Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Passing of Art Kimball

On Saturday, 23 June 2007, the fishing history community lost one of its true pioneers when Art Kimball of Boulder Junction, Wisconsin passed away. There are not as many new collectors who know of the contributions of the Kimball family as there should be; Art and his son Scott Kimball were two of the earliest and most important chroniclers of fishing tackle history in America. Beginning with their landmark book Collecting Old Fishing Tackle: A Guide to Identifying and Collecting Old Fishing Tackle (Boulder Junction: Aardvark Publications, 1980), the Kimballs helped to put the hobby on the road towards documenting the history of American tackle manufacturing. This work was followed by their magnum opus, the great Early Fishing Plugs of the U.S.A.: A Collector's History (Boulder Junction: Aardvark, 1985). This book is still considered by many advanced collectors as the best book written on early fishing tackle in America to date. It went to a second and third printing by the end of the 1980s although, unfortunately, it is difficult to locate at present. Art and Scott (along with younger son Brad Kimball) then went on to make major contributions to the history of fish decoys in America, with a concentration on Wisconsin. Major works that the Kimball family produced in this field include Fish Decoys of the Lac Du Flambeau Ojibway (Boulder Junction, Aardvark Publications, 1988) and a three volume series entitled simply Fish Decoys (Boulder Junction: Aardvark Publications, 1986, 1987, 1988). They also contributed articles to Decoy Magazine as late as 1997.

Art Kimball was originally from Antioch, IL, but after vacationing in Northern Wisconsin after his wedding to Anne fell in love with the Boulder Junction region and built a home on Wildcat Lake, where he lived out most of his remaining days. Leafing through the back of Collecting Old Fishing Tackle one can see family snap shots of the Kimballs enjoying their Wisconsin paradise. Having grown up only about 100 miles north of them, these pictures really hit home. The first book I ever read on fishing tackle (while in junior high school) was by Art & Scott Kimball sometime in 1985 and it left an indelible impact on me. I never met Art Kimball (although my father did several times), but corresponded with him a couple of times. The last time was in the late 1990s or early 2000s when I purchased a new copy of Early Fishing Plugs of the U.S.A.: A Collector's History. Their printer had replicated several chapters twice in the book, which made it somewhat confusing to reference. In a letter I wrote to Art I casually mentioned this fact; imagine my surprise when I received a brand new copy of the book, with corrected pages, in the mail a week later! From what I have heard, this is not an unusual story, but I will leave the personal comments to others more intimate with Art than myself. Testimonials to his character can be found on Joe's Old Lures Message Board.

His contributions to the field were manifest and his loss will be mourned by many who never met him. If you are a new collector and aren't familiar with the Kimball's work, you need to find a copy ASAP as your education is incomplete with a copy of Early Fishing Plugs of the U.S.A.: A Collector's History.

--Dr. Todd


PFE said...

I'm very sad to report that Scott Kimball, died Thursday, July 24, 2008.

The Fish Decoy World has lost another one of its finest. I was lucky to call Scott one of my friends.

Unknown said...

I met Art in the early '90's and spoke with him as late as 2001 or 2002 when I acquired one of his pollywogs. He was a wonderful man - supportive of new collectors without just trying to sell stuff. He introduced me to the American Folk Art Museum in NY, which I have visited numerous time. He was one in a million. Marnie Harris