A Book About the "Bug Line" Business

What do illegal seal hunts, shipwrecks, lawsuits, pickled salmon, a 72-year old sea walrus, and something called the “Bug Line” have in common? If it sounds like the ingredients for a Jack London novel, you’re not that far off. These are all things you can find in a book about the history of a business.

The book in question is A History of the Beadle Shipping Company, a 2016 Stories To Tell publication, by Gene Barron.

Barron, the author, approached me about this project in 2015 after we had completed his family history book. He asked me to help him turn a binder bursting with shipping facts, photos, newspaper clippings and chronicles of this California family business into a real book. The result is a history this multi-generation family business, followed by an encyclopedia of the many ships they owned and managed. Barron is not related to the Beadle family; his curiosity in their company stems from a deep interest in maritime history.

The Beadles book is full of stories of shipwrecks, challenges, interesting tidbits, and even some humor. For example, when the Beadles brought on a new partner, Mr. Antz, they were jokingly referred to as the “Bug Line.” A section of notes on the SS Cleone by Otis Oldfield refers to the ship chief as a “72-year old sea walrus,” who was “still going good and going through a 14" square hole to the engine room with his enormous buttocks.” 

There’s plenty of stunning images in the book, mostly ships of course. An 1895 shot of the Beadle office reveals many detailed insights into the era, including a roll top desk, the bustle on a woman’s skirt, and bowler and derby hats on the men.

The Beadles enterprise also inspired author Jack London. One of their more notorious ships, the schooner Jennie Thelin (shown on the book's cover), provided the inspiration for London’s novel Sea Wolf. The Jennie Thelin had been known for her unlawful activities (before the Beadles purchased her of course), most notably illegal seal hunting. Eventually she was shipwrecked on the Baja peninsula in 1913 and later discovered in the 1970s when a vacationing doctor found her remains on the beach.

Every business has stories, some are good, some are bad, and some ugly, but they’re worth the telling. While this company history is about ships, every business starts with people who have an idea and a passion, which can lead the owners, employees, and customers through both challenges and triumphs. These are the seeds that build the story of a business.

Does your company have a story? Celebrating a milestone? Paying tribute to a soon-to-be retiree? Honor your company’s legacy with a custom-made book or audio production. Stories To Tell is a self-publishing service specializing in memoirs, family histories, and organizational histories. Contact Meghan for your free consultation at meghan@storiestotell.net or 207.975.0508

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