Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? A Short Discourse on Penn Reels During World War II


What did you do doing the war, Daddy?

The phrase “what did you do during the war” was a popular one in the late 1940s and 1950s. Indeed, with so many millions of men and women mobilized for the war effort both at home and abroad, there were no Americans whose lives were not impacted by World War II. The millions of children born in the wake of the war were naturally curious as to what role their parents played in the greatest conflict in the history of mankind.

Fishing tackle makers and the Second World War have been written about often. It’s not a mystery what most of these companies were doing. Tycoon Tackle in Miami, Florida was expanding from a dozen employees to over 400 in the war years, making struts for F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat fighters. Montague City Rod & Reel Co. made bamboo ski poles for mountain troops. Shakespeare made machine gun parts, among many other things, and of course Heddon made parts for the Norden bomb sight. Currey Gayle of the Gayle Reel Co. made parts for the Atomic Bomb, although he did not find out what he was making until years later.

When Mike Cacioppo started working on his final manuscript for his book The Chronological History of Penn Reels, 1932-1957 several years ago, I began to do serious Penn research to help fill in any gaps in the history of this company. It was a fun project that took many hours, but there was one mystery I was never able to crack:

What the hell was Penn doing during World War II?

We know a lot about Penn during these years; they advertised heavily, for example, declaring their support for the war effort, and sent out a lot of free lube to American anglers using their Penn reels to supplement their rationed foods. We know they also changed factories, moving to Hunting Park Avenue during these years. But what I was never able to find out was, what exactly were they making during the war?

When I ran across this want ad recently published in the Philadelphia Enquirer for April 18, 1943 showing that Penn was hiring, it reminded me of how frustrating this search has been. Note that the ad calls for women, and declares it was "light machine work in defense plant." Note also the old Lehigh Avenue address.



Penn followed this with another ad on October 16, 1944. Not only was Penn hiring, they were promising post-war employment to any new hires. This implies strongly they had a fast growing concern and more work than they knew what to do with. And of course, they had so much work they had to leave their old factory for the new one on Hunting Park Avenue (only about a mile from their old digs).



Penn had a world class machine shop, and some outstanding machinists working for them. They were certainly involved in war work, to the point they needed to hire more bodies.

But what they heck were the making? Anyone have any clues? Drop me a note if you do. I’d love to strike this mystery from my list of nagging questions.

— Dr. Todd

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Spinning Reel Report with Ben Wright: January 2015

              JANUARY 2015

A NEW YEAR WITH A NEW SPIN !!!

MOST REELS LISTED IN THIS REPORT INCLUDE THE BOX

DO BOXES MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THE PRICES PAID ?

CHECK IT OUT----------

ABU:
222 second version green nib @ 216.45
222 second version gray nib @ 154.45
rare Record 500 exc w/deluxe fitted box w/mpu kit @559.27
Record 600 second version e+wb @ 366.71 wow

Airex:
Astra cf nib @ 36.05
Impala cf ewb @ 24.88
two Mastereel's no2/no3 both ewb @ 46.00

Dam Quick:
110 nib @ 145.99
110 nib @ 206.66
220N e+wb @ 77.00
330N ewb @ 60.00
440N nib @ 67.63
Herters 109A nib @81.00

French:
Mepps Super Meca orange e+wb @ 183.50
Trident tr-10 nib @ 35.06

Heddon:
220R nib @ 49.99

Italian:
Alcedo Micron curved leg e+wb @ 137.50
Cargem Falcon 22 nib @ 119.00
Zangi--
Ted Williams 350 ewb @ 83.51
Orvis 50A fb nib @238.45 "RNM"
Orvis 100A nib @ only 51.00

Japanese:
Berkley 455 ewb @ 25.05
Osman 23 cf nib @ only 1.11
Taico Blue Streak #51 e+wb @ 9.99
tiny Thunderbird Mite nib @ 41.00 wow
Ted Williams 460 e+wb @ 11.60

Mitchell:
300 Century anniv. nib @ 243.61
300S nib @ 97.00
308 pro nib @ 182.71
330 otomatic nib @ 240.61
409 nib @ 172.50

Penn:
705 second version ewb @ 87.00
710 green nib @ 89.00
710 green nib @ 105.49
360 slammer nib @ 157.50

