Salt Cod and Graft, the Gems that Make Archives So  Captivating

Every now and then, I run across a little gem. Laughing out loud in the archives isn’t quite like hollering in a library - fellow researchers tend to be a little more tolerant because they’ve been there, too.

Last year in Ottawa, it was this note to the Minister of Fisheries:

It was written in French. A rough translation would be, “Dear Sir, Since we’re in the same party, would you mind buying a cartload of salt cod from me, for the war effort?”

Local patronage was a huge part of Canadian politics before the Second World War, and it’s probably still traceable if one knows how to parse the campaign contributions lists. The real treat here isn’t that the fisherman tried this sales pitch, it’s the blithe, open tone of the note. The stiffly formal response that he got is entertaining, too.

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