One of the most interesting prototype reels to come to market recently has to be this collection of items attributed to William Demmer of Detroit, Michigan ca. 1939-1941. Discovered by Keith Zessin, they are remarkable in that they are technologically advanced, precision engineered, and, apparently, never put into production.
There is clearly a fascinating history behind these reels, but only the surface story is known. In Keith's words: "This group of reels was made by William Demmer of Detroit, Michigan. They are the only examples that are known and date from 1939 to 1941. When the War started he could no longer obtain aluminum."
Yet another fishing tackle venture postponed, and from the looks of things killed, by the Second World War.
Keith noted that Demmer was the owner of a tool and die shop in Detroit, which could have been the Demmer Auto Company, a firm known to exist in the 1950s. Zessin further wrote that Demmer "made parts for General Motors."
The first thing one thinks when viewing these reels is their remarkable resemblance to the very popular Hurd Supercaster reel. There may be a reason for this; Zessin observed that "Hurd Lock & Key also sold parts to GM so they more than likely knew each other."
The reel itself is a precision engineered "sleeve" which covers both the rod handle and reel, making them one continuous piece. It appears there are four prototypes, although only one appears complete (pictured with cork siding). The external pieces of the reel include the end plate drag and the handle on the front plate. All in all a simple and seemingly quite effective design.
It seems possible that the William Demmer responsible for these reels is the same William Demmer who headed the Demmer Automotive Group, which today lists the Jack Demmer Ford dealership as one of its holdings. An email to Jack Demmer Ford was not returned.
All else that is currently known of this is that William Demmer "also made some Deco style lighters that had printed cardboard boxes and candlesticks that he planned to sell commercially," according to Zessin.
What a fabulous group of reels and, I'm sure, a remarkable story behind them. I have high hopes we may someday learn more about the Demmer prototype reel.
Many thanks to Keith Zessin for sharing photos and information!
-- Dr. Todd