Uncovering Lobster Art from the Past

This was kind of funny. The other day, Paul was cleaning out some drawers in his room and came across a little packet of saved notes and cards. He’s had them for many, many decades now… at least since before we were married because I’ve never seen these things before and surely he would have shown them to me if I were here when he got them.

The story is that, for as long as he’s been an adult, Paul has been selling lobsters on the weekends at the harborside in Marblehead. He sells most of his catch to a wholesaler, but he’s always held out a bunch of “bugs” to sell to the public – and he always has the best prices around. He has built up a nice little clientele of mostly locals who know they can get their lobster from Paul when they need it and that he will go out of his way to accommodate them – even delivering to their homes, if needed. You never know when you will need lobster emergently!

So for years he had one such customer and she was called Sally Low. I never knew her, and Paul only remembers that she was a small frail woman, older in age, and very sweet. She apparently was an artist, as well. I have tried to find out more about Ms. Low but to no avail. She lived (and died) before the time of the internet, so there is nothing about her life to be found online. But here are a few little trinkets that Paul has saved all these years that were made with her very own hands.

The first is a printed card, a note card, that is an image she sketched showing Gerry Island in Marblehead.

Inside she wrote “Greetings from Sally Low”. I have no idea why she sent that to Paul but it’s the only commercial note amongst the group he has.

And following are several more notes that she made herself, but these were meant to be her version of orders for lobsters. She would regularly buy a few lobsters from Paul when she had company or just wanted one or two for herself. But rather than just leave a boring handwritten note like most people did, she would produce a little masterpiece and leave it in Paul’s truck for when he got in from lobstering. And here they are:

(I love the “but not too small” notation!)

(For a “luncheon” and you just know that a luncheon down in Old Town Marblehead was a treat!)

I love the wording “4 small LARGE” – I figured this meant she wanted four lobsters in the large group (which are “pound and a quarter to pound and a half”) but at the smaller end of that large group… she knew the lingo! I also love the little jottings on this note with Paul’s name on the little buoy floating along… but there is no lobster boat – just sailboats… and of course the ever-present rowboat, or skiff, moored in the cove.

And last but not least:

A large order – 10 or 12 mediums… a good sale for Paul. That must have been for a special occasion, as well.

When Paul found these, he brought them down and asked me if I thought these little works of art would be worth a fortune now (he’s always hoping we’ll come into a fortune one day!!!). So I tried finding out more about our Sally Low and was unsuccessful. If I learn anything new, I’ll let you know. Paul has some friends over in Marblehead who are historians and they might know more. We shall see.

For now, we’ll just hold onto these little gems. I might even consider making them into a collage of some sort with a frame…

Cheers for the artists among us, and for the lobster lovers!

Bex & Co.

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16 Responses to Uncovering Lobster Art from the Past

  1. TopsyTurvy says:

    Found this in Wikipedia… “The first souvenir spoons in the United States were made in 1890 by Galt & Bros., Inc. of Washington D.C., featuring the profile of George Washington.[1] One year later, a souvenir Salem Witch spoon was made, and sold seven thousand copies. It was created by Daniel Low, a jeweler in Salem, Massachusetts, after he saw souvenir spoons on vacation in Germany. The Witch Spoon is given credit for starting the souvenir spoon hobby in the U.S.”


  2. Bex says:


    Some info above on the Daniel Low Co… a fixture in Salem for many years, sadly now a restaurant. But the building is still there.

    Even better page with lots of merchandise (I want a Hawthorne Spoon!!!)



  3. Sandy from Chicago says:

    You know I like the drawings Sally did for her lobster orders more than the painting of that coat and chair lol.


  4. Bex says:

    Thanks Sandy from Chicago! Funny you found that because last night Paul mentioned that his mother had told him a long time ago that she thought Sally Low was related to the Low’s of the Daniel Low company that used to be a large high-end department store in Salem years ago. I will go look at the site… and thank you all for chipping in here!

    Here’s what that site said:

    “Regional New England artist Caroline S. Low “Sally Low” last heir of Daniel Low fortune painting entitled “Don Stone’s Coat on Chair at Marblehead Arts King Hooper House/Mansion”. This is an oil on board with original frame and measure roughly 16(H) x 12(W) inches from end to end. While Ms. Low is not famous the subject owner is a members of the North Shore Art Association and is internationally known. I suspect that Ms.Low may have been a student of Mr. Stone’s. Its a great mix of colour and when using pink in a shadowy setting and still command attention without being sloppy Ms. Low may have some skill here if explored more.”


  5. Sandy from Chicago says:

    Bex I found this article that talks about Caroline S Low – “Sally Low” who was a regional New England artist and last heir of the Daniel Low fortune. It’s about a painting of hers called “Don Stone’s Coat on chair at Marblehead Arts King Hooper House/Mansion” that sold on Ebay. Here’s the link: http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/north-shore-art-association-king-470683498 No price listed.


  6. TopsyTurvy says:

    Sally is mentioned a couple of times in the history of the Marblehead Festival of the Arts. Check marbleheadfestival.org. I’m on the tablet or I’d post a link for you…

    Great drawings. Sounds like some lovely memories.


  7. Bex says:

    Well, our friend Donald D, who lives in Marblehead is the historian, and Donald called yesterday to order a bunch of lobsters that he will pick up at 6 a.m on Sunday for a do he is having. I will ask Paul to ask Donald about Sally Low. He will probably forget though.

    Donald is from a family (Dolibers) who settled Marblehead back in the 1600’s… he was a history teacher until his recent retirement at a local large regional high school, and retired as the Vice Principal of the same. He was named U.S. Teacher of the Year once, as well. He has written quite a bit about the history of Marblehead, having come from the founding fathers/mothers himself… he is probably the most interesting person I have ever met – with the exception of Paul and “James Herriot” (Dr. Alf Wight). Maybe I should do a short blog on HIM!

    Here’s an article on his family published by my ex-husband Bill in his “Marblehead Magazine” a while back.

    And here’s another article published also by my ex in the same magazine, this one written by the man himself, Mr. Donald Doliber.


  8. Eric Mayer says:

    I love those lobster orders. There’s something really neat about off-the-cuff art like that. (Is there a name for such art?) Now if only, say, Andrew Wyeth had lived in Marblehead and liked lobster! I hope you can find something out about Sally Low and let us know. I wonder if she used this method for ordering anything else or for other utilitarian purposes? Maybe there are illustrated notes in drawers and attics all over Marblehead.


  9. sandy freel says:

    WOW…those are wonderful to have!!!!!


  10. l'empress says:

    Is there a local museum that might like to display them? Also check with local genealogy groups; many of them go back more than a hundred years and never bother to put the old stuff online.


  11. These are fabulous. What a delightful discovery. Such treasures. Speaks of a bygone era except maybe Anna’s YD is inclined to leave notes in a similar fashion.


  12. How wonderful to have known such people, fortunate Paul. To know that these were created just for him, so personal… thanks for sharing!


  13. Bex says:

    She signed the card “S Low” so I’m assuming she used her own name with her art. You are right… memories are worth so much more than can be measured in dollars.


  14. Bonnie says:

    I think the value lies in the memories.

    Hope you get info, she may have used a different name with her art.


  15. Bex says:

    I love this type of sketching. I was never a real sketcher or doodler – but these are so cute. I can just see Sally Low sitting there making her little notes for Paul… I just wish now I knew more about her. I’ll bet it would make a good story…. her life…


  16. Annanotbob3 says:

    They are beautiful! My YD draws like that, all the time, all over everything – they just can’t help themselves xxx


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