Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Voices from the Past: A Disabled Fly Tier

I ran across this article from The Ironwood Daily Globe dated 16 April 1948 and found it both inspirational and interesting. Of course, women have been involved in fly tying since the days of Dame Juliana, but this one had a neat twist--disabled since 14, Faith Fitzpatrick went on to become an established tackle maker out of her wheelchair. Here it the short text that accompanied the article:


Faith Fitzpatrick's "one girl trout fly tying factory" in Millersburg, Mich., is busy these April days turning out Royal Coachman, Gray Fox, RB Blue Fox, Squirrel Tails and other trout flies—both wet and dry. Faith, 33, operates her fly tying factory from a wheelchair. She had suffered a crushed spine beneath a switch engine in a gravel pit accident when she was 14 and her legs have been paralyzed ever since.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, September 29, 2008

News of the Week: 29 September 2008

Would you buy an amphibious fishing car from a guy whose previous efforts have been labeled "floating coffins?"...small fish swims up kids _____....the PA Fly Fishing Museum gets some good press...kids and king Salmon go hand-in-hand...the lure of the surf lure maker...fish don't learn when the jig is up...a bit of Gadabout Gaddis history...murder victim's last wish is to buried in his tackle box...10 foot tall statue of popular governor in fishing pose unveiled...more on "Garzilla"...it must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: From the No Freakin' Way Files: Small fish his swims up inside boy's pen...wil...well you get the picture. A collective "ewwww" has now gone out.

The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum is celebrating its 10th anniversary preserving the history of fly fishing in the state.

More on the work of this fine organization here.

How to turn your new $699 iphone into a fishing lure (link courtesy Joe Yates).

U.S. Reel of St. Louis has a new press agency.

The Frederick News Post lets us know that kids and King Salmon go hand-in-hand.

More commentary on the ASA's Top 10 Tackle Innovations.

From the Jersey Shore comes the lure of the surf...

New York's fall hotspots for smallies.

Fish never learn when the jig is up.

New Zealanders find gang violence...in front of a tackle shop? (As an aside, check out the 4th most popular New Zealand folk duo in HBO's hilarious show Flight of the Conchords).

A little bit of history on Roscoe Vernon "Gadabout" Gaddis.

Richard Ziegler, retired California angler, is tragically murdered; wants his body cremated and buried in his tackle box.

The In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) will hold its final tournament ever after an 18-year run in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Premier League star loves to fish; Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker would rather catch fish than WAGs. Probably not, actually.

The Park Rapids Enterprise kicks off the musky season with a bang.

An angler bids a fond farewell to his 1992 Evinrude motor.

10-foot tall statue of former Oregon governor Tom McCall is unveiled...and its a pose of him fly fishing.

Jimmy Houston is still doing what he does best: entertaining the masses by catching fish.

More on the Georgia state record gar, now called "Garzilla" as it was caught right by where the infamous "Hogzilla" was shot.

Finishing with a Flourish: The latest from the people whose work was condemned in court as a "Floating Coffin": The new (hopefully improved) amphibious car! Comes complete with fishing rod.

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The UNID Files #6: The Case of the Bizarre Abu Reel

The UNID files are back after a short hiatus for the Hurricane with UNID Files #6: The Case of the Bizarre Abu Reel!

Ron Kotch recently found an Ambassadeur reel that is unlike any I've seen before. As ABU is one of the most collected companies in history, it is very rare to find an ABU mystery, but this one is certainly that. Here is Ron's email to me:

the reel is a free spool reel with 040801 on foot, not sure what the plastic side plate is for, it also has a red button on that side  which has a small screw in the center ,any help would be great, thanks for your input. Ron

It is certainly a strange reel! I've never seen anything like it...Anyone with any information on this can email Ron at ronkotch AT yahoo DOT com.

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

The terror of the Snakehead in the Potomac River. As an aside, its amazing for once they actually caught a fish they were talking about!

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

This rare Bing's minnow is a great Wisconsin made bait.

An awesome ABU 5500 Hi Speed is a tremendous reel to fish or collect.

A nice Bill Stanley Favorite fly rod from Heddon does honor to ol' William Stanley's name.

This classic George Lawrence creel is a great piece of eye candy.

The Penn 10/0 is one big saltwater boy.

This 9/0 Ed. vom Hofe is only slightly smaller than the Penn above.

Here's a lure you never, ever see--the Wiggly Wriggler.

This Heddon Vamp in blue head/white is sooooooo rare.

