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The name "Fishtown" is derived from the area's former role as the center of the shad fishing industry on the Delaware River. The name comes from the fact that a number of 18th and early 19th centuries German and German-American families bought up the fishing rights on both sides of the Delaware River from Trenton Falls down to Cape May, New Jersey. Also, in the early 18th century, an English colonist was fabled to have caught the largest shad in the world in the Delaware River.
The apocryphal local legend traces the name of Fishtown to Charles Dickens who purportedly visited the neighborhood in March 1842, but records show this to be false, as it was named Fishtown prior to his visiting.