Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting Pflueger History Wrong

Getting Pflueger History Wrong

As I'm always keen on Pflueger history, I want to share with you an article sent to me by Gary Miller and run in the June 1932 Hunter-Trader-Trapper magazine. It covers Pflueger history, as seen from the corporate eyes of Enterprise Manufacturing Company. It is also an example of how companies often spin their own history until it no longer represents a factual account.

Entitled News Story Reveals Progress of Pflueger Tackle" it is reprinted, with my commentary, in its entirety here (original text in italics):

An interesting story of the birth and development of Pflueger tackle was printed recently in the Akron (O.) Times under the caption, "Biggest Fishing Tackle Plant Founded in Akron Farm House."

The 1920s and 1930s were very big years for Pflueger, and they were keen on trumping their own history. They even began backdating the founding of the company to 1864, which was most definitely not when Pflueger tackle got its start. It was founded in 1881; 1864 was the founding date of the American Fish Hook Company, which Pflueger bought in 1899.

"Back in 1864," says the author, "when most of what is now Akron was farm land, there stood on the hill overlooking the canal a rambling, old farm house. It was the home of E.F. Pflueger--a dreamer, a student, a reader. Fish interested him. He found that they would leap to the lure of a luminous bait. This gave him an idea--he would make luminous bait out of glass with a phosphorescent filling."

Of course, this took place in 1880 or 1881, not 1864. Pflueger did, however, pioneer the use of phosphorescents, but they were originally used on horse tack (saddles, etc.). The (corporate shill) author continues:

"It was a good idea but hard to sell. Years passed but the Pflueger factory in the farm house wasn't really prosperous until later. The Pflueger boys began to grow up and the three of them--E.A., Charlie and Joe--entered the business. E.A. was secretary and treasurer but became president upon the death of his father. The late Joseph Pflueger, who was regarded as one of America's best loved sportsmen and familiarly known as "Uncle Joe," was vice president. Charles T., who entered the company later, has succeeded Uncle Joe as production chief."

Again, as the author had to account why Pflueger lures were not being sold until 1881 (the real founding date) and not 1864, the "farm house" idea seemed to account for it. The truth is that Pflueger was a big success from the beginning, launching national ads as early as 1883 and putting up a big factory in 1887 (which promptly burnt to the ground in 1891, as chronicled in my book Pflueger Profiles). The text also skips the nasty family split that led E.A. to go off and found his own company in 1905 -- the E.A. Pflueger Company -- just down the street from the Enterprise Manufacturing Co. They would not heal this rift until 1913.

The business outgrew the farm house and the Enterprise Manufacturing Company now requires two factory buildings, one devoted to the making of fish hooks. Fish hooks are a basic product, but there are 4,999 other Enterprise products. There are rods of steel, of bamboo, rods of many shapes and dimensions and weights. There are reels that are build with the precision of a wrist watch, with jewel mounted shafts and a polish like milady's gewgaw. And there are lures by the thousands, and lines.

Well, now we can see Pflueger had two factories. Concealed is that one of these was E.A. Pflueger's factory from the split, which after 1913 began to absorb the other branches of Pflueger's manufacturing as it was a more modern, state-of-the-art factory. The fish hooks were left to be manufactured in the old factory.

The Pfluegers remain the 'works' as Enterprise. E.A. and C.T. are still active, and J.S. and William S., son of E.A., are, respectively, treasurer and sales manager. The latter also is assistant treasurer. L.W. Griffith is secretary and advertising manager and L.C. Dibble is assistant secretary.

All in all, this is an interesting if historically inaccurate portrayal of Pflueger history. It is what happens when reporters allow corporations to write their own history in print, as without doubt this copy was (barely) rewritten from the information contained in other Pflueger ads, catalogs, and press releases -- all of it inaccurate.

It just goes to show you can't trust everything you read! Especially when it comes to Pflueger history.

-- Dr. Todd


Ron Brown said...

Hi I have a box of Pflueger chugging rig no. 137 originally had 12 per box, I have 6, its a novel devise for bottom fishing. Inspected by 2C 1251, I was getting ready to list on EBay to sell, but cannot find any previous sales or any information about them, they are made very hefty and wondering if they were used for catfish or what. any info is greatly appreciated

Ron Brown said...

New E-mail Account

john sobolewski said...

I live in the Akron area and one of the buildings I believe was a Pflueger building was occupied by Famous Supply and they had a tower in the middle of the building where it was said that they dropped the molten lead that they made lead weights. I don't know if there is any truth to it, but one Christmas it burnt to the ground and many said it burned so fast because of the oils that were contained in the wood beams.