Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Bit of Hildebrandt History

I got a package in the mail yesterday containing a couple of dozen vintage spinners. I sorted through them quickly, laying aside the half dozen or so Pflueger and Shakespeare blades I had bought the lot for, and got ready to put the remainder into a box. As I handled the third of fourth spinner spinner marked Hildebrandt a thought occurred to me--is there any more overlooked fishing lure in history than the John J. Hildebrandt spinners from Logansport, Indiana? They are likely victims of their own success. After all, few tackle boxes are found without at least a couple of these blades in them. But Pflueger was equally omnipresent, but we don't ignore its history. So I thought I'd dig through the files and find some materials to help celebrate the 115th anniversary of a true American legend--the Hildebrandt spinner. Here is a great article to help us appreciate the firm, published in The Logansport Pharos-Tribune in August 1920.


DISPLAY OF FISHING BAIT INTERESTING

ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF MANUFACTURE OF FISHING TACKLE AND BAIT ARE RECALLED.

REPUTATION OF CITY EXTENDED

John J. Hildebrandt Company Probably Best Known of Any Single Industry In Indiana.


A clever and likewise interesting window display may now be seen In the Boston store. The John J. Hildebrandt company spinners and personal belongings of the late Mr Hildebrandt, that formed the basis for the origin of an industry that has made Logansport more widely known than has any other single industry, constitute this display.

In 1893 the first spinner was made by "Big John." It was formed from a piece of wire, which made the shank of the spinner. While at his desk, Mr. Hiledbrandt made the blade of the spinner by beating a silver dime with his pocket knife into a blade formatlon. The two parts were put together and placed in a tub of water for trial. It worked, and Mr. Hlldebrandt continued to form this sort of fishing tackle for many of his friends. The business grew and the factory is started, and after the death of Mr. Hildebrandt his son conducted the business which has grown and necessitated the increase of the plant until today the Hildebrandt spinners are more widely known and used more extensively by fishermen than all other artificial bait combined.

There are 302 different sizes and kinds of bait manufactured at this local factory. They are made from nickel, copper, brass, gold, gun. metal, aluminum and pearl. The joining of pheasant, buck tail, guinea and various other feathers of brilliant hue is hard work and the best of materials are used.

There Is on display the late John Hildebrandt's personal rod and reel which he used on all his fishing trips. The original wire from which he formed the shank of the first spinner is also on display in the Boston store window. There is also on exhibit a black and white drawing by Wils Berry of "John's Dream" in 1919 of a fine factory for the year 1920. The picture shows Mr. Hildebrandt in his grave and a large factory in the distance. It would seem that the dream has come true. The Wils Berry picture is one of interest.

The entire display is an interestlng one, the background of which is varigated colored spinners on picture posters and some facts in connection with the display which attract attention.



-- Dr. Todd

23 comments:

hilde said...

I really appreciate your kind words concerning my family's company. My great grandfather may not have actually invented the spinner, but he is credited with wedding a tiny clevice to the blade and wire which allowed the best function. I worked at the "shop" all through high school. My cousin Mark was the fourth generation full timer.
My father John Jr. took over the design side and invented the Shady Lady and Snagless Sally. But they finally had to sell just after 100 years in bus. to a Chinese maker. Many original products are still available under the Hildebrandt name, and the quality seems to be good. The legend lives on in name.
Thanks again.

Greg Hildebrandt
Winamac, Indiana

hilde said...

I forgot to add that dad also invented the jig spinner configuration which is emulated by many makers today. It is the vee shaped bait with the weighted bait at the bottom point, the spinner at the top and the line point in the middle at the crook of the vee.
I could go on...

Greg Hildebrandt

Spinner Bill said...

I have fished the streams near Georgetown California for over 55 years with spinners of various origins including the several types of Hildebrandt spinners. I wonder if anyone has heard of a spinner called the "Hertzel"? This spinner was manufactured by Robert Millsap in Sacramento Califonia in the 1940's with production ending in ~the 1950's.

Spinner Bill said...

I have fished the streams in the Sierra's near Georgetown California for over 55 years using a variety of spinners including several types of Hildebrandt spinners.

