wax gums, cordage and twine, marine paints, cotton wool and waste, turpentine, oils, greases, and rosin. Queer old taverns, public houses, are here, too. Why do not their windows rattle with a “Yo, ho, ho”?
There is an old, old house whose business has been fish oil within the memory of men. And here is another. Next, through Water Street, one comes in search of the last word on salt fish. Now the air is filled with gorgeous smell of roasting coffee. Tea, coffee, sugar, rice, spices, bags and bagging here have their home. And there are haughty bonded warehouses filled with fine liquors. From his white cabin at the top of a venerable structure comes the dean of the salt-fish business. “Export trade fair,” he says; “good demand from South America.”