Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deconstructing Old Ads: Whistling Down Memory Lane (1948)

Whistling Down Memory Lane

I was looking through a April 1948 issue of Field and Stream the other day looking for an ad for a fellow researcher when I saw this advertisement for the Jamison Whistling Bobber.

I've seen these at shows but never owned one or understood how they worked. When I mentioned this ad to my “Long-Time Fishing Apprentice” Warren Platt, he immediately told me that he had one as a boy. I could tell by his tone that he had a lot of fun with it. While telling me about it, he mentioned that as the bobber is pulled under, rising water moves up the main shaft forcing air through a whistle at the top. Rather than try to retell Warren's story, I asked him to write it up for us and it is presented here for your enjoyment.

“In 1949 as a young lad of 10 years I was in recovery from a broken home. My Mother, younger sister and I had just moved from our family farm outside of Ash Flat , Arkansas. We left behind, my Father and my older brother. We were going to live with my Grandmother near Kansas City, Missouri.

Being without my brother made happy times hard to come by, but luckily there was a small fishing creek nearby that within a mile emptied into the Missouri River. When the Missouri was at high water levels many bullheads, carp, and some kind of shad that grew to nearly a foot in length were easy pickings for a lad with a can full of worms and pie crust dough balls made by Granny.
With a telescopic tubular metal fishing rod and an Ocean City Bakelite reel, I was pretty well equipped. Also, I had somehow talked Granny into buying me a fishing bobber that I’d been eying for some time at the Firestone store. It was called the “Jamison Whistling Bobber”, and what a beauty it was, bright red and white, with hole, whistle, air chamber, and no telling what else on it. After bathtub testing it was judged to be at the cutting edge of modern scientific fishing technology!
The first test for the bobber proved to be a great success. From the first cast (pulling line off the reel and hand throwing it into the creek) great fun was achieved. At first just hearing the faint whistle as the bobber started sinking when the bullhead headed down with the fat worm in his mouth was quite a thrill. Then I’d close my eyes and set the hook as the whistle begin singing. Later I would turn my back until alerted by the whistle of the wonderful “Jamison Whistling Bobber”, then turn to do battle with the foolish fish that would dare try making off with my bait.

That simple fishing trip has always been saved in this lads memory.”

Thanks Warren,
Wild Bill Sonnett

Friday, September 28, 2012

Video of the Week

This is a superb video of two gentlemen recreating an old Hawaiian style of fishing for Moi and Aholehole.

12 Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them
This neat folk art carved fishing sign is superb.

This W&M catalog has attracted a lot of interest.

This is a neat Baby Dingbat in Western Auto Sunspot.

This Sockdolager is a nifty old spring hook.

This Ari T. Hart "Aras" is a great fly reel.

A McMonies Model 55 creel is a great find!

Who wouldn't love this clean Great Lakes Imperial 85 Whirlaway!

This is nice, clean Creek Chub Wiggler.

A 1927 Heddon Basser in the box will make any lure collector's day.

And a Heddon #500 Multiple Metal Minnow would make a nice accompaniment!

A Fenwick World Class 6 fly reel is surprisingly rare.

I like this Granger Victory fly rod a lot!

As always, but particular in light of events yesterday, have a GREAT weekend and be good to each other, and yourself. -- Dr. Todd

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Editorial: BE NICE

This week has been a crazy one. In addition to the madness that is my life, I had the most spectacular appraisal (with the most incredible field find story ever) happen on Wednesday. Some day soon I'll relate the nature of this field find, but suffice to say that it was very, very high end fishing tackle from a very, very famous figure in history. I was excited as a school kid just being able to see it! I put the gentleman (who we'll call Bob) in touch with several dealers as well as several collectors so he could get a number of appraisals for his tackle.

Unfortunately, Bob had listed the tackle on the internet, and got into contact with a well-known collector. After sending pictures of some (not even a small percentage of the total) of the tackle, the well-known collector made Bob an offer on a single reel which, in my opinion, was less than 50% of its actual worth.

Well, I bring this up because after contacting some of the folks I put him in touch with, Bob had a better idea of the value of the reel (and other tackle) and when the well-known collector emailed him, Bob said he was getting the reels appraised by several others. The well-known collector's response? To send an email calling Bob a pejorative term, and then to call his son an equally hideous term.