McVickar Bushkill fly reels were the first to used roller bearings...

This Jones Minnow Bucket from the Deshler Mailbox Company of Deshler, Ohio is super rare.

It would go awesome with this Lucas Floating Minnow Bucket.

Wow! This Follett fly reel from the 1880s is a fantastic classic piece of fishing tackle.

This Meek Reel Oil bottle from Horton is a nifty go-with for any Meek collection.

This Winchester BB Split Shot tin is going to drive the Winchester collectors crazy.

This is a cool Shurbite frog in the box.

As always, have a safe weekend, and be good to each--and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Chamberlaine Lure: UPDATE

Thought I'd pen a quick update on the Joseph E.M. Chamberlain lure I wrote about on Tuesday. The article referenced a patent, but I could not find a patent under that name. Well, along comes Joe Yates to inform me that not only did he have two patents in his name, but the newspaper actually got his name WRONG. His name was Joseph E.M. Chamberlaine (with an E at the end).

The patent information tells us a bit about the lures but not much about the man. He applied for the patents in March of 1931 and received them in consecutive numbers on 19 April 1932 as Patent #1855066 and #1855067. They cover both a single and double hook trolling spoon of interesting design. Certainly someone out there has seen this lure or owns one?

Thanks to Joe setting the record straight, and hopefully we can find more information about this fascinating character.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Holy Lures: The Incredible Story of Mother Angelica and St. Peter’s Fishing Lures

Holy Lures:
The Incredible Story of Mother Angelica and St. Peter’s Fishing Lures

By Dr. Todd E.A. Larson
© 2008

One of the most amazing fishing tackle stories of all-time centers on a group of Franciscan nuns in Ohio who decided to go into the tackle business. Calling their lures “St. Peter’s Fishing Lures,” they manufactured and sold a line of 16 different lures, ranging from worms and jigs to bucktails and plugs. Their amazing story, and the life of one of the most influential women of the 20th century, is told here.

One of the first mentions of this fascinating enterprise came from a Carl Barnhart newswire item, reprinted here from the 29 May 1961 Southern Illinoisian that read as follows:

A group of Franciscan Nuns in Ohio has gone into the fishing lure manufacturing business. All profits will go to their church. These lures will be called the St. Peter’s Fishing Lures—after the Big Fisherman. They have 16 worms, jigs, bucktails, and plugs. I’m told that each lure is sold with a built-in prayer for the user to have good fishing. I’m sure there are days when each of us can use all the help we can get.

Who were these enterprising nuns? How and why did they decide to get into the tackle business? Was this venture a success, or like most tackle businesses, a failure? The story is one of the neatest forgotten tales in the history of tackle manufacturing.

The genesis (pun intended) behind these piscatorial St. Peters was a remarkable nun by the name of Mother Mary Angelica who was a member of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan Order in Canton, Ohio. Born Rita Rizzo in Canton, she joined the order in 1953 and while living at the Santa Clara Monastery there, dreamt of opening a monastery in the deep South. She was told that not only would she have to raise the money for the monastery, but it would have to be self-supporting afterward—an almost impossible task for the time.

Undaunted, in 1958 Mother Angelica hit on an idea. “It was while I was praying,” she noted in an interview in The Family Weekly in 1962, “that I got an idea for making money for the new monastery.” The original idea? Sell fishing bait. She approached the Mother Superior with the idea of raising red worms for bait, but was immediately shot down. Undaunted, Mother Angelica prayed again—and the idea of manufacturing and selling fishing tackle was born.

The Franciscans gave their approval, but no one expected much. After all, how much money could be made selling fishing lures for .75 each? But Mother Angelica understood marketing. Before joining the cloister, she had worked in the advertising business, and used that experience to come up with an idea so audacious many thought her crazy.

She would fund the construction and maintenance of the new monastery through the sale of fishing lures.

Quietly she assembled a team of five nuns to construct the lures; a local tackle maker donated the parts. They tested the lures in a bathtub and were pleased with the results. They were also able to manufacture as many as seven baits each per hour, or almost 300 baits per day. “At first our fingers showed the results of handling sharp hooks,” she noted, “but we soon got the knack of it.” Keep in mind that she suffered a debilitating accident that kept her in a hospital for two years back in the 1950s, and which caused her to walk with a cane and braces for the remainder of her life.

The Fishing Lure Nun

She also knew she needed something to differentiate the St. Peter Lures from the competition. