These horseshoe crabs collected at Bowers Beach, June 28, 1928 were crushed and then used for fertilizer.
Horseshoe crabs have played an important role in Delaware’s economy and as part of a fragile ecological system. In the late 19th century, horseshoe crabs were used for fertilizer and hog feed. As many as four million crabs a year were harvested. The population dramatically dropped in the late 1950s and was then used as bait for eel and conch fisherman. By the 1990s the population was so low, that the harvesting of crabs was regulated and a sanctuary off the Delaware coast had been established. The horseshoe crab’s blood is used to test purity of pharmaceuticals and drawing the blood does not harm the crab. The eggs are eaten by migratory shore birds on their way back to the Artic.
The State Board of Agriculture was also involved with promoting the economic development of Delaware. From 1922 to 1938, photographs were taken to use in promotional publications. Not only does the collection include agriculture related photos, but a variety of subjects from bridges to town scenes and recreation. The Dover area is especially well represented. Many of these photographs pertain to the poultry and fruit industries..