Doctor to Fish Farmer


John Hamilton Slack, pictured in the photograph at left, was born in 1834 and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to practicing medicine in Philadelphia Slack was an avid fisherman, painter, composer, naturalist, and amateur printer.  Here at the Kislak Center is the first volume of Slack’s travel diary (Ms. Codex 1880), written in 1858.

This handwritten diary, possibly bound by Slack, recounted his trip to England in the spring and summer of 1856.  The diary is formally written with a title page, preface, and table of contents.  Slack stated in the preface: “[I] wrote with a double purpose, first as a souvenir of my voyage for my own gratification, and secondly to afford pleasure to my large circle of friends to whom my private journal would be inaccessible.” Slack’s notes dubbed this volume one of his year abroad in Europe and Africa.  It would be interesting to find out whether other volumes or the original diaries exist.

The diary is written with great detail noting sights, encounters, and excursions.  Slack wrote of his activities each day including Madame Tussauds, the Crystal Palace, Zoological Gardens, Warwick Castle, etc.  Additionally, Slack recounted a fishing adventure with Charles Dickens and Robert Rawson.

Codex1880.3Slack’s love for fishing eventually led him to farm fishing.  In 1867, he bought 169 acres in Bloomsbury, New Jersey and named his new venture Troutdale Fish Ponds.  Slack created a hatchery raising brook trout, salmon, and shad.  He even introduced some non-native species to the Delaware River.  Slack published books on the subject and produced a catalog of supplies catering to fish culturalists. One of these catalogs was laid in the diary.  Slack became commissioner of fisheries of New Jersey and a founding member of the American Fish Culturalists’ Association.  His wife Thirza continued the work at Troutdale following Slack’s death in 1874.



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