In true American spirit, the history of the Doxsee clamming industry is the story of pursuit of the American dream. James Harvey Doxsee settled in Islip, farmed his soil along the Great South Bay, and built his seafood empire on Islip's shores. Celebrate the story of a man who became a national leader in the clamming seafood industry through his relationship with the sea.
James H. Doxsee, born in 1825, was the son of an Islip farmer. The family owned 400 acres of land, stretching to the coastline; the farm was active in canning tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables. James succeeded his father in operating the farm; he was very skilled in canned products. In 1865, two unidentified men offered to lease the coastal portion on Doxsee's farm and set up a small but struggling clamming factory. Already having much success as a canning farmer, James saw great potential in the small factory and purchased it back from the two entrepreneurs within a year. He moved canning equipment into the rustic factory and began hi first experimentation with canning clams. Although the canning process had already been in use for over 50 years, James was the first to successfully devise a specific method for canning clams. Doxsee's canned clams became an instant best-selling product, and sales quickly spread across the nation.
Building on the success of his canned clams, Doxsee soon expanded his seafood product line to include clam juice, boasting incredulous medicinal benefits. Before long, every grocer, drug store, and pharmacist was selling "Doxsee's Pure Clam Juice" to relieve everything from morning-sickness to hangovers! To compete with the success of canned sardines, Doxsee began to mix his own product line of canned bunkers with softened bones, calling it "America's Lunch Fish", which also became a national seller.
By 1893, Doxsee's success had outgrown their factory, and the factory was expanded to accommodate the fast-selling products. His seafood empire was feeding a nation and "Doxsee's Clams" were a staple in pantries across America. Eventually the factory was moved down to North Carolina, where clamming was found to be more sustainable, and Doxsee's legendary seafood continued to feed America for nearly 150 years.
If you would like to view the Newsday article which covered our exhibit at Brookwood Hall, click here: Exhibit recalls LI clam canning pioneer.