Wednesday, June 29, 2011

52 Trade Houses Part 13: Manhattan Marine & Electric Co. of New York City

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Over the course of the next year, we'll be detailing the history of 52 companies that sold branded fishing tackle. 52 trade houses in 52 weeks -- some obscure, some famous, and all available exclusively here on the Fishing for History Blog! If you have any items from the week's entry you'd like to share with us, please send it my way and I'll make sure it makes it on the blog.

For a discussion of what exactly trade tackle is, Click Here. Enjoy the 52 for 52!

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Trade House Tackle, Part 13:

Manhattan Marine & Electric Co. of New York City

One of my goals in 52 for 52 is to show everyone the sheer diversity of fishing tackle sellers in American history. So far, we've covered discount stores, department stores, wholesale hardware concerns, a bookseller, a plumbing supply store, and today, we get a marine hardware company.

This particular company is called Manhattan Marine & Electric Company and it was a staple of the yachting set in New York for eight decades. Founded in December of 1923, Manhattan Marine became "something of a bible for all the ships at sea," as the New Yorker declared in 1979.

And what an institution it was! Filled with all of the latest nautical inventions, as well as all the staples that the well-to-do absolutely needed for their trip around the world. Looking through a Manhattan Marine catalog is like peeking at Santa's list for the nautically minded. Their catalogs were beautiful and revered and many of them that come to market today show consistent use, much like the old Herter's catalogs among hunters and fishermen.

This colorful 1953 Manhattan Marine catalog was typical of the company's fare.

Manhattan Marine catalogs through the years.

The firm was also a pretty active advertiser. Here are three magazine ads from 1950 and the 1970s.

An ad run in Popular Mechanics for January 1950.

A pair of 1970s advertisements.

The kinds of items that Manhattan Marine marked were, of course, nautical in nature, and today can be quite collectable. Below is a catalog cut from 1959 showing their line of very collectable boat lights, and a nifty 1940s yacht clock marked with the firm's name.

1959 catalog page.

Nice Manhattan Marine clock.

As for fishing tackle, the firm did not sell a lot of it as it tended to concentrate on the yachting set. However, I have seen two examples of Manhattan Marine branded tackle. The first were saltwater snelled hooks in a Manhattan Martine & Electric envelope. The second, pictured below, is a pair of connected wooden fishing line spools bearing the firm's name.

A wooden line spool with the Manhattan Marine & Electric label on it.

These spools date from the late 1920s or 1930s and indicate in the early years, the firm likely stocked a broader line of items in order to attract a greater customer base. Once they solidified their position as one of the leading yachting outfitters in the world, it is likely they dropped this line all together. However, they did take out a trade name "Seatest" in the 1950s, which was noted in their application that it could be applied to marine hardware of all kinds "and fishing rod gimbals."

I think Manhattan Marine & Electric fishing tackle is very rare, and it is a nice reminder that many of the companies involved in the boating trade could (and did) transition into fishing tackle sellers, at least for a time.

-- Dr. Todd

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