What's in a name?
Having spent many years researching fishing history, I have discovered one of the most frustrating things is what I call "Phantom Twins." These are people with the same name as the ones you are looking for, and it happens a lot more than you realize. For example, I had earlier written an article about William Shakespeare, who shared a famous name not only with the immortal bard of England, but also William Shakespeare, a watchmaker from Connecticut (with whom he became great friends).
But that is, of course, not the only instance of a Phantom Twin mucking up the works from a research point of view. You would think that an unusual name like Fred Arbogast would be safe. Wrong. One wonders if Fred Arbogast, former president of Westminster College, ever was called "Jitterbug" due to his sobriquet.
Or take the case of James Heddon of Mason City, Iowa. One wonders how many times he gets asked if he is related to the Heddons of fishing fame (apparently he is not). Fred Keeling made a lot of very interesting and collectible lures; but he has or had Phantom Twins living in Charleston, West Virginia, Greenville, Mississippi, and Hayward, California, among other places.
Many Phantom Twins, like those mentioned in the paragraph above, lived at the end of or after the death of their fishing namesake. But there are a lot of Phantom Twins who lived alongside their more famous fishing cousins. One wonders if William Jamison of Ottumwa, Iowa ever took the nickname "Smilin' Bill" like the famed luremaker and tournament caster from Chicago. Jim Bagley baits have skyrocketed in the past few years; if you are ever in Victoria, Texas or Syracuse, New York, if you look up Jim Bagley you will likely find no lures at all. Of course, if you ask about Jim Bagley in Twentynine Palms, California, they will think first and foremost about their local politician and mayor named, you guessed it, Jim Bagley. Hiram Leonard was a pioneer rodmaker, but Hiram Leonard was also a druggist, postmaster, and justice of the peace in Warrenville, Ohio from the 1850s until around 1900. In fact, the non-fishing Hiram Leonard has a museum in his honor in Warrenville today--more than we can say, unfortunately, for the pioneer of the split bamboo fly rod. The best we can do for him is a canoe-shaped gravestone honoring his Maine roots.
Sometimes a famous tackle maker is connected by name alone to someone of, how shall we say, lesser repute. Famed rodmaker Jim Payne would have probably been horrified to discover that his namesake Jim Payne (no relation of course) was accused and convicted of murder in Texas in the 1870s. Or Charles Garcia, who founded the firm responsible for popularizing the Mitchell and Ambassadeur reels, would likewise have probably not found it funny that someone who shared his name was arrested for selling opium in Omaha, Nebraska in 1912.
The list goes on and on. James Henshall was a defensive back for the Edmonton Eskimos as well as a pioneer fish culturist and proponent of black bass fishing. Charles Helin was an electrical engineer from Pasadena, California and the inventor of the Flatfish...well, you get the point.
One time at NFLCC Nationals, I heard a gentleman declare "What I wouldn't give to have a conversation with William Shakespeare, James Henshall, and James Heddon" or something to that effect. You can imagine his disappointment if his wish was granted, and he got a lengthy discourse on watchmaking, the nickle package defensive scheme, and weather patterns in Central Iowa.
A rose by any other name may indeed smell as sweet, but when it comes to tackle, try to make sure you get the name right. I think you'd be very disappointed with your Fred Malleson reel if it came from the director of the Oswego Speedway instead of the Victorian reelsmith.
-- Dr. Todd