Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

The Zuckweiler Hook -- Old Names for Familiar Tackle

When I used to do sporting goods shows with a large display of old tackle, I very occasionally ran into someone old enough that they still used names and descriptions that were from long before my time. The only reason that I was able to clue in on these was that I had read extensively in older angling books. It was a thrill in 1985 to hear an old timer in bib overalls peer into a case and proclaim “I've got some of those wooden minnies at home.” Indeed, he later brought in three Heddon #100's all from 1904 and 1905! Another man told me how he saved his pennies as a boy until he had a quarter with which to buy a “spoon hook” which he trolled behind a row boat with a piece of carpenter's chalk line until the third or fourth pike took it away. It was then back to running errands to earn a few pennies to buy another “spoon hook.” One of the most memorable encounters was a very old gentleman who after staring long and hard at my display, asked me if I had a “Moonlight Radiant.” I assured him I didn't and asked him how it was that he was familiar with that bait. He stated that he use to fish with one. Asked how he knew the name of the bait, he stated that was the name on the box. I was somewhere between skeptical and very excited so I took out a pen and a piece of paper asked him to draw a picture of the bait. He drew a perfect likeness of a Heddon Moonlight Radiant. When I asked him if he still had it, he indicated that the box had disappeared when he was a young man and the bait had come up missing from the garage along with his old tackle box ten years or so before. I then told him how disappointed I was to hear that and assured him that no matter how worn the lure was, the least I would give him was $1000 and that figure would go up quickly depending on condition. I will never forget his reaction. Tears started to run down his face and as his head slowly bowed, he softly stated that he could have “really used the money.” He turned and walked away; a very dejected and sad image that has always stayed with me.
There were many other memorable encounters with “old-timers” but none were old enough to remember the bait in today's ad from the August 6, 1892 edition of The American Field. The Zuckweiler Hook as advertised here is also featured on page 37 of Jeff Kieny's Patented Hooks and Bait-Holders book. We learn there that it is the forerunner of the much more familiar Chicago Spinner. Good friend and researcher Jerry Martin brought this ad to my attention not so much for the unique qualities of the Zuckweiler Hook, but rather a phrase that nether of us had seen or heard before. It was not called a “spoon hook” nor a “weedless hook” but rather a “non-grass hook”. Jeff Kieny says this is a very rare bait and at $1.50 in 1892 it would be surprising if they sold very many.

-- Bill Sonnett

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