Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unraveling the Evans Weed Queen/Neptune by Chuck Julian

Unraveling the Evans Weed Queen/Neptune by Chuck Julian

Recently Chuck Julian posted this great information about the Evans Weed Queen on Joe's Board. Unfortunately, it scrolled off the board into oblivion, so I asked Chuck if it was possible to repost it here on Fishing for History. He was kind enough to agree, so here is his post, along with some information I found to flesh out the Weed Queen a bit more.

I have discovered a little bit about the Evans Weed Queen that you might find interesting. Inside the package is a patent number (1994168) for the lure and the name E.S. Evans and Sons, 259 Vinewood, Detroit, Michigan.

The patent was taken out by John Boyko of Hamtrack, Michigan,
 an enclave of Detroit (the patent can be viewed online). Mr. Boyko also has several other patents to his name that mostly deal with latching mechanisms for power conveyors, such as the type used in assembly lines. One of those was assigned to the Jervis B. Webb Company of Detroit.

Mr. Boyko assigned 1/2 of the Automatic Fishing Lure patent to 
Wadah Koury (I have found nothing about him). The patent was applied for in 1934 and granted in 1935.

The Evans Weed Queen was manufactured by the E.S. Evans and Sons Co. of Detroit. One of the Evans sons was Robert B. Evans. Mr. Evans was a business investor and also an inventor. From what I could see, none of his inventions ever made it but he did assign one (a windshield wiper heater) to E.S. Evans and Sons. He is reputed to say that he was in the business of making failing companies into profitable ones (NY Times obituary).

He was also known as an avid sportsman. In 1965, the then millionaire Evans became American Motors Corporation's largest stock holder and was elected chairman of the board in 1967. Mr. Evans changed the direction of the company and had them develop the Javelin, AMX, Pacer and other innovative vehicles. He said that the company should not be following the other auto companies but developing its own product.

At some point in time, E.S.Evans and Sons must have obtained the patent for the lure and named it the Evans Weed Queen. I don't know if the Evans Walton Company was involved. I don't know if they purchased a company that owned the patent, if they just purchased the patent or merely paid Mr. Boyko and Mr. Koury a royalty.

Evans Weed Queen sold recently on eBay for $260.00 by Robbie Pavey of the Mr. Lure Box Web Site.

On the slip of paper in a Weed Queen lure box, the printed name for the company is E.S. Evans and Sons but that piece of paper is also stamped on the back with Evans-Walton Co. Clearly, they were a successor to E.S. Evans and Sons in the sales of these lures. The only thing that I found on them was an old ad for paint repair tape.  If you had a scratch in your car paint, you could put this tape of the same color on top of the scratch.  It is likely another of the Evans' Family businesses.  I am not able to figure out how to look those old businesses up in a registry somewhere.  I have sent requests to Wayne County but have not had any reply.  They might not keep info that far back.

The Weed Queen is a spring-loaded bait. Here is is in both open and closed position.

I don't know how Neptune Bait figures into the mix. I have tried contacting John Boyko Jr. and Robert B. Evans Jr. to
 see what they know. Neither has replied. I am pretty sure I have the right Evans but not sure on Boyko.

Carded Neptune baits.

I corresponded with Rob Pavey who says that Kingfisher did not have a spring loaded mechanical lure in their catalog and that they were a brand name of the Edward Tryon Co. of Philadelphia. He says that they only sold other peoples baits under their brand name and didn't manufacture anything.

The Neptune Bait lures that I have are wood with glass eyes on top of a steel frame. In the book, Made In Michigan Fishing Lures II, by George Richey, Mr. Richey says that the lures were first made by the Neptune Bait Co in the late '20s or early '30s. After several changes, the lures became the Evans Weed Queen. Mr. Richey emphasizes that Neptune came first. If he is right, the Evans family may have purchased the Neptune Bait Company, closed it and then started manufacturing the lure with their own company, renaming it and better packaging it. That is just speculation on my part.

I spoke to George's brother David Richey, as George has passed away. David said that he didn't know any of the details but said that if George said it in the book, he had good reason. David said that George didn't like to speculate. He only printed what he was convinced was true and that he was a pretty thorough researcher.

Rob Pavey says that he disagrees with George. He says that the card and graphics on the Neptune card are consistent with 1950s era printing, not 1920s/30s but also says that this is just his opinion. He does say that he thinks that, "they are cool baits regardless of which decade they were made."


Thanks, Claude, as this is all very interesting!

I can add just a few details to the article. The magazine Motor Age declares that the Evans-Walton Co. was formed in 1935 to "handle the manufacture and sale of products developed by E.S. Evans & Sons," which gives us a hard date for the name change. R.B. Evans was President and Thomas R. Walton was named Vice-President of the new firm, located at 243 West Congress Street. Thus the new firm was a subsidiary of the older Evans & Sons company. By 1937, the firm was receiving patent protection for a new "siccative coating for metal surfaces." By the end of World War II it had morphed into the Evans Manufacturing Company.

