Saturday, April 16, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: The Heddon “Life-Pal” steel rod (1934)

The Heddon “Life-Pal” Steel Rod

Todays ad from the May 1934 issue of Sports Afield has many interesting facets. It is one of the earliest ads for the Heddon “Life-Pal” Steel baitcasting rod. What made this rod different was that it was a seamless, hollow steel rod. One gets the impression looking at the ad and the Heddon catalogs that proceeded it that Heddon did not really expect all that much from the product. It failed to be mentioned in the “New Goods for 1933” flier sent to dealers and seems to have been inserted in the 1933 Heddon catalog at the last moment. In fact those pages state that it is so new that many “jobbers” do not have it yet, so they included an order blank so one could order it directly from the Company. All rods illustrated in these 1933 papers have a straight handle and it is only by carefully reading the the order blank that one discovers that an offset handle was available. There is also a compact jointed model available.

Examples of straight and offset Heddon Pal Handles.

In 1934 things had changed dramatically. The “New and Amazing 'Life-Pal' Steel Casting Rod” was prominently featured in the Heddon catalog. The offset handle was the one most often pictured and the rod was offered in new lengths and actions. A salt water model as well as some new hollow steel flyrod models were now in the catalog. Economy models were to follow in the next few years. Sometimes things don't work out as expected. Eventually the term “Life-Pal” went the same way as “Fish-Flesh” and was shorted to just “Pal”. (later when solid, transparent glass was introduced after WW II it was apply named, “Pal-Spook”)

Many unforeseen changes were right around the corner. Competition in the hollow, seamless steel rod business from the American Fork & Hoe Company (True Temper) proved to be formidable. Heddon Company President Charles Heddon died unexpectedly less than one month before Pearl Harbor. Soon afterward Heddon turned the same technology that made the “Life-Pal” possible into production of radio antenna for military tanks. Bamboo baitcasting rods held on for a short period in the Heddon line after WWII, but hollow steel was now the king. By the early 1950s, seamless, hollow steel's heyday would draw to a close with the introduction of another newcomer---- GLASS.

-- Bill Sonnett

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