Saturday, May 25, 2013

Letterheadings with Jim Jordan: Shakespeare and Skish (1940)

This weeks feature is a Shakespeare Fine Fishing Tackle, Skish envelope. It is postmarked Kalamazoo, Mich. July 15, 1940. It reflects some interesting history dealing with competitive tournament casting. Aside from Shakespeare's name and return address, it reads "When you can't fish Skish. You'll enjoy this fascinating new game for bait casters and fly fisherman." Formerly called Fish-O. These words presented a mystery to me and left me with two questions. How did the sport of Fish-O / Skish begin? Why did they change the name of a popular new casting sport that was only an idea less than two years prior to the mailing of the 1940 featured cover?

In 1938 while at the Hotel Cleveland, Monroe Shakespeare, Ivar Hennings, Otto Peterson, C.W. Davis, H.P Gibson, Art Benson, Karl Kinnear and Eddie Braddon discussed creating a new sport to allow fisherman to use their tackle without actually going fishing. When a final meeting of this group occurred in Chicago on February 2, 1939 the sport was officially born. The Fish-O was believed to be to fishing, what skeet shooting was to hunting. It allowed anglers to hone their skill year round, no matter the season. Although Tournament casting had been around for many years, Fish-O welcomed unskilled novices regardless of age. It required only regulation equipment.

During 1939, things were going great, Fish-O was growing by leaps and bounds and was even being endorsed by N.A.A.C. It was gaining popularity and being played in 38 of 48 States. There was only one problem, a concern with the sports name. In early Fall of 1939 due to certain complaints that the Fish-O name was not the best name for the sport, because it possessed a commercial connotation and due to the fact that the sport does not call for the purchase of a manufactured article to serve as equipment. Perhaps some of the tackle makers involved in the competitive casting world felt that the name Fish-O was to close to the name of some of South Bend Bait Companies lures, like  their  brand new Fish-Obite or their Fish-Oreno.

The Sports sponsors, the American Wildlife Institute and the Izaak Walton League reluctantly decided to hold a contest to find a name that would eliminate the commercial tinge associated with the Fish-O name. The sponsors collaborated with Sports Afield magazine and launched a Nationwide contest to rename Fish-O. The contest was held from September 15, 1939 to December 15,1939 and was open to the U.S. public The new name Skish was selected by Judges on January 6, 1940 from one thousand entries. With the new name the sport continued to thrive.

Skish to this day is still a part of  modern day casting competitions. Shakespeare continued to promote Skish for at least the next two years on their envelopes.This can be seen in the following examples from 1941 featuring a fisherman netting a fish illustrated meter stamp and 1942 example with 3 airplanes and the wartime slogan "Keep Em Flying" meter stamp.These are very similar to the 1940 example except there is no longer any mention of Fish-O.

Best Regards,

Jim Jordan

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