Has anyone heard of a "Hertzel" spinner manufactured by Robert Millsap, Sacrament, California during the 1940's?

BIG AL said...

I HAVE A HILDEBRANDT CAT. FROM 1992 I ORDERED A BUNCH OF LURES FROM IT BACK IN 92. I LOST MY LAST ONE ON MY LAST FISHING TRIP. I TRIED TO SEND THEM A FAX BUT COULD NOT GET THRU. WANT TO ORDER SOME MORE LURES. CAN SOMEONE HELP ME WITH AN ADD. OR PHONE #.
THANKS BIG AL...

Mark Hildebrandt said...

To offer some slight technical corrections to posted information ... Hildebrandt Company was sold to Yakima Bait Company headquartered in Granger, Washington in the spring of 2006. For 3 to 4 years prior to the sale we imported some contract manufactured items produced in China with limited success. The tackle industry, like many other consumer goods industries, is dominated by manufacturers in Asia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Central America, and anywhere that has less regulation of business and lower wages paid. We simply could not compete using American workers to produce our goods. That is not a judgement on foreign competitors, US workers or anything else, but simply a matter of fact. Yakima Bait Company has a manufacturing operation in Mexico. From what I can tell, they continue to produce many of the same Hildebrandt products with a comensurate level of high quality that we delivered from Logansport Indiana. I for one am very grateful that we maintained a small family business for more than 100 years. Like so many US manufacturing concerns, it was time for a new chapter. Tackle manufacturing is very hand-labor intensive. It is appropriate for such products to be produced in lesser developed economies or countries as it is a good fit for current conditions in those countries. As I have said to some when discussing such transitions, "the people in China and Mexico need to eat just as we do".
Sincerely,
Mark Hildebrandt
Logansport, Indiana

Unknown said...

HELLO HILDEBRANTS. I WISH YOUR FAMILY STILL HAD THE BUSINESS. MY FAVORITE SNAGLESS SALLY IS NO LONGER MADE. IT WAS A TINY ONE THAT HAD A #2 BLADE AND WAS A BREAM KILLER. I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO FIND SOME OF THOSE.
JEFF

The Indian Walleye said...

Recently purchased a box of spoons and found a Hertzel Spinner amongst them. Your blog is the only thing I can find about this bait. I would like to know more about it. Ex: $?, etc...If you have any info on it, I'd greatly apprieciate it.

The Indian Walleye said...

I recently bought a box of spoons and found a Hertzel amongst them. I would like to more about this luer. $, etc... I would greatly apprieciate any info you guys would be able to provide for me. Thanks.

phil said...

i would do anything to find the goldwing buzz baits that were inline buzz baits with the gold hammered blades. please help.

phil said...

please help me find the goldwing buzzbaits that they made that had the gold blades that they hammered. i love them please help.

Unknown said...

Several months ago, I purchased some fishing tackle from an estate sale near Table Rock Lake in Missouri. The man it belonged to was from Wisconsin. He had lived here for approximately 30 years. As Iwas going through it all and sorting it, I found two unopened packages of Hildebrandt Spinners; No. OHD Double Nickel Standard Spinner and 2HD Gold Standard Double. Both packages are marked Logansport, Indiana. They still had the price tags from Jalensky's in Wisconsin. The back of the package says "70 years ago", so would probably date these around 1989 or 1990 (?). I find it neat that it also says Federal Excise Tax Paid. I may just keep these sealed in the package. One question, WHO is Slim Eli?

Unknown said...

Mark, I added a post on the Hildebrandt Spinners. Please respond when you have time.
Thanks, Terry

Unknown said...

Well I'm coming into this conversation late. I grew up in Toledo, Washington with the Cowlitz River running through town. I bought my first Hildebrandt Slim Eli spinner in 1968 at Raleigh Stone's hardware store. I used to slay the trout with it. I had that spinner ever since then and later in life had some great days catching big Harvest Trout in late August. I have looked for years where to buy more in case I ever lose it and finally stumbled upon Yakima Bait Company on the Internet and they had it! I have bought enough for me, my sons and grandchildren. Thanks to Mr. Hildebrandt. It's pretty cool to read his story and the family's too. Finally I know where that amazing spinner came from. I look forward to summers so I can use my "for sure" spinner and have a great day on the river. Wade Gefre

Unknown said...

