by Dr. Todd E.A. Larson
The origins of the split bamboo rod has preoccupied a number of writers, beginning with Dr. James Alexander Henshall. There have been many theories posited, from the split cane rod originating with the Ancient Chinese to the British to America's own Solon Phillippe. However, a nifty article from an 1884 edition of The American Angler brought up an interesting theory I've not seen debated before: the German origins of the split bamboo rod. Wait...what?
The impetus for the article was the revised edition of Wilhelm Bischoff's Anleitung zur Argel-Fischerei, or Introduction to Rod Fishing (Munich, 1882; first edition 1859). It quoted the book (translated by the author) as follows:
The best materials for rods are hickory, lancewood, greenheart, ash and split-bamboo, the latter especially for fly rods...hexagonal fly-rods of split-bamboo made by H. Hildebrand in Munich, (an idea which had already been carried out by Mr. Thoma, adjunct of the Royal Administration of Mines and Salt Works, and a member of the Bavarian Fishing Association, who died a number of years ago, and for whom the honor of having originated the notion may justly be claimed), are well worthy of the attention of all lovers of the sport, although our experience with them is as yet very limited.
Of course, knowing when Mr. Thoma had died would give us a lot better chronology when it came to fitting the first German split cane rods into a proper chronology.
The anonymous author left us with another interesting tidbit:
It was my good fortune recently to hear from Mr. William Mitchell a description of a Japanese or Chinese split-bamboo rod which he had seen; so that after all, we may be indebted to our brethren of the Flowery Kingdom for this valuable invention, as we are for that of the mariner's compass, gunpowder, and other valuable articles, as is usually admitted.
He also felt Bischoff was a gentleman of high character that was not known to conflate facts.
So...does anyone know how to do any German genealogical research?
-- Dr. Todd