Seth Green’s Birthday

Two hundred years ago, Seth Green was born on March 19, 1817, near the current intersection of Culver Road and Empire Boulevard. His parents moved to Carthage, NY, when he was very young, and Seth eventually became the most famous person who would keep alive the memory of Old Carthage.

However, his eventual fame was not obvious when he was a young boy. In fact, he was called a good-for-nothing, indolent boy, who was incorrigible. Because his boyhood was spent walking up and down the banks of the Genesee River or peering at the water over the side of his flat-bottomed boat or disappearing for days while he was hunting and fishing, Carthaginians, including his parents, held him up as the epitome of laziness.

However, rather than pursuing traditional careers, he was simply interested in the outdoors and particularly in fishing. After starting a stall in the Old Rochester city market, his business grew to be the largest dealer of fish New York State by 1857, with hundreds of fishermen supplying him. In 1837, at age twenty, he conceived the idea of breeding fish through artificial means. His experiments improved the yield from spawn from a best rate of 25% at the time to 95% and higher. In 1864, he moved to Caledonia Creek, whose cold water, between 45 and 60 degrees, was perfect for hatching brook or rainbow trout.

In 1875, Green leased sufficient ground to build the New York State Fish Hatchery on Caledonia Creek at Mumford, NY. This expanded the capabilities from hatching salmon, trout and whitefish to enable spawning of twenty species and the hybridizing of different species, such as striped bass with shad and European trout with American brook trout. The shad he introduced to the Sacramento River (CA) were the first to live in a tributary of the Pacific Ocean.

Green was an inventor of mechanical fishing devices and holds several patents, including a shad-hatching box and a tackle called the Seth Green rig. He received numerous honors and gold medals from countries such as France and Germany. But he was also recognized as one of America’s premier fly fisherman, winning many fishing and casting tournaments from 1866 to 1878.

He was one of the original three members of the New York State Fish Commission when it formed in 1868. When he retired from the commission, he was appointed State Superintendent of Fish Culture, a position which he kept until his death on August 20, 1888.

Seth Green was an innovator because he was a keen observer—a naturalist who was determined to improve success by eliminating the defects of an old system. He was able to demonstrate to a doubtful world that he could propagate fish by artificial means. He has been called a “prophet…whose sincerity and steadfast purpose (brought) to his fellow men great and far-lasting benefits.” (The American Angler, July, 1917).

But he is also remembered as a “follower of peace,” a man “who was so simply wise as not to sell his conscience to buy riches.” (Quoted from Izaak Walton’s “Compleat Angler.”). Because he believed that it was more important to feed people than to make a profit, his goals were to lower the cost of food consumption for millions of his fellow countrymen. In his book, Fish Hatching and Fish Catching, co-authored with R. B. Roosevelt (uncle of President Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt, Jr. and great-uncle of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt), he wrote that his “primary concern was yielding vast results for the benefit of humanity.”

Seth Green

NYS Hatcheries in Caledonia, NY.
Photo courtesy of NYSHistoric.com

Fish Spawn Hatcher patent by Seth Green, 1867

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