Mark I am very sorry to give you this news. As I just called yakima bait co. They discontinued the Colorado spinner. History sheds many tears. This one hurts. I'm grateful for all the fish I have caught with them. Today's date 4-3-2018

Robert Millsap said...

I posted a reply that may not have been successful. I have all the materials used in manufacture of Hertzel spinners by my father, Russell Millsap.

Robert Millsap said...

I have all the materials and equipment used in the manufacture of Hertzel spinners by my father, Russell Millsap.

Unknown said...

Want to reply to let all those responsible for the development of legend hildabrand spinners. Our family and many others have been using this product for over 60 years in Georgia and north Florida. my uncle taught me how to tie flies that worked well with the single ought Idaho spinner. Still use them a little harder to find.
Thanks for many awesome years

Robert Millsap said...

Robert Millsap (actually Robert Russell Millsap, known throughout his life as “Russell Millsap”) was my father. He died in 2013.

After World War II, he attended law school in San Francisco. He helped put himself through school by manufacturing and selling Hertzel Soinners. I believe he purchased the inventory and equipment for the spinners from Mr. Hertzel of Sacramento. It is just a guess, but my mother was from Sacramento. Her father was an inventor and fabricator there on N Street. He may have known Mr. Hertzel, and my father may have met Mr. Hertzel through him.

My father was born and raised in Yolo County, living almost his entire life in Woodkand. I was born in 1947 while my parents were living in Larkspur in Marin County where they lived while my father was attending law school. After graduating from law school, our family moved back to Woodkand. My father was still making the soinners in Woodkand from 1950-1953. I remember him and my mother working on them at the dining room table at the old family home on First Street where we lived until 1953.

After my father started practicing law and our family moved from the old family home in 1953, my father ceased the business and put all the inventory, raw materials and equipment in storage. I have all of it. In fact, just today, I was cleaning out the basement where it has been stored for the last 50 years and was wondering what to do with it. It is all there just as he left it in 1953.

Robert Millsap said...

Robert Millsap (actually Robert Russell Millsap, known throughout his life as “Russell Millsap”) was my father. He died in 2013.

After World War II, he attended law school in San Francisco. He helped put himself through school by manufacturing and selling Hertzel Soinners. I believe he purchased the inventory and equipment for the spinners from Mr. Hertzel of Sacramento. It is just a guess, but my mother was from Sacramento. Her father was an inventor and fabricator there on N Street. He may have known Mr. Hertzel, and my father may have met Mr. Hertzel through him.

My father was born and raised in Yolo County, living almost his entire life in Woodkand. I was born in 1947 while my parents were living in Larkspur in Marin County where they lived while my father was attending law school. After graduating from law school, our family moved back to Woodkand. My father was still making the soinners in Woodkand from 1950-1953. I remember him and my mother working on them at the dining room table at the old family home on First Street where we lived until 1953.

After my father started practicing law and our family moved from the old family home in 1953, my father ceased the business and put all the inventory, raw materials and equipment in storage. I have all of it. In fact, just today, I was cleaning out the basement where it has been stored for the last 50 years and was wondering what to do with it. It is all there just as he left it in 1953.

Unknown said...

I was using the Hertzel spinners in about 1954. They were very good at attracting fish. I also used the Colorado and Hildebrandt spinners.

I make my own spinners now. I have used some of the ideas of each of the three spinner types. I still trout fish and use these spinners from time to time.

I grew up in Sacramento (born in 1943 and went to sacramento High school). The Sierra's are still my place to fish. What doo you plan to do with the remaining materials? I am not a collector but it would be nice to have some of the original materials.

Robert Millsap said...

Unknown,
I have tried several times to respond to your email of the 25th. The blog won't accept it for some reason, and it appears that a reply cannot be made to you be email. I am getting little tired of trying. If you receive this and would like to receive the information I was trying to send you, please email me as before and leave an email address where I can respond. Otherwise, I am sorry I could not respond.

Robert Millsap

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