Saturday, December 24, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: A Christmas Gift Book from 1953

A Christmas Gift Book from 1953
As I have noted before in this column, I collected pre-1960 bass fishing books long before starting to collect vintage fishing lures. The first book I ever purchased in this collection was in 1956. It was Robert Page Lincoln's 1952 book Black Bass Fishing which is still a favorite. In the days before the Internet, finding out-of-print books was a slow ordeal. There were a few book dealers that specialized in used "Outdoor Books" and dealt through the mail, but mostly I haunted used book stores that seemed to regularly come up with older fishing books. When one did turn up that fit my budget, it was a time to celebrate. I had no way of researching if Robert Page Lincoln had written other books and was I pleasantly surprised one day to come across another book by him titled The Pike Family. As I was looking over the book, the dealer, who knew me from my frequent visits, commented that it was not an easy book to find and that this one had a personal letter from Mr. Lincoln taped inside the front cover. WOW! ---SOLD---.

The letter accompanied the book when it was sent as a gift to a friend, Thomas S. Rawson. Mr Rawson apparently had a fishing partner that needed a lot of advice and Robert Page Lincoln was only too happy to help his friend Mr Rawson by donating this book to be passed on to Mr Rawson's friend at Christmas. Much credit was given by Robert Page Lincoln in the letter to Mr Rawson for his help writing the book. In fact, some doubt was expressed as to how effective the book would be, especially if a talented fisherman like Mr Rawson had experienced limited success up to that time in his efforts to educate his friend .

Sometime afterward I sat down with great anticipation to read The Pike Family. Might as well start with the "FORWARD" right? I only got as far as the second paragraph when my train of thought entered the "Twilight Zone".

Wait a minute ---- how could RPL send a book to a friend when the forward says that he had already passed away. I tried every which way to come up with a scenario that would explain this mystery. Maybe he sent a proof copy and the letter was later placed in a hardbound copy? My mind went into gridlock. Enter the January 1953 issue of Fur Fish Game. Robert Page Lincoln wrote the monthly "Travel" column at that time. As I was looking through the magazine there at the bottom of Page 3 was a black bordered notice that Robert Page Lincoln had passed away at age 61. It went on to say that he had died on 20 November 1952. That's before The Pike Book was published and more than a full year before Mr Rawson forged the letter in December of 1953. The well-crafted letter was obviously meant as a joke to play on Mr Raw son's good friend. I have since reread the letter many times. I wish I could have been there on Christmas morning when his fishing buddy opened the book and read that letter signed "Bob Lincoln". It always brings a smile to my face.


Have a Merry Christmas!

-- Bill Sonnett

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