There are a handful of truly legendary names in fishing tackle history: Heddon, Pflueger, Hardy, Leonard, Edwards, and a few others. But of all names in the pantheon of fishing legends, none connotate the sheer awe of vom Hofe. It is easy to understand why. The Vom Hofe family—Frederick, Edward, Julius, Julius Jr., Edwin, Clarence—crafted some of the most coveted (and valuable) rods, reels, and terminal tackle in American history.
We here at Fishing for History are no strangers to Edward C. vom Hofe, and in the past year we’ve followed many vom Hofe rods and reels in the Friday Funhouse. So one can say we certainly have been bitten by the vom Hofe bug. Likewise, author and noted collector Ted Bingham caught vom Hofe fever when he was young, but unique among collectors, he has taken his love one step further and written a new volume on the subject. The Celeberated Reels of Edward vom Hofe (2008) is a 160-page volume sure to delight any Vom Hofe fan, as well as a good number who don’t even own a Vom Hofe reel.
The book begins with a basic biography of the vom Hofe clan, tracing their lineage back to Germany before the Revolutions of 1848. It was the American immigrant Frederick—the scion of the American vom Hofes—who first took a knowledge of metal working and engineering and began crafting fishing reels around 1857. Frederick had not one but two talented reelsmith sons, Julius and Edward. Although the book covers Julius in general, it concentrates the majority of its attention (as the title might suggest) on Edward, believed by many to have crafted the finest reels of the era.
The book is conveniently divided into sections, the first being biographical and historical, with sections covering family history and the history of Edward Charles vom Hofe’s fishing tackle company. The remainder of the book is concerned with E.C. vom Hofe reels. Sections covering Reel Features and Design, Identifying and Dating E.C. vom Hofe Reels, Catalogued reels, and a pair of helpful appendices on reel materials and patents.
There is much to like about this book. Much of the information has not been seen in print before, and thankfully, Bingham has documented his historical information by footnoting the source material. Many, many myths about vom Hofe are thankfully put to bed by Bingham’s thoughtful research. There is a useful value guide that covers the current price and scarcity of various models. The layout is clean, the prose excellent, and the quality of binding excellent. Many readers will marvel at the numerous E.C. vom Hofe reels they likely didn’t know exist, from the massive Commander Ross to the dainty and enormously coveted fly reels. A detailed table of contents can be found here.
There isn’t much that detracts from this volume other than the natural reaction of finishing a good book such as this and wishing it was twice as long so you could continue reading. It certainly would have been nice if some of the images were larger so that they showed more detail. As it stands, the photography is crisp and clear but the image size sometimes makes it difficult to see minute details. Additionally, as the book is offered in a limited edition hardcover and trade softcover, it would have been great to have the limited edition printed in color. I for one would have gladly paid $100 for a signed and numbered color edition of this book.
These are minor quibbles. The Celeberated Reels of Edward vom Hofe is an outstanding contribution to vom Hofe, fishing reel, and fishing history in general. Ted Bingham’s work will likely remain the standard study on Edward Charles vom Hofe reels for the foreseeable future, and should be put on the short list of books that are absolutely required reading for anyone wishing to gain a broad knowledge of the history of fishing and tackle in America.
The book can be ordered directly from the author at www.edwardvomhofe.com.
-- Dr. Todd