The bewildered Bob sent me a copy of the email and I could only wonder if he felt this was what all collectors are like. They are not. But there are some hideous trolls out there, and they give us all a bad name.

So I am taking the time to tell you, your words and actions reflect who you are as a person. Be nice. Be honest. Be truthful. And if you are, it will all come back to you...and if you aren't, lots of us are paying attention, and I promise that this, too, will come back to you. In spades.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Snarls & Backlashes with Finn Featherfurd: The Tackle Hawks, Part IV

The Tackle Hawks, Part IV

When is too much of a good thing a bad thing? That's the question that ponder while staring at this busy, busy ad until my eyeballs bleed. It's from the April 18, 1906 Bemidji Daily Pioneer and holy mother of God did they pack a lot of information into this 1/8 page advertisement. Where to begin?

Let's start with the header and tag. "'Fish Stories' will soon be the rage" it screams in 64 point font, then says "fish are larger this season then ever before." Wow. Just wow.

There are no less than FIVE pictorials in this advert. Four of them were provided by the Bristol-Horton rod company, perhaps the leader in national advertising and well known to have supplied dealers with artwork for ads. However, each of these cuts were to support a SINGLE ad, not to be thrown together in a confusing mishmash of ink.

The Fleming Bros. leave nothing to chance--listing every single possible piece of tackle, from Fishing Hats to Grasshoppers and everything in between. It's like staring at a train wreck; you can't avert your eyes even if your brain can't possibly process what it is seeing. The fifth cut, interestingly enough, I believe is a Horrocks-Ibbotson one, which I also believe is put in simply to fill space. I love their tag most of all: "Enough said." Indeed, Fleming Bros., indeed…

I award this ad four fish for aesthetics and three fish for effectiveness. It makes me want to buy tackle, but it whips me into such a frenzy I'm willing to buy it from the first tackle dealer I run into on the street.

We move on to our next pictorial advertisement which is fascinating for any number of reasons. It's from The Paducah Sun and was run on June 6th, 1907. It is proof that--like almost everything--the ridiculous texting language of the youth of America is not new.

George O. Hart & Sons may have been fine merchants, but they were also prescient in the eeriest of ways. They crafted an ad over a century old that would work perfectly today, as long as it was aimed at the text-while-you're-driving under 25 set that seem to dominate the internet.

Let's begin with the text, shall we? "TackleHart if U want 2 tackle the fish that it pays to tackle. Hart sells the Chocest (sic) FISHING TACKLE at a price that U can afford to tackle." This could have been written by any of my pre-teen grandchildren and not seemed out of place. The annoying acronyms, the random misspelling, the butchered syntax…it's just a perfect ad for today's crop of mindless simpletons.

What a waste of a great piece of lithography, too! That is a world class gentleman fly fishing there, with a proper suit and fishing hat and everything. It's like putting up a picture of a Rolls Royce and printing "If U wnt a SICK RIDE U have 2 try da ROLLLLLSSS, BOYYYYY!!!" It helps to put your hat on sideways when saying this.

Their final word is "Try Hart." No, thank you, I don't believe I will.

I award this ad three fish for aesthetics and one fish for effectiveness. It does not make me want to buy fishing tackle. It DOES make me want to kidnap a roving gang of texting slackers and forcibly induct them in the army.

Do you like racism with your pictorial fishing advertisements? That was my first thought when seeing this beauty from the Hopkinsville Kentuckian dated July 4th, 1911. But then I looked closer and thought maybe it isn't a grotesque representation of a Chinese boy, but rather a terribly rendered figure of a barefoot and slack-jawed yokel.

Planters Hardware Co. certainly wanted to make a splash with this advertisement, but I'm not sure this idea was thought all the way through. The text says their tackle is the finest ever, yet the pictures shows a slightly disturbing image of a child holding a cane pole (and, oddly enough, a creel).

Check out the copy: "Tackle our fishing tackle and you will tackle the best. Then when a fish tackles your tackle he will be yours." Tackle. Tackle. Tackle tackle. Tackletackletackletackletackle. Tackle.

I award this ad zero fish for aesthetics and zero fish for effectiveness. Not only does it not make me want to buy fishing tackle, it may very well give me nightmares.

Sometimes advertisers can be too clever by half. Here's a whimsical advertisement from the Matheson Hardware Co. of Westminster, South Carolina run in the Keowee Courier for May 13, 1914.