John Boyko of Hamtrack (later Baseline and Detroit), Michigan was later an engineer and executive for the John Boyko Engineering Company who served on the Board of Directors for the Christian Business Men's Committee and the Detroit Bible Institute. Of interest is that he also played quarterback for both Notre Dame and Michigan State in the 1920s.

This 1958 newspaper blurb details Boyko's successful career.

All I could find on Wadah Koury was that he was born in 1906 in Lebanon (one of five children) and died in 1987, having lived most of his life in Detroit, Michigan. Perhaps he was an employee or co-worker of Boyko's.

Like Rob Pavey, I also believe the Neptune post-dated the Evans Weed Queen (it certainly could NOT have been a product of the 1920s as the patent was not applied for until 1934). Neptune Bait Co. was listed at 6870 East Davison in Detroit (an address later used by the Rickard Manufacturing Co.). I believe, however, they are ca. 1940. I do not know how the Weed Queen changed hands, but I am betting it is an interesting story.

Anyone with anything else to add?

-- Dr. Todd


tom sheepandgoats said...

Only on the AMC angle. American Motors CEO George Romney, who retired in 63, later said that "his" company went down the drain when it abandoned his focus on small, economical, (dull), cars and tried to emulate the big boys with a full lineup.

It makes me curious what sort of sparks must have flown between he and Mr. Evans

I've just finished doing my own bit for AMC history (our family had several models) and am not cruising around to see what else has been posted.

Arnold Peterson said...

Interesting article. I have one with a flap tail, no name stamped on it, just the patent number. The picture shown of the bottom should have the hooks on top of the tab so they would be pushed up and released outward when the tab is raised through the lever action caused by a fish biting down on the bottom lever bar.

ChuckJ said...

Having looked at as many images as I can find for the Weed Queen, they are all including a flap on the end that is not on the Neptune lures nor on the patent for the lures. It makes little sense for someone copying another product, in this case, assuming that Neptune copied Weed Queen as has been alleged by some, for the copy to leave out part of the item being copied and go back to the original patent design. The Weed Queen lures, that I have seen, are all a little more professionally made. The steel is better plated, the paint is better grade and I have not seen any with glass eyes, though there may be some out there. In the obituary for Mr. Evans, it says that he prided himself in taking troubled companies and making them successful. All of these, but especially the fact that the Weed Queen lures have the extra flap, indicates to me that the Neptune Lures were the original lures and that the Weed Queen lures were probably produced later, after the company of Mr. Evans, Evans-Walton, acquired Neptune Bait and the patent. At that time, Mr. Evans was quite wealthy, having been in the business of making separator plates for lead acid batteries. Mr. Evans likely saw a product that he could improve the manufacturing of, packaging of and marketing of, and renamed it the Weed Queen.

If you look at the Neptune Cards, you can see that the person who designed the card probably was either not well educated or from another country, so that he wouldn't notice that "snagless" was erroneously put in as "snakeless". My guess is that Mr. Wadah Koury was the owner of Neptune Bait, who maybe didn't write English very well. He probably designed the card himself.

ChuckJ said...

One of my references in the original article was that I had spoken to David J. Richey, brother of George Richey. For those of you not familiar with Dave Richey, he was a writer for The Detroit News and sold stories to Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and many regional and national magazines. He was a much awarded outdoors writer and conservationist. Dave and George wrote a book together about Salmon Fishing and were both well known experts in fishing. I point this out only to let you know that Dave was not just someone who merely stated his brother had good reasons for his conclusions because he was his brother. Dave was indeed a well respected expert in the fields of fishing, outdoor writing and conservation.

ChuckJ said...

A note on the lures for Neptune Bait that I had not noticed before is the statement, "Pat Pend" stamped into the back side of the lure. I did not take mine off the card and had not previously looked under the trip mechanism. This puts the Neptune Bait Lures before the Evans Walton lures. John Boyko filed his patent application on Oct 25, 1934. The patent was issued March 12, 1935. This might be what George Richey noticed that convinced him that the cards were from the late 20s to early 1930s. The cards and lures were most likely manufactured in that period between 1934 and 1935. It is possible that the lures were in development well before that. You only need to file for a patent within one year of selling a product, so the "Pat Pend" statement could have been in anticipation of making a filing. They were clearly made before the patent was issued. I have looked at all the cards that I could find that were sold on the web or in books, of Neptune Bait Lures. None is revised in any way from another, other than there is more than one color scheme for the lures themselves. It seems to have only made a short run before being acquired by Evans-Walton.

I spoke to Robert B. Evans Jr., who indicated that he knew nothing of his father's venture into fishing equipment. His father invested in a lot of things and was an avid fisherman. My guess is that he saw the Neptune Bait Lures and decided that better marketing and manufacturing could produce a more successful product in the market place.

Barbara Smith said...

My grandfather, Thomas Robert Walton, SR. was in business with Mr. Evans thus the Evans-Walton Co. He was an inventor and business investor. Unfortunately he died in 1943.