The demand for oil to light and lubricate the industrial world changed the face of much of the planet. Newfoundland was part of this widespread transformation as migratory cod fishermen settled here in the early 1800s in order to hunt seals in late winter and early spring. The seal fishery brought prosperity and growth and shaped this new society, but seal hunters and their families paid a heavy human cost in lives lost and suffering experienced. The traditional oil industries were doomed with the discovery of mineral oils and the ha essing of electricity, and Newfoundland-along with other societies-faced painful adjustments while searching for alte ative industries. However while its place in the economy declined, the seal fishery left an indelible imprint on Newfoundland's culture and identity. This study, with its tables, maps and illustrations, examines the history of the Newfoundland seal fishery from its origins up to 1914, ranging in scope from the life of the hunter on the ice flows to the demands of the consumer in the market place. Shannon Ryan was bo in riverhead, Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, and educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland (BA Ed, BA, and MA) and the University of London (PH). He worked for nine years as a schoolteacher and principal and in 1971 he was appointed to the faculty of History. His publications and presentations are in the fields of Newfoundland, Maritime, fisheries and oral history. He served as president of the Newfoundland Historical society during 1984-1988, as Newfoundland's representative on the Social sciences and humanities research council of Canada during 1989-1993 and was elected a fellow of the Royal society in 1988.