Longshoreman’s hook

Longshoreman’s hook

A Longshoreman's hook, also known as a box hook, cargo hook, loading hook, or docker's hook is a tool historically used by longshoremen (stevedores). The tool consists of a round wooden handle with a strong metal hook about 8" long projecting at a right angle from the center of the handle. The handle is held in a closed fist with the hook projecting between two fingers.

Before the age of containerization, freight was moved on and off ships with extensive manual labor, and this was the basic tool of the dockworker. The hook became an emblem of the longshoreman's profession in the same way that a hammer and anvil are associated with blacksmiths, or the pipe wrench with plumbers. When longshoremen went on strike or retired, it was known as "hanging up the hook" or "slinging the hook", and the newsletter for retired members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Seattle Local is called "The Rusty Hook" [http://www.ilwu19.com/rustyhook/] .

A longshoreman's hook was often carried by hooking it through the belt.

Some cargo items are liable to be damaged if pulled at with a longshoreman’s hook: hence the "Use No Hooks" warning sign. [http://www.lpsind.com/IntlPicSeries.htm]

A longshoreman's hook looks somewhat intimidating, and as it was also associated with strong tough dockworkers, it became a commonly used weapon in crime fiction, similar to the ice pick. For example, in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents entitled "Shopping for Death", a character is murdered (off screen) using a longshoreman's hook. It was sometimes used as a weapon and means of intimidation in real life as well; the book "Joey the Hit Man: The Autobiography of a Mafia Killer" ["Joey the Hit Man: The Autobiography of a Mafia Killer", by Joey with David Fisher, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002, ISBN 1560253932 [http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781560253938] ] states "One guy who used to work on the docks was called Charlie the Hook. If he didn't like you he would pick you up with his hook."

Other meanings

* "Docker's hook" is London Cockney rhyming slang for "look".


External links

* [http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthemove/exhibition/exhibition_17_4.html Smithsonian Institute article] on the mechanization of the cargo shipping industry.
*Images of longshoreman's hooks: [http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2003/janfeb/images/showcase/hoffer.items.jpg] [http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/upload/img_200/H4360.jpg] [http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthemove/img/media/l/424.jpg]

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