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New York City Was The Big Oyster

Updated on July 2, 2017

Oysters to Apples: What's Next For New York City?

An Oyster Knife is a Must Have if you plan on shucking your own oysters; a good glove and a towel also go hand in hand as well as some history on the oyster industry in New York City..

Photo from the Library of Congress

Did you know that at one time oysters were so plentiful here in New York City that they were sold from pushcarts to the poor on the streets of the Lower East Side and all over the city? Oysters a peasant food, who'd have thunk it? It was indeed one of NYC's first industries; oysters paved the way for free blacks to become entrepreneurs, some of the black oyster-men founded the Staten Island community of Sandy Ground in Staten Island, with a church that is still going strong.

Pearl Street got its' name; when the Dutch arrived here over 400 years ago, there were oyster middens 100 feet long and 10 feet high lining the shores; these were shells that were discarded by the Lanape Indians (the Native Americans that used Manhattan as their Summer hunting and fishing grounds). The new Dutch settlers noticed how these piles of shells glittered in the sunlight and named the street (which at the time was the waterfront) Pearl Street; in some cases they were also used as landfill (some debate if the street was actually paved with oyster shells, the luster giving the street it's name as it glinted in the sunlight).

Lamson Oyster Knife - Bent Tip Oyster Knife

I made this Lens for the Kitchen Gadget Must Have Quest. I miss my Dad, he passed away in 2003, he was the only person I knew who ate raw oysters.

One Industry Destroys Another

From Oysters to Indigo

At the end of the nineteenth century Germany dominated the synthetic dye industry and many of these discoveries turned the fashion world on it's ear. In the early part of the twentieth century the dye industry was booming; during World War 1 there was a Trade Blockade against the Germans, they were the forerunner in aniline dye technology and this caused shortages of the dyes here in America. The USA was trying to get the German scientist to come over here and let us in on this cutting edge technology, we finally got a hod of some synthetic indigo that was smuggled over in a German U-Boat past the British Naval Blockade in 1916. After we cracked the code the floodgate was opened and the industry boomed, the major dye-factories were in Brooklyn, many along the Newton Creek Canal (which is were aniline was first manufactured here in the USA) contributing to the demise of the oyster industry, prior dyeworks were a small cottage industry. The pollution from the dye industry was a direct cause of the demise of the oyster bed in Jamaica Bay.


  • Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • Cornmeal
  • Shucked Oysters
  • Peanut Oil for frying
  • eggs
  • flour


  1. I use 3 parts bread crumb and one part cornmeal; you may use what ever mixture floats your boat; that's for the breading. I take the shucked oysters (you don't have to shuck them, you can buy them in a jar from a reputable fish market) and drain them (you can save the liquor for another recipe if you want). First I dredge the oysters in flour, then I put them in a bowl with a beaten egg; then into the breading mixture of breadcrumbs and cornmeal and fry them up in some hot oil. Now I like peanut oil, and it's very expensive, you can use whatever oil you like, I'm sure my Italian ancestors used whatever oil they had in the house (usually olive oil) you might want to go with vegetable oil. Fry them till they're golden. Done! Enjoy!

How to Shuck an Oyster

Raw Oysters Anyone? - Yes or No

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