Pflueger:
Pelican 1020 ewb @ 44.58
Pelican 1020 nib @ 123.50 wow

Shakespeare:
2062 first version nib @ 60.00
2062 second version nib @ 94.00
2450 japan nib @ 117.50

Swiss:
Thommen Record 400 nib @ 52.95

Zebco Cardinals:
7 first version e+wb @ 149.55
7X nib @ 179.99
7X nib @ 445.86 WHY ?
two boxes only for 3 one @ 37.50 other @ 55.00

A FEW REELS OF INTEREST WITH NO BOX !
Abu Record 450 exc- @ 613.19
French Doperr first version exc- @ 299.00
Higgins 535-39520 cf exc- @24.00
Mitchell 400G s/n 257 exc+ @ 405.00
German Walter Schulz Selekta 1949 exc @257.00

Books- Wright Price Guide third edition 2002 relisted starting @399.99
NO BIDS
another same as above used sold @ 24.99

One would think that there would be less reels listed with the box
"WRONG"
Ben

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Voices from the Past: Dixie Carroll on the Pflueger Surprise Minnow (1919)








Over the next several months, I’m going to feature the fishing tackle writing of one of my all-time favorite writers, Dixie Carroll (Carroll Blaine Cook). These famed pieces of tackle were featured in his great book Fishing Tackle and Kits. They are fascinating write-ups of the tackle from a contemporary perspective. Below is Dixie’s write up on the Jamison Fly Rod Wiggler, one of the earliest true fly rod lures.\


PFLUEGER-SURPRISE MINNOW.- Made by the Enterprise Mfg. Co., Akron, 0 . Here is an excel- lent artificial minnow, and it is a natural fellow at the same time, it does not need a bunch of metal adornments to make it do a wiggling darting dive and the swim of a live minnow. It is of red cedar, the best all-round wood for making an artificial and it is finished in all the popular color designs with a crackerjack waterproof porcelain enamel that stands up under any kind of casting without -cracking or chipping. It is of minnow shape and what makes it do the wonderful lively swim under the water is the mouth-shaped cut or groove on the front under- side, and right where the mouth ought to be anyway. It is a very effective lure, of the semi-surface class, riding about ten to fifteen inches under water when reeled in at the ordinary fishing speed and it goes deeper if speeded up, floating when you happen to stop to untangle a backlash. A few seasons.ago I had one of these minnows along up north for a workout, it was cold and snow flurries made casting a bit of rough work. For two days the game ones had been off the strike, the pal and I had thrown them everything in the outfit without much success. I had loaned my pal the one Pflueger-Surprise minnow, a perch colored affair and that afternoon he landed a five pound fifteen ounce small-mouth bass and five others that just tipped the scale a tremble below fifteen pounds, all with this Surprise Minnow. It seemed the big ones could not keep away from it. My own string was not large enough or heavy enough· to mention that day. After a lot of coaxing, and then actually stealing this plug away from the pal, I had quite a nice bit of sport with it. It is still in my outfit a trifle battered and dinted from two years' use, but it still gets the fish when it is hard to interest them in hitting the lure. For its natural minnow-like movement in the water, the fine finish and good workmanship I commend it to the bait- caster as a rattling good lure.










Monday, January 26, 2015

In the News: A Self-Propelled Ice House


This week in the news, we get a super charming video of a Wisconsin ice shack to envy. Good old American ingenuity at work here, folks! This is really worth checking out (thanks John Kring for the heads up).



— Dr. Todd

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Friday Funhouse


The Video of the Week


Two of our friends — Joe Cermele and Michael Hackney — team up to test Michael's first ever #D printed fly reel. You go guys!



12 Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them

Love this A.L. Walker fly reel.



A Heddon Dowagiac Underwater Minnow is pretty cool.



Hrddon Black Sucker #1300 is a great find.



An Orvis fly reel in the wood box is attracting a lot of interest.



I like this CCBC 5830 in the box.



Never seen a 12-pack of Montague bobbers.



Instant Collection Alert: Philip Geen spoons!



A dealer display of bobbers is awesome.



Woah. This Meek #3 tournament is the absolute best.



South Bend Fish-Orenos in the box has a lot of appeal.



This Chippewa is a great lure!



This is a really rare Meisselbach 1st Model Take Apart.



As always, have a great weekend, and be good to each other — and yourself!

— Dr. Todd

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Fishing Advertisement


This 1956 Miller High Life advertisement depicts a neat fishing scene. Above all other beer companies, Miller always sought to portray the "High Life" as integrally connected to the outdoors. Trolling for fish and having a beer ... life is good.



