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!
Today we'll feature another small retailer who sold fishing tackle but has otherwise receded into the depths of history. There are several reasons why I chose this company. First, he has a killer name--Benjamin T. Unkle. Second, he had a great name for his store: Unkle Ben's Place. And finally, I believe this company was so small that tackle bearing its name is so rare as to be nearly impossible to find.
The company was called B.T. Unkle & Co. and was the brainchild of Benjamin T. Unkle (b. 1896) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The company was in business in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Little is known of Benjamin Unkle. According to the 1930 census, Benjamin was married to a woman named Celia and had a son, also named Benjamin (b. 1927) who apparently grew up to be a banker. The father was also a crackerjack southpaw pitcher for the Lancaster Kiwanis Club who in 1934 pitched a six hit shutout against rival Lebanon Y.M.C.A. (he also had two hits).
I don't know when he started his company but I assume it was in the mid-1920s, when he would have been around 30 years old. The company was obviously very small, serving only the local Lancaster community. He called it "Unkle Ben's Place" and it was located at 17 S. Queen Street.
The only piece of fishing tackle I've come across from Unkle Ben is a snelled hook packet from South Bend Bait Co. (rare on its own) and marked with the Unkle name. It's a neat reminder of the company and of the man with the fascinating name.
There were thousands of small companies like B.T. Unkle who we will never have any tackle from. That makes companies like B.T. Unkle & Co. that much more precious, as they are tangible examples of the unsung heroes of the tackle trade.
-- Dr. Todd