In 81 years, St. Augustine resident James Edwin “Ed” Long told local Historic City News reporters that he has witnessed a lot of change in his hometown. From 1951 until the 1990’s, Long worked in the shrimping and shrimp boat building industry. Today, he is a keeper of that industry’s history and has worked long and hard to make sure it has received proper attention for its financial, global, and community contributions.
Thanks to Long’s efforts, future generations can experience this chapter in St. Augustine history. Long saved thousands of photos, boat models, stories and other ephemera, now preserved in the collections of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum and part of an exhibit on the history of shrimping.
“Much of St. Augustine’s economy and culture during the 20th century was influenced by the shrimping and boatbuilding industries,” said Brenda Swann, Director of the Interpretive Division of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “We are grateful that Ed had the foresight to save so many artifacts and other pieces that will ensure the stories from this particular part of St. Augustine’s past will never be forgotten.”
The Florida Department of State recently presented Long with the 2016 Florida Folk Heritage Award, honoring his efforts to preserve our shrimping and boatbuilding history. At a ceremony attended by Long’s family, friends and colleagues, State Historic Preservation Officer Tim Parsons and State Folklorist Amanda Hardeman presented Long with the award. The Florida Folk Heritage Award is bestowed upon the state’s most influential tradition bearers for excellence, significance and authenticity.
Long began his nautical career in 1951 at the Salvador Marina. After serving as a tank mechanic for the National Guard, Long returned to the maritime world with a job at Diesel Engine Sales Co., St. Augustine’s largest shrimp boat builder. As the industry started to slow down during the 1980s, Long recognized a need to capture a historic moment in time when St. Augustine was the largest producer of fishing vessels in the world, a role that served 23 countries and involved thousands of vessels.
“I started making notes and interviewing captains, crew, dockworkers, fishermen and their families,” Long told local reporters. “I knew time was running out to get it down on paper.”
Many of the stories and photos Long collected are also featured in the book “Shrimp Boat City: 100 Years of Catching Shrimp and Building Boats in the Nation’s Oldest City” which he co-authored with Brendan Burke, Maritime Historian at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.
“I felt the book had to be written,” said Long. “I did what I could to capture part of history.”
The Folk Heritage Awards are part of the Florida Folklife Program, a component of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. The folklife program, established in 1979, serves to document and present Florida’s folklife, folklore and folk arts through a wide range of activities designed to increase the awareness of Florida’s traditional culture with residents and visitors alike. It is one of the oldest state folk arts programs in the nation.