-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Voices from the Past: Hildebrandt's Night Bugs (1919)




HILDEBRANDT NIGHT BUG AND BUCKTAIL SHINER.- Made by the John J . Hildebrandt Co., Logansport, Ind. These two new lures of the Hildebrandts are right in line with the new era in the fly game. The Night-Bug is tied to resemble a night moth and the yellow, brown and white combination with the luminous body makes a cracking good lure for night fly-fishing. This is a floating fly and used with a small aluminum spinner it makes a strong play for the bass at night and that is the time to get the big ones. The fly is well tied and has twin hooks working out of the under side of the body. The Bucktail Shiner is light enough for the fly-rod and still large enough to be attractive, and the move of the bucktail hair in the water makes a rather enticing lure for game fish. More and more the hair fly will be used and this bucktail minnow tied on a No. 1-0 sneck hook is a pleasing departure from the usual run of flies. This fly is a good lure for a dark day especially and I have found it successful for both bass and trout. Both these lures are well made and tied with the usual skill of the Hildebrandts and for the angler who delights in trying the 'new stuff, and wants to try it with the idea that it will help him land the big ones, these two flies can be recommended as good dope and worthy of the try on the next fishing trip.



Night Bug ad from 1920 courtesy Jim Jordan.


-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How's This for Bizarre ...


How about this for crazy ... I was driving to the airport late Sunday evening to pick up someone who was taking a red eye in from New York. The plane was originally scheduled to land about 11:20 pm so I planned on leaving at 10:30 to give myself enough time to get there (usually around 30 minutes but lately there's been lots of construction).

Well I got a text that the flight was delayed fifteen minutes so I left at 10:45. I get a few miles down the road on I-75 to take the bridge across the river to the airport in Northern Kentucky when I see about two dozen cop cars blow past me at high speed and lights flashing. About a half mile down the highway is blocked by cop cars, forcing us off on to Beekman street, in the middle of a rough part of town.

The cops created a cordon where you pretty much could not exit and so a huge line of cars inched their way for a mile down the street before taking a left on Westwood Northern Avenue to a single lane entrance ramp to I-75 South. So I get back on to I-75 South near the river and I go on to the airport after about a 40 minutes delay, puzzled by all the cops I see streaming the other way.

Turns out one of the overpasses on I-75 collapsed about fifteen minutes before I got there, killing one. 200 tons of concrete fell to the ground at right around the time I would have been driving near it if the plane wasn't delayed ... Weird.



What is it about me and bridge collapses? My thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased construction worker and injured truck driver, and I am thankful no one else was hurt.

— Dr. Todd

Monday, January 19, 2015

In the News: Fishing Laws that Work


This huge steelhead — 28 pounds — was caught in Idaho recently. It was released due to changes in the law due the fact the steelhead is considered a threatened species in Idaho. It’s a huge fish no doubt, but what’s interesting about this story is that the fish, which was about 7 years old, would have broken the previous record by almost 8 pounds. That’s pretty amazing, and proof that protection of species will have a significantly positive effect on a fish species. This steelhead is a breeding machine, making millions of fry which have the potential to pass on these super genes to future generations.



It’s great to see when protective laws have tangible positive effects, such as this.

— Dr. Todd

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Fishing Advertisement: Planter's Peanuts (2001)


The following ad is proof that is doesn't have to be old to be a great advertisement. This one is from 2001 and features some enterprising Minnesotans ice fishing. It's a great ad.



-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Voices from the Past: Dixie Carroll on the Shannon Twin Spinner




Over the next several months, I’m going to feature the fishing tackle writing of one of my all-time favorite writers, Dixie Carroll (Carroll Blaine Cook). These famed pieces of tackle were featured in his great book Fishing Tackle and Kits. They are fascinating write-ups of the tackle from a contemporary perspective. Below is Dixie’s write up on the Jamison Fly Rod Wiggler, one of the earliest true fly rod lures.

