Which iconic fisherman came first, Gorton’s or Brown’s Wharf? The Gorton’s Fisherman began appearing on television ads in 1975 promoting seafood for the 149-year-old Gloucester, Massachusetts company. But Gorton’s iconic symbol is seven years younger than his Boothbay Harbor counterpart. In 1968, one year after the Brown’s Wharf Inn opened, the family placed a 25-foot, fiberglass, rebar and cement giant statue beckoning visitors into their Atlantic Avenue business.
And Captain Brown was born. This iconic structure has stopped traffic for more than a half century. He’s served as the business’s No. 1 attraction and logo. So what inspired the Browns to place a fisherman at the entrance? During a trip to Strasburg, Pennsylvania, they spotted a giant statue of an Amish man when Joan Brown had an epiphany.
“We were at Zinn’s Diner in Amish Country when I saw the large statue and thought ‘That would be a good idea for us except it should be a sailor,' and that’s how Captain Brown came about,” she said. Captain Brown was built by Rod Shutt who designed similar figures for Walt Disney World in Florida, according to the Brown family. He created the gigantic fisherman later delivered from his Pennsylvania shop to Boothbay Harbor on a flatbed truck.
Since then, Captain Brown has promoted the family business by appearing on the letterhead and brochures. One visitor complimented the family's ingenuity.
“One guest did the marketing for a large corporation, and asked ‘Who did our marketing?' and I told her that we all did. She was amazed at how good we were at branding our business," said Michelle Brown Wilson.
The Captain is relatively maintenance-free. He requires a fresh coat of paint every five years and that’s basically it. In the past, Captain Brown was known to say a few words to unsuspecting visitors. As they approached the colossal structure, they’d hear a few words from the fisherman. “He used to have a speaker so people in the office could say ‘Hey! Watch it! Don’t walk on my feet!’ We don’t do that anymore, but it was pretty funny,” said Joan Brown.
During the winter, Brown’s Wharf’s inn and restaurant may be closed, but Captain Brown remains a large presence. Each Christmas, the family drapes Captain Brown with a large red coat. “We may be closed, but he’s always watching over us,” said Joan Brown.
Even though Captain Brown is a colossal structure, he is not immune to the elements. Like all fishermen, he is used to battling high winds. But in 2010, a tough sea wind toppled him. The Boothbay Register headline read "Blow the Man Down" as the colossal statue was knocked over and needed repairs. So the family loaded the Captain onto another flatbed truck, and transported him to Skip Rideout's marine facility for “reconstructive surgery.” Local craftsman Chuck Chaney did the fiberglass repair work, and the old fisherman who looks as good as ever continues greeting new and old friends alike, welcoming them to Boothbay Harbor and to Brown’s Wharf Inn.