Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Voices from the Past: Collecting & Displaying Tackle, ca. 1891


There's been a lot of talk and photos recently of some awesome man caves, a.k.a. dens, decorated to the ceilings (and some on the ceilings) with fishing tackle and related items. I thought it might be interesting for these budding piscatorial decorators to recognize that men always liked to surround themselves with such items. Here is a terrific article entitled "Fishing & Hunting Trophies as Decorations," from The New York Times, 11 January 1891 explaining how to set up a Victorian man cave.

The fisherman's study or library is now receiving more attention than at any previous time, and all manner of devices in the shape of decorations are being placed upon the walls to remind the angler of enjoyable sojournings on stream or lake....If the angler's wife is at all artistic she will see that the decorations in his den, smoking room, or whatever it may be called, are arranged in a tasteful manner and to his satisfaction. Those who have plenty of funds to use in the matter of home decorations can, of course, fit up their rooms in the most beautiful manner. There is a lodge in Scotland where the walls are painted in squares with illustrations of the wild sports of that country. As the work was done by Landseer the beauty and value of the decorations can be well understood. Oil paintings of fish are, of course, the most satisfactory in picture decoration, as photographs fail to show the delicate markings of either fish or fowl.

With a few pictures of trout or bass a start can be made...Sometimes an attempt is made to prepare decorations of stuffed fish. Stuffed fish, as a rule, are a failure. They seldom look well, and most of the work of the men who prepare them is very poor. The difficulty in stuffing fish--and it is one that could apparently be easily overcome--is that the proper proportions of the specimen are not obtained. A trout is either made too fat, or the opposite degree of thinness is reached, while often the pickerel, instead of being of his proper shape, lanky and long, is stuffed as fat as a shad. One or two well-stuffed fish may do very well to ornament the den, but not more than enough to show simply what the specimens are like should be retained.

The tools of the fisherman can be arranged on the walls in a tasteful manner without difficulty. A little bunch of highly-colored artificial flies is pretty to look upon and will brighten a wall wonderfully. Then the finely polished rods laid crosswise or curved into the shape they take when a big trout is making for the lower end of the pool show off to advantage. A German silver reel is an article of decoration in itself. The fishing basket or creel gives a substantial appearance to the room, and landing nets and gaffs always have a charm for the lover of salmon fishing or the striped bass angler who has had many a bout with large fish....

A fishing fad is to gather all the angling literature that the collector can find. Many rare books are thus retained, and the fishing historical books are kept in order. Of course, handsome editions of Izaak Walton are in demand, and from one to fifty copies of the work will be found in the library of a book sharp of angling tendencies.

To collect rods of different styles is often means of amusement in Winter to those who are fond of keeping their fishing instincts at a fever heat. The variety of rods made is so great that a collection will soon prove ponderous. It is pretty to look at, however, and will serve to entertain piscatorial visitors for hours. A rod is constructed for almost every fish that swims, and the varieties of woods used and the mountings prepared are many. In the same way collections of artificial flies are gathered. The number of styles of flies and variations of well-tried kinds now reaches up into the thousands....

Those who use their rods and other tackle for decorative purposes in Winter will do well to keep an eye on their condition. The rods should be kept in racks if they are ever to be used for practical angling again. Reels should be supplied with oil and artificial flies should be sprinkled with some powder that will prevent moths or insects from destroying them....It is needless to add that if children are about, the fishing tackle...must be hung high on the walls, unless surgical operations are desired or the angler wishes to "keep his hand in" in the art of playing "big fish."


-- Dr. Todd

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

I love this :-)
Obviously the wife is in charge of decorating, and stuffed fish don't look very well Lol - I don't think that they are very well - being stuffed Lol.
Thanks for sharing