A recent gift of Viking Fleet material to the archives at the Montauk Library felt like an early Christmas present bestowed by Santa himself. The donation includes important documents relating to the evolution of the fleet, such as a 1978 Certificate from the Department of State (N.Y.), stamped with the Great Seal of New York and declaring corporation status of Viking Starship, Inc. Ephemera is also part of the mix, like the 1950s round pinback proclaiming, “ALL THE FISH YOU CAN CATCH / VIKING STARLITE / MONTAUK, N.Y.”
The Viking fleet originated in Freeport, New York, where Carl Forsberg learned to fish and bought his first boat. In 1951, however, after too much stress and an ulcer operation, he moved the business to Montauk because, as he told his wife, at the Point the fish were a lot “closer.” He wouldn’t be gone so long. “My mother wasn’t exactly convinced that this was such a good idea, though. One thing I remember clearly is that she knew there wasn’t even a traffic light in Montauk.” (This and other entertaining anecdotes can be enjoyed in Captain Paul G. Forsberg’s 2013 book The Forsberg Empire: 75+ Years and Still Going Strong.)
Montauk Library’s archives contain terrific photographs of captains, boats, and crews that have loomed large in the history of our area, but up to this point, no business records of a commercial or sportfishing company, or of any retail fishing establishment for that matter, has been donated to the library. Business records constitute the nuts and bolts of history, allowing researchers to resurrect the past with more accuracy. We can learn how a company developed, the types of activities it engaged in, and the relationships it fostered with other businesses and individuals.
An unexpected surprise included in this Viking Fleet donation sparked serious delight: a wood and metal fishing pole dating from the 1940s or 1950s. Measuring about 7 feet long, and used by “sporties” who came to Montauk to fish, these poles were secured on the back of the Viking vessels, available as rentals.
In fact, this fishing pole appears in an early photograph of the Viking Fleet in Freeport, shared with the Montauk Library by Captain Steven D., Paul’s son. (We “split” the photograph in two. Carl Forsberg is standing on the right side in image one, and the fishing pole donated to the archives is being held by the standing gentleman on the left in the second image.) Steve pointed to the #5 on the Vintage Penn Company “Senator” fishing reel with red wooden knob, etched into the metal by his grandfather Carl. It’s a wonderfully intimate detail with a great provenance, incised by one workhorse onto another.
More information about the Viking Fleet Collection will be forthcoming.