American Shad

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook

Pennsylvania's abundance of rivers, streams, and lakes offered an important resource to the colonists of Penn's Woods. Native Americans taught them about the native fish and how to catch them - trout, paddlefish, eel, bass, and especially American shad *. Shad were harvested during the annual spring spawning runs, generally occurring between February and June, and the colonists learned how to catch and preserve them. Flavorful and nutritious, any fish not eaten could be salted and preserved for the winter months. Abundant in the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers, shad also provided employment for various supporting industries, such as net, boat, and wagon makers; carpenters; and fish sellers. Shad even served as a form of currency traded for oil, salt, whiskey, and labor.

During the Revolutionary War, shad was abundant on the Delaware River and tributaries, and dried shad might have been included in the three days' rations George Washington and his troops took when they crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776, in preparation for the attack on the British at Trenton. In the spring of 1778, fOllowing their bitter winter encampment at Valley Forge, Washington and his troops feasted on shad caught from the Schuylkill River, the largest tributary to the Delaware The early spring run of American shad that year has been credited with helping save the Continental Army from starvation.

Washington Crossing Historic Park on the Delaware River in Bucks County interprets Washington's crossing and the historic village of Taylorsville.

* Recipes are available in the Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook


Washington Crossing Historic Park, Washington Crossing, PA
See where Washington's army crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Night, 1776.

For Further Reading

pa-trail-of-history-cookbook-sm.gif Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook
Edited by Kyle R. Weaver, Diane B. Reed, and Fred Lauver
Forward by William Woys Weaver

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
washington-crossing-toh.gif Washington Crossing Historic Park: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide
by John Bradley

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Articles 2
American Shad