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!
James Cash Penney (1875-1971) founded the store that bore his name in 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. A lumberjack by trade, he saw the future of retailing long before most others, and by 1912 owned 34 stores across the Rocky Mountains. He began expanding eastward and by 1929 there were 1400 J.C. Penney stores nationwide. By this time the firm was grossing nearly $200,000,000.
As outlined a few weeks ago in our 52 for 52 article on General Merchandise of Milwaukee, J.C. Penney entered both the discount chain store world and the mail-order catalog market in 1962 when it purchased this Milwaukee innovator.
It was also at this time that the firm began to sell fishing tackle. Likely a result of General Merchandise's experience in this field, J.C. Penney & Co. began to hawk a full line of fishing tackle, including marked rods, reels, and assorted tackle.
Fishing rods seem to be the most common. In the 1960s, Penneys contracted with True Temper to make a line of exclusive rods for the firm. Here's a pair of these nice fiberglass True Temper/J.C. Penney fly rods.
Other than the fact these rods don't have enough guides, they are fine casting tools.
There is also a lot of marked Penneys fishing line out there. Here is a marked spool of monofilament line and a package of Penneys fly line. Both are from Penney's proprietary fishing tackle trade name, "Foremost."
Some of this tackle was sold through the mail; the following 1966 catalog pic shows the kinds of combos that could be purchased through mail order.
Finally, Penneys also sponsored fishing tackle contests and conservation movements, as seen in this pair of ca. 1970s fishing patches.
Penneys is still in business today and has 1000 stores located in every state. I believe they went out of the tackle business in the 1980s, but for a while they sold a fair amount of marked trade tackle. While none of it is rare, it does mark a nice footnote in Penneys history as yet another department store that trafficked in fishing tackle.
-- Dr. Todd