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!
A cool old West Coast trade house was the William H. Hoegee Company of Los Angeles. It was a large house with a long history and sold a bunch of fishing tackle, including a lot of it under proprietary trade names.
It was founded in 1889 by its namesake Wm. H. Hoegee as a tend and awning business serving the mining community. By 1907 it had expanded to include innumerable goods and occupied a building in downtown Los Angeles at 138 Main Street that was four stories and 60 x 350 feet. They employed 200 people that year, and it was run by Adolph Hartmann and John C. Hill.
William C. Hoegee was a noted California philanthropist. With a massive residence in Hollywood, Cal., he was president of the Hollywood Improvement Association. He passed away in 1919, leaving a massive estate.
A write up in Mines and Mining on Dec. 6, 1907 declared "Orders come to his house from all parts of the world and goods are constantly being shipped to outside states and distant lands…the main success of this great establishment can be traced, perhaps, to extensive and judicious advertising, strict attention to business, meeting the wants of patrons, selling goods on close margins, integrity and a high sense of honor in all its transactions."
They carried sporting goods from an early date (1890s perhaps). Here is a 1902 Field & Stream advertisement.
They also carried guns. This blurb from the Western Field in 1903 details the gun department in an article entitled "SPECIALISTS IN EVERY DEPARTMENT":
In addition to the other conveniences offered sportsmen by the Wm. H.. Hoegee Co. of Los Angeles Mr. H. W. Bickford, expert gunsmith in charge of their gun repair shop, makes a specialty of building fine rifle and pistol barrels. He has invented and completed a rifling machine that is marvelously accurate. The machine gives any pitch of rifling from straight to one turn in six inches, either right or left hand, increase or uniform twist. The machine will rifle any caliber from .22 to .50, and any length of barrel up to 36-inch. He also makes a specialty of rc-bluing revolvers and gun actions. The re-bluing Mr. Bickford does is not cheap oil or acid bluing, but his work is the beautiful high polished blue-black as found only on the most expensive guns. Mr. Bickford also makes telescope sights, either for hunting
or target rifles. They are finely made and practical in every respect. He personally proves every piece of finished work before it leaves the shop, making it practically impossible for poor work to get out. All rifle and pistol barrels are tested at the range and must make a small group. _ .
The stock of this famous concern is now without a peer in the vast section which they so admirably cover. Everything of any kind and price that may be thought of by sportsmen is here in complete assortment and a visit to this famous establishment constitutes in itself a liberal education in the paraphernalia of modern sport. Each department is under the care of a specialist and the courtesy extended visitors has passed into a proverb.
By 1912, as evidenced in this Railway Employees magazine, billed themselves as "The greatest sporting goods house on the Pacific Coast."
Hoegee was very committed to west coast fishing. They sponsored a number of fishing events, including giving a loving cup for the largest Albacore, and working with the famed Catalina Tuna Club.
So successful was Hoegee's tackle trade (and sporting goods sales) that in 1915 they were listed as among the largest retail sporting goods companies in the nation. After World War II, Wm. C. Hoegee Co. merged with Western to form the Western-Hoegee Company.
There is a ton of fishing tackle marketed by this firm. Up until WWII most of the tackle, as far as I can tell, was sold under the Hoegee name. After WWII, Western-Hoegee took out the trade names Huck Finn (dead 1964), Tuna King, Big Eye, and Penguin (dead 1964).
The company continued on into the 1980s and beyond. In Nov. 2004, Western-Hoegee was purchased by Maurice Sporting Goods. At the time, Western-Hoegee serviced 1500 retailers with fishing tackle and other sporting goods.
There are even still some Hoegees today in the tent and awning business, a fitting testament to the durability of this old company.
-- Dr. Todd