Who Is the Gorton’s Fisherman?

Not far from where I grew up is a small town called Gloucester, Massachusetts (pronounced “Glaw-Ster”, not “Glau-Chester”). It’s right down the road from Manchester-By-The-Sea, which was featured in the eponymous Oscar-winning film. And there’s another Oscar Best Picture connection as well: 2021’s CODA was filmed in Gloucester. Oh, and The Perfect Storm also takes place there, but that was barely nominated for any Oscars, so who cares? 

Filmic history aside, Gloucester is most well known as a fishing town, home to America’s oldest port. For visitors, that means there are a bunch of terrific seafood restaurants, a couple lighthouses, and at least one stellar whale watching experience. But it has also been the headquarters of Gorton’s, the fish packaging company, since 1849. 

Yes, Gorton’s, the inventor of fish sticks and “the Original Gorton Fishcake,” is synonymous with the frozen seafood section of the grocery store. And whether you’ve ever sampled their selection of seafood or not, you’re probably familiar with their mascot, the Gorton’s Fisherman. But who is the Gorton’s Fisherman? Where did he come from? What’s his deal? 

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Best Frozen Fried Fish

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Let’s start with what we know. What does the Gorton’s Fisherman wear? His attire is simple and pragmatic: a classic yellow rain slicker and accompanying hat. He also sports a scraggly beard.  What does he do? Mainly, he stands at the helm of a ship, looking distinguished. He’s an avatar of integrity, going hand in hand with the slogan “Trust the Gorton’s Fisherman.” 

Beyond that, however, this fisherman is relatively clouded in mystery. He’s a silent, stoic mascot, quite unlike the gregarious Ronalds McDonald or Mr. Peanuts of the world. Here is what the Gorton’s website has to say about the guy: “He first appeared in 1975 and has been an American icon ever since. But The Gorton’s Fisherman is much more than the inspiration for a beloved jingle. He embodies our belief in high quality seafood. As he likes to say, ‘If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.’ These are words we live by, every day.”

That’s all well and good. However, the Wikipedia page for Gorton’s completely disagrees, noting, “In 1905, the Slade Gorton Company adopted the fisherman at the helm of a schooner (the ‘Man at the Wheel’) as the company trademark. Today, he is known as the Gorton’s Fisherman.” This discrepancy is admittedly pretty confusing, since this is a difference of 70 years. My guess is it has something to do with Slade Gorton technically being a different company than Gorton’s so his official designation as the Gorton’s Fisherman may have begun in 1975, but that’s pure conjecture. 

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Best Frozen Fried Shrimp

What’s the best frozen fried shrimp? We tasted a bunch of the top brands on the market to find the best crispy, juicy shrimp out there.

Finally, there’s a bit of a Mandela effect when it comes to the Gorton’s Fisherman. Namely, that he is actually the spokesman for “Gordon’s.” Perhaps his name was even Gordon the Fisherman in the parallel universe where we have the Berenstein Bears instead of the Berenstain Bears. 

What do you think? Do you remember Gordon’s existing instead of Gorton’s? Do you have any information on when this mysterious figure actually came into existence? Until then, these must remain but two more murky mysteries of the deep.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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