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Pittsburg, Ca: The Black Diamond Connection

Italians started migrating to the United States before 1850 with the discovery of gold in California at Sutter’s Mill around 1848. Collinsville, California was a dropping off point for many of these early settlers. Ships would stop off at Collinsville on their way to San Francisco and Sacramento. Italian fishermen established themselves in small communities in Collinsville and New York’s Landing (later renamed Black Diamond and now known as Pittsburg, California).

Black Diamond received its name from the coal mines in the area. Black Diamond (Pittsburg), Collinsville, and Martinez were right on the water and were home for the Sicilian fishermen who fished the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Frank E. Booth owned a cannery on the Sacramento River, which canned salmon. He employed Sicilian fishermen, one of whom was Pietro Ferrante. Pietro Ferrante was asked by Frank Booth to come to Monterey from Pittsburg (Black Diamond) where he worked in the cannery.

Mr. Booth needed the help of Pietro Ferrante to improve the fishing techniques that were being used by the local fishermen in Monterey. Pietro Ferrante realized that the net being used to catch sardines was a major problem. Falling back on his fishing experience he convinced Mr. Booth to buy the ancestral lampara fishing nets from Tangiers, which were used in the Mediterranean Sea. Pietro wanted to use the lampara instead of using the gill net to catch the smaller sardine because the lampara net was smaller in size than the gill net and would keep the fish from going through the net.

Once the lampara net was put into use fishermen who were familiar with the net were needed to fish for the sardine. Pietro Ferrante notified his family and friends in Pittsburg (Black Diamond), Martinez, and Sicily that fishermen were needed in Monterey. The Italian word lampara was derived word from “lampo” lightening fast.

The lampara net caused some turmoil as local fishermen were worried that this type of net would rapidly deplete the fish. The lampara net provided the quantity of sardines that Mr. Booth needed in his cannery, which began the era known as the “Silver Harvest”.

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