At least the child in this pictorial doesn't give me nightmares. It's a cleverly rendered image very much of its time, and comes from the "whimsy" school of advertising. Little kid, big fish, bullfrog, big banner saying fishing tackle.

I love how, despite the obvious nature of the image (did we REALLY need the "ha!" in the mouth of the bullfrog?), they had to put the words "tackle" and "bait" in quotes.

Despite everything I like Matheson's style, which certainly comes out in their copy. "We do not 'bait' customers by selling them things they know something about as a very low price, and then getting very high prices on things they don't know anything about." That's a fantastic line right there. And the tag? "We want your trade only because we deserve it." That is a man with chutzpah.

I award this ad five fish for aesthetics and seven fish for effectiveness. It not only makes me want to buy fishing tackle, it would make me feel guilty buying it from anyone else. Well played, Mr. Matheson, well played indeed.

Our final pictorial advertisement is a later one, dating May 15, 1920 and published in the Tulsa Daily World. It's from McHale & Co. Hardware and is the kind of simple and to the point advertisement that's always going to get my attention.

Start with a nice clean image (don't pay attention to the poor copy as it is a product of the microfilm and not the artist) of a boy on a river bank watching a ship sail by, with the words "Fishing Tackle" in the middle. Simple and effective. The triple line border is an elegant and fitting final touch.

No hard sell here. McHale's copy is clean and literary and brings to mind warm late summer days with the smell of autumn wafting in from the range. "Be sure and buy standard make tackle because there is nothing so satisfactory as reliable goods in this kind of sport." Beautiful. Even their tag is outstanding: "A visit to our store will interest you."

Yes. Yes it would. I award this ad eight fish for aesthetics and eight fish for effectiveness. It makes me want to buy McHale's fishing tackle, and it makes me want to take that McHale's fishing tackle out on the water right after. We have ourselves a winner here.

That's it for the pictorial newspaper ads, although I have several hundred and may put them together down the road in to a little book if there is any interest.

Finn Featherfurd is the pseudonym of a sad and lonely retired professor and newspaper columnist who has spent the better part of the past four decades (unsuccessfully) chasing fish in the Lower 48. A long-time collector of vintage fishing tackle of all kinds, he is currently fascinated by pre-1920 children's fishing reels (40 yards and smaller). When the spirit moves him, he will contribute occasional pieces and essays to the Fishing for History Blog. He can be reached at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Fishing Themed Magazine Cover, Part IV

I've really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite fishing themed magazine covers (Click Here for Part I, Click Here for Part II and Click Here for Part III), so I'm back with ten more nifty vintage fishing covers from magazines not specifically aimed at the fishing reader.

Children's magazines used fishing covers often, including this neat one.

1930s Story-A-Day children's weekly magazine.

Often you find fishing themed magazines in strange places, like this literary magazine I'd never heard of before.

1928 Transmitter magazine.

Fishing made the cover of popular magazines, too, like this Coronet cover. Coronet was one of the nation's most popular magazines.

1950s Coronet magazine.

Perhaps the iconic magazine of the first 60 years of the 20th century was The Saturday Evening Post. They utilized great fishing covers, including the following four examples.

1908 Saturday Evening Post.

1957 Saturday Evening Post.

1959 Saturday Evening Post.

1959 Saturday Evening Post.

Foreign magazines often got into the mix, including these two Columbian hobby magazines from the '40s.

1942 Columbian Hobby magazine.

1943 Columbian Hobby magazine.

We'll end this edition with the coolest cover of them all, this lovely 1921 Life magazine cover of a fly angler and her beau. Beautiful!

1921 Life magazine cover.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, September 24, 2012

News of the Week: 24 September 2012

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THE MONDAY 10: The Ten Fishing Stories of the Week You Need to Know

The Big Lead: Thief who stole $60,000 tackle collection is collared.

Shimano and Jackall sign a distribution deal.

Retiring baseball star Chipper Jones gets a nice fly rod from the Marlins.

Montana state record Tiger Musky has been caught.

Florida angler writes of his magic wand.

Fly fishing a tremendous compliment to kayaking.

Why fishing is my day job.

Fishing tourney raises money for cancer.

As do the "Bluewater Babes Fishing For A Cure."

Mustad is on the hook for a million bucks for record tuna.

The Bass Fishing Hall-of-Fame class of 2013 has been announced.