SHANNON TWIN SPINNER.- Made by the W. J. Jamison Co., 736 South California Avenue, Chicago, Ill. I take off my hat to the Shannon Twin Spinner, it is certainly a winner. On sight, the experienced fisherman will at once see its practicability and get it for his tackle box. The spoons are small and are attached onto swivels at the ends of piano wires which bend up from the eye of the hook, and the big winning point for the bait is that the spoons do their flashing spinning right above the point of the hook. Often a bass will strike at the spoons and on many lures the distance of the spoon from the hook makes it possible for many of the fish to be lost through not hooking them. Not so with the Shannon, the game fish that strikes the spoon strikes the hooks at the same time. This spinner comes either with a red fly or plain with a weight for keeping the bait right side up. The idea of putting the spoons above the hook was doped up by Jesse P. Shannon, a fisherman than whom there is no better, and a thoroughly practical fellow. I found this spinner entirely weedless, the wires upon which the spoons are swiveled and the whirling spoons them- selves acting as weed-guards, and the bait comes out of the thickest weeds without a trailing bunch of bait-hiding weeds. The bait without the fly makes a fine lure used with the frog, pork-rind or minnow and is just right for casting, while the weighted fly makes a small-mouth bait that gets the fish. I find that the spoons spin very well when the bait is reeled in slowly and also in trolling, they still wiggle around and shoot their flashes even at the slow speed of that style of fishing. Taking the bait all around, it is certainly right in every way, material, workmanship and the big point remains that it is a fish t~ getter and I feel sure the fellow who uses it will never be without it.



— Dr. Todd

Monday, January 12, 2015

In the News: The Passing of Cotton Cordell


We mentioned this last week, but it’s worth revisiting again. Carl “Cotton” Cordell passed away last week at the age of 86. Cotton was a legendary figure in the tackle world, and one of the most fascinating characters in an era of interesting tackle men and women.

I hadn’t spoken with Cotton in a couple years, but the last time we talked was very memorable. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was running behind for a meeting, and didn’t have much time. But Cotton started spinning a story about how he tried to bribe some of the Gemini astronauts to brings a few of his baits into space on one of their missions, so he could advertise Cotton Cordell as the only tackle company that was “out of this world.” I listened in rapt attention and before I knew it, two hours had passed.

Ol’ Cotton could spin a story.

He lived a long and interesting life and he will be missed.

You can read his obituary in the Advocate by clicking here and an appreciation from the great Ken Duke by clicking here. You can read my biography of Cotton in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture by clicking here.

— Dr. Todd

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett: The Heddon Meadow Mouse -- A Lure that Appeals to Fishermen, Bass and Cats






This ad from the May 1929 issue of Field & Stream introduces the Heddon Meadow Mouse. I recall as a youngster seeing the early version this lure for the first time in an older gentleman's tackle box. Its leather ears, leather tail, pointed nose and small beady eyes really impressed me. I thought now that really looks like a mouse. Apparently it impressed quite a few fisherman as despite being introduced at the beginning of the Great Depression, it is not particularly rare.



Caption to read: From the 1929 Heddon Catalog comes the introduction of a "Mouse that is a Mouse"


By the time I was old enough to buy one for my own tackle box (I’m thinking this was 1956) the lure was made of Tenite with molded ears. It still had a leather tail and with a gray flocked finish it looked more like a mouse than any other plug I had ever seen on the shelf at the local hardware store. That’s pretty much where my positive impressions of the bait ended. It did not have a particularly impressive wiggle as is swam across (or just under) the surface. I did not catch a single fish on it. I lost the lure a few years later and I was never inspired to replace it. As an avid reader of Jason Lucas, the fishing editor of Sports Afield, my opinion was bolstered in the early 1960s when he wrote in his column that lures that appeal to fisherman are not always the same ones that appeal to the fish. I believe in the article he was talking about the Pikie Minnow, a lure that keeps on catching fish despite a somewhat modest wiggle. Another example he used to illustrate the point was comparing two swimming mice lures. One looked very much like a real mouse (think Heddon here) and another mouse that didn’t look all that realistic (think Shakespeare here). He stated that the second was a far more effective bait than the more realistic looking version. I knew instantly which lures he was talking about and I have always found his observation to be absolutely true.

