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The Lobster Plug Story

West Pubnico, Nova Scotia

Pombcoup (Indian name) is a small acadian community of a mere 2000 people, that has supplied millions of lobster plugs for nearly 100 years.  This tiny village of which 95% of its' ancestors arrived from france in the 1650's , only to find hardship and deportation, became the "lobster plug capital of the world".

The Acadians came back and are still here today.  This group of hardy, ambitious people were always finding something to do when they could find spare time.

The descendants of these early Acadians settlers were and still are today, mostly fishermen and farmers with the entire family pitching in to help with the chores and activities around the household.

In the late 1800's, these Acadians started on a very small scale to fish lobsters mostly for their own food. At this point in time, lobsters were classified as poor-man's food and was part of their diet, during most of the year.  As the lobster market developed in the 1900's, the fisherman started to ship lobsters live to the U.S. Markets(boston and maine) on small freighters (on ice which they had saved from the ponds during the winter) for a mere 5 cents to 10 cents per pound, if they made it to the u.S alive.

At this time the very unique industry of "wooden lobster plugs" (pegs) started to take shape.  Lobsters normally have two claws and bite each other to destroy or kill the other lobster.  The wooden lobster plug became the tool used to keep the claws of the lobsters shut after they had been caught in a trap and ready to ship to the factories or the live markets.  Normally a lobster, after being severely bitten by another, will die from its' wounds.  As the lobster industry started to expand throughout the regions and the wooden peg reduced the mortality rate tremendously therefore, the wooden plug was used in the millions.  With the growing development of U.S. Markets, the Canadian Maritimes started to open factories and buying stations.  The acadians, eager to find employment, worked at these factories and seeing the need for the tremendous volumes of lobster processed and shipped live to their destinations, began to produce millions upon millions of lobster plugs to supply the entire east coast lobster fishery from this small village of West Pubnico.  Acadians supplied the entire Canadian Maritimes, Quebec, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York... Simply millions of plugs.  In the early 1930's the little acadian village of west pubnico, became the "lobster plug capital of the world".  Work and money was scarce in those days but the village bustled with people making wooden pegs.  The entire village, every household, corner store and gathering spot became a centre of activity pursued by young and old, male and female.  They usually gathered around a lamp around the kitchen stove.  Pegs are whittled by hand, using a small home-made knife and a thumb-leather , with seven precise cuts to give its' shape and effectiveness.  The wood used was local clear pine cut by the men while they were logging their firewood, usually in the fall and winter while the lake and harbour were frozen.  The villagers would make and package these pegs in bags of 1000 and after they had accumulated several 100 thousands they would sell them to local or outside lobster dealers or to other buyers dealing in pegs - the price, a mere 30 cents to 50 cents per 1000.  In most cases these pegs would be taken to the general store and bartered for commodities they couldn't raise or didn't have , like flour,sugar, spices, molasses, cloth, tobacco, and thread for sewing, etc...  A very important stage of the Acadian history and culture.

There are still residents in the village today that used that extra money to install the electricity in their house, buy a bicycle, pay for their food, make payments on their house, buy paint for the house.  Just about anything you could imagine was purchased from the sale of lobster pegs.

In the 1950's the lobster fishery continued to expand with better boats, gas engines, mechanized haulers, etc, and the demand for these wooden pegs increased.  At that time, a brilliant acadian from the region successfully designed some machines to mass produce these wooden pegs.  What makes this so special and historical is that he got this idea from watching a woman make pegs as a pastime.

This gentleman made three different sets of machines , improving quality and production each time as his inventions grew into a factory.  The latest machine was made in the summer of 1972. This factory was able to produce up to 400,000 pegs in one day.  In the year 1978 over 75,000,000 pegs were manufactured and sold, distributing to the canadian and u.S. Markets, all from a small Acadian village in Nova Scotia - West Pubnico.

In 1984 the industry made a change to elastic bands.  With lobster markets beginning to develop all over the world, lobsters were being shipped over long distances via planes, and rubber bands proved to be more suitable toward this changing market for live lobsters.

As you can see, Acadians have been the only people to share this part of history with the lobster industry.  The village of west pubnico can truly be called "the lobster plug capital of the world" for almost 100 years.