Finishing with a Flourish: Why women are taking up fly fishing in greater numbers.

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, September 23, 2012

1000 Words

Screen legend Irene Dunn was a noted fly angler. A five time Academy Aware nominee, she is often described as the greatest actress to never win an Oscar. During the mid-1930s, Dunn was certainly among the most popular actresses in the world, and remained so until her retirement from acting in 1952. She remained an active philanthropist until her death in 1990. Below she is pictured in the mid-1930s fly fishing, and was obviously a discerning angler, as she fished a Pflueger Medalist fly reel!

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lure Thief Captured!

Those who've been following the saga of Greg Whitmer, who's tackle collection was stolen while he was on vacation, can now take solace that the thief is in custody and that the lures have been recovered.

I can't imagine what an ordeal this has been for Greg, but I know I speak for everyone in saying we are all very happy that this story has a happy ending.

-- Dr. Todd

The Shakespeare Glo-Lite Mouse

Tucked away in the lower corner of this 1940 ad is an introductory offer for the “new” Shakespeare Glo-Lite Mouse. The ad appears in the 1940 Sports Afield Fishing Annual. It says send for the free 1940 catalog and include 50 cents and you will also receive one of these new baits. The 1940 catalog also lists the Glo-Lite Mouse as “new” and lets us know that it is made of “tenite” plastic.

Close up of the Glo-Lite from previous ad.

The first time I heard of this bait was from a much older co-worker in early 1970s. He raved about the fish that he had taken on the red & white model before a large bass made off with it. He also told me that his long search for a replacement had proved fruitless. When I joined the NFLCC and started to attend lure shows in the early 1980s the Glo-Lite Mouse seemed to be fairly common. I purchased a red & white one and made my way to the front door of the now-retired co-worker intending to surprise him with his favorite lure. I will always remember his wife at the door. After I explained my mission, she told me that he had passed away a couple of months prior to my visit. I now had a red & white Glo-Lite Mouse so I might as well give it a try. He was right! It is a heck of a fish catcher.

Concerning the Glo-Lite Mouse, Ernst Radke in his 1955 book New Angles to Bass Fishing said “ If there is a more pleasant lure to fish, I do not know of it.” I would agree completely as unlike the wooden Shakespeare swimming Mouse, the Glo-Lite is very uniform in action from one bait to the next. I know of no bait which will glow so brightly and so long after exposure to light as the Glo-Lite. Shakespeare featured this as a strong selling point in their advertising. This can be a two-edged sword. I do a lot of night fishing and have never found a glowing bait to be very effective and in fact I believe that it spooks fish in shallow water more often that not. This becomes a problem when unhooking a fish with the use of a flash light as the darn lure glows like a light bulb for the next few minutes. I have had some very successful nights with this bait and it is a go-to favorite when they are not hitting a surface bait.

The Shakespeare Glo-Lite Mouse in the six colors that I have observed.

There is a mystery associated with the Glo-Lite Mouse that I have been unable to solve over the years. About 30 years ago I purchase a wooden mouse that was worm-burned from one end to the other. I stripped the paint from the lure and hung it in the rafters of the basement where it remained for several years. I noticed it one day while spray painting something with red and yellow paint. I took it down and by painting it yellow with an over spray of red , got a beautiful blended orange paint job. I put it in the tackle box, but never tried it until one sunny day when fishing was at a stand still. I cast it out while sitting in my canoe in nearby Center Lake and within 15 minutes hooked and lost three very large Largemouth Bass. I will always be able to picture them as they leaped in the noonday sun and shook off that orange mouse. Needless to say I was impressed.

The bait went on to take many fish through the years, occasionally needing a touch up or hook replacement. Try as I might, I could not find another wooden mouse with the exact shape and size of this one. The body was closer in shape to the plastic Glo-Lite than any of Shakespeare's standard wooden models. Finally, at an NFLCC National Show I saw a mouse with the identical shape in a collector's display of Shakespeare Mice. When I looked on the bottom of this wooden mouse I saw the words “Glo-Lite” stenciled. I have only seen four of these wooden Glo-Lite Mice in more than 25 years of attending shows and I have been told by “Mouse” collectors that this is the rarest of all Shakespeare wooden mice. Just my luck that this is the one that has been my most effective bait!

The "Orange Warrior" and one of his many suitors.

-- Bill Sonnett