It has often been noted that the earliest version of the Heddon Mouse had a single hook on the rear rather than a treble and a much smaller metal lip than later versions. In fact it used the same metal lip as another bait introduced in 1929, the 110 wooden River Runt. I believe that the single rear hook was part of an effort to make this early version of the Mouse swim with a more pronounced wiggle as the shape of the wooden body, while looking very much like a mouse, prevented the kind of swimming action that the 110 River Runt demonstrated. Fairly early this problem was addressed with a new metal lip, one that was similar to the metal lip on Heddon’s successful Vamp bait. While appearing very similar to the Vamp lip, it is a downsized version, which you will find out if you ever try to replace one with the other. I found this out the hard way some years back when I acquired a large batch of experimental baits from the Heddon factory. These were baits that they had tried different hardware on, such as an SOS body with a 210 collar, a Zaragossa with a 210 collar and an 1800 Crab Wiggler with the standard diving lip on one end and a 210 collar on the other and a line tie on each end making it a reversible lure. Many other lures had holes drilled in them and impressions in the paint where one could tell what type of hardware they had tried out,then removed. There was a 110 River Runt body in the white that had been drilled to accept the second version of the mouse diving lip. Those were the only holes in the bait. I had and extra Vamp lip which I attempted to install and soon found out that none of the holes matched up. After comparing the lip of a Vamp with one on a Heddon Mouse it became instantly clear that the second was smaller than the first. It also told me that Heddon had experimented with using the new mouse lip on the wooden River Runt body. Sometime after the change in diving lips on the mouse, the rear single hook was replaced with a treble.





Here are presented the first two versions of the Heddon Meadow Mouse the older one is the brown one on top. There is not much difference between the two except for the diving plates. As seen from below the later gray example has the wider diving plate while the older brown model has the same plate as used on the Heddon 110 River Runt.


I visited the home of Heddon expert and collector Bill Roberts in Birmingham, Alabama about 15 ago. In addition to the greatest Heddon collection I’ve ever seen, he was showing me some beautiful antique cars in the basement of his home when I noticed a folding table with several well used Heddon Meadow Mice on it. I asked what the deal was with them and Bill said he regularly fished with them. I told him he was the only person I knew who fished with them. He said he had done fairly well on them and like me, he enjoyed fishing with antique baits. He then proceeded to tell me a very memorable story which I will attempt to do justice to here.

He and a friend were in their boat moving slowly along a lake shore casting around docks. Bill cast a Heddon Meadow Mouse very near the shore when out of nowhere a large “Tom Cat” dashed out and pounced on the bait and was immediately, solidly hooked. Bill said that after reeling this very irate cat through the water to the boat they netted it with a large landing net. The picture he verbally painted of he and his partner on their hands and knees pinning this cat to the floor of the boat with the landing net while trying with pliers to unhook the berserk feline is one I will never forget. I told him he should write up a complete version of the story as I had the perfect title for him ----”What Real Catfishing Is Like”

Tight Lines,

Bill S

Post script: Some time after writing this article I was thinking I should refresh my recollections of how a Heddon Meadow Mouse swims in the water. I proceeded to the end of the dock last evening and took three cast, the last of which is was devoured by a bass of 14 inches. Wondering if maybe my judgment on how effective this lure is was a bit hasty, I jumped into the row boat and drifted down the lake for an hour casting in all directions. I never received a hit. Pulling up to the dock at dusk I laid the rod on the dock while tying up the boat. Just as I got the first of two lines tied to a cleat a tremendous splash occurred just four feet away at the end of the dock. Investigation showed that I had laid the rod on the end of the dock with just enough line out that one fourth of the Meadow Mouse was hanging in the water where a bass had tried his best to make off with it. Apparently the jury is still out ---LOL

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BUY THE DECONSTRUCTING OLD ADS (VOLUME 1) BOOK BY CLICKING HERE!


Friday, January 9, 2015

The Friday Funhouse


The Video of the Week

Gibby Gibson has started a series of short videos on great old fishing lures.



12 Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them

This Heddon Harden Star got its starting bid … at $16,000! I’m not suspicious or anything … but … but … [speechless].



This Ed. vom Hofe salmon reel is superb.



Crazy Crawlers in Red Head/Silver Flitter are RARE.



Love this Frankfort Milam reel.



This 1947 Otto Zwarg salmon reel is sweet.



I like the Bing’s Nemahbin Minnow a great deal.



Bronson Reel-O-Mines are falling out of trees of late!



This rare Pflueger with marbleized side plates is soooooo rare.



Streamer flies like this Dick Eastman are SOOO hot right now.



Scramble finish on Pflueger Palomines are super awesome.



A Heddon #150 in the box is a nice find.



Oddest bait ever? I nominate the South Bend Whirl-Oreno.



As always, have a safe and happy weekend, and be good to each other — and yourself.

— Dr. Todd