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!
One of my favorite subcategories of trade tackle were those marketed by auto supply stores. Today, most collectors are puzzled by the connection between automobiles and fishing tackle, but in the early history of the car little distinction was made between motoring and sporting pursuits. For this reason, many major
sporting goods stores carried auto supplies, and in the 1910s and 1920s you
were as likely to find a car and motorcycle ad in Field & Stream as you
were a tackle manufacturer.
Many catalog companies even sold auto parts in their catalogs, ranging from
The Vim Company and VL&,A (even Abercrombie &, Fitch owner Ezra H. Fitch was an early proponent connecting hunting and fishing to cars). Thus when three immigrant brothers from Lithuania - Sam, Maurice and Herman Sanditen - founded an auto supply store in Okmulgee, Okla., it was not surprising that they eventually got into the sporting goods business.
As such, they were following the lead of other similar stores, from Gamble's Stores to the Western Auto Supply Company. They named their company the Oklahoma Salvage and Supply Company, but soon after changed it to the more famous Oklahoma Tire &, Supply Company, or OTASCO for short.
The firm expanded quickly, moving its headquarters to Tulsa in 1925 and opening both branch and associate stores. Unlike most, they prospered in the Depression years, and by 1936 had 34 stores that sold $250,000 worth of merchandise. By 1943 the number of OTASCO associated stores had grown to 83 and spread across four states, and the post-war years saw unprecedented growth.
In 1960, when the Sanditen family sold out to the McCrory Corporation, there
were 167 associate and 86 company owned stores. When OTASCO celebrated
its 50th anniversary in 1968, they had 455 stores in a dozen states.
OTASCO seems to have gotten into fishing tackle in the mid-1930s, likely selling affordable tackle such as Bronson reels and Paw Paw lures. When they began to brand OTASCO fishing tackle is unknown, but it was likely in the post-World War II era. They branded a ton of fishing tackle during this time.
There are branded OTASCO fishing reels, but they are fairly rare. One that the author owns (and wrote up in the January 2009 Reel News) is marked "Okla. Tire &, Supply Company" in a football-shaped oval, and inside it "Long-Life." For a relatively inexpensive 1950s reel, it is solidly constructed and would have been a fine bargain for an OTASCO customer. There is also an "OTASCO Long-Life Model 50" baitcaster. Both were made by Bronson in the 1950s. Long-Life appears to have been a proprietary trade name for OTASCO.
More common are the OTASCO line spools. There are a lot of different kinds, ranging from braided nylon to monofilament. Here are some examples:
There are lots of other OTASCO items, including a full line of fishing rods. I have a great fiberglass fly rod made by Heddon, a firm that OTASCO had a great working relationship with. A 1976 ad showed they were selling an exclusive line of "Golden 50" Heddon rods.
OTASCO also sold some oddball marked items. One of my favorites is this OTASCO Dolphin trolling motor from the 1960s.
OTASCO was a staple for many years in the South, and they sold a ton of fishing tackle. Often overshadowed by Firestone, Goodyear, Western Auto, and to a lesser degree by similar firms that sold tackle including VIM, Pep Boys, and S&M, Oklahoma's OTASCO stores were a great success and left a wonderful legacy in the form of their marked trade tackle.
-- Dr. Todd