It is not only in seaport towns in America that oysters are eaten in enormous quantities, but towns a thousand miles inland are well supplied, and oyster suppers are as common in Cincinnati or St. Louis as in New York or Baltimore. It was stated by Mr. Consul Rainall, in 1869, that eight millions of bushels of oysters are annually landed at Baltimore for home consumption and packing, and as many more to other places. Baltimore is the largest oyster-market in the world. The average consumption for seven months in the year is 35,000 bushels per day. One firm alone from October 1st till June 1st, averages 4000 bushels a day, packing from 16,000 to 25,000 cans daily, hermetically sealed, containing l1b. and 21bs. of oysters.†
In the 'Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries in Maryland, January, 1880/ is the following account of the oyster-fisheries in Chesapeake Bay, given by Mr. W. H. Brooks: - "The town of Crisfield, Maryland, is situated at the junction of the two sounds of Pokamoke and Tangier, two large and wide but shallow sheets of water, whose muddy bottoms abound in oysters of the best quality. The town is one of the most important centres of the oyster-packing industry, and is built in the water upon the shells of the oysters which have been shipped to all parts of the country for consumption. As fast as the oysters are opened the shells are used to build up new land, and with them a large peninsula has been formed, stretching out for more than half a mile from the low marshy shore towards the oyster-beds, and furnishing room for wide streets, a railroad, and a steamboat landing, in addition to the large packing-houses, and the shops and dwellings for a population of several thousand people. A single view of the long white solid streets and docks of this singular town would convey a much more vivid idea of the oyster-packing industry than any number of tables of statistics. At some future period this enormous accumulation of oyster-shells will be considered as a kjökkenmöddings". *
• 'Through America,' by W. G. Marshall, M.A. † 'Field,' May 8th, 1869.
In Brand's 'Popular Antiquities' we are told, that oysters are in season in London on St. James's Day, July 25th (old style), and that there is a popular superstition still in force, similar to that relating to goose on Michaelmas Day, viz., that whoever eats oysters on that day will never want money for the rest of the year; but the real oyster season is considered to commence on the 4th of August, and last until January, and the natives especially, from October to March. Oysters are said to be in season when the month has the letter r in it. In 'Poor Robin's Almanack,' 1719, under September, he says, -
"This month hath gotten an R in't, By which Astrologers do hint, That the Fish icleped oysters, Are in their operative moistures, Which tho' counted ungodly meat, Because without grace they are eat,
And also uncharitable,
'Cause naught but Shells come from Table,
Whereby the Poor small comfort gain,
Yet this for Truth I will maintain,
That with a glass of good Canary,
(Oh ! which to drink too much be chary;)
Being wash'd down, I say with sack,
No commendations they need lack !"
* ' Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries of Maryland,' 1880. 'Development of the American Ouster,' by W. K. Brooks.
Oysters are very beneficial to persons who suffer from weak digestions, but then they must be eaten raw, and without vinegar or pepper, and I have known an invalid able to eat oysters when quite unable to take any other food; and oysters are also recommended for consumptive patients. Mr. Frank Buckland gives the following description of the composition of an oyster, viz., the chemical ingredients contained in them, " Oysters contain a great deal of water of the same composition as sea-water; namely, hydro-chlorate of soda, hydro-chlorate of magnesia, sulphate of lime, sulphate of soda, and sulphate of magnesia, phosphate of iron and lime. Then they contain much osmazome, or creatine. You cannot see osmazome very well, but osmazome is the smell of roast beef. It is the same thing as the essence of meat. The oyster also contains a certain quantity of gelatine and mucus, which renders it so digestible, and thirdly, it contains an animal material of which phosphorus is the principal ingredient. Phosphorus is the principal brain-making form of food that we can take, and therefore those who are fond of literary pursuits, who have to work hard, always find that oysters will bring them better up to the mark than any other form of food that they can take".*
In China, fresh oysters are used to cure freckles. I have already mentioned that artificial oyster cultivation is carried on in China, and has been for many generations. The principal oyster-beds are situated near the mainland, opposite the north and east of Namoa Island. Pieces of rock or stones are laid out on the beds, old oysters are placed on them, and here the spat is deposited. After three years, the oysters are brought to market. As regards quality, they are inferior to those of Amoy and Foochow, which are exported on a large scale to the ports along the coasts.*
* 'Report on Oyster Fisheries,' 1876.
M. Dabry de Thersant says that there are some prolific beds in the neighbourhood of Macao, which, after deducting the working expenses, about £600, return an annual profit of more than £2000. A staff of eight men are employed on these beds, at about £1 per month each. Another bed which is leased for an annual sum of £10, for thirty years, returns a profit of from £1100 to £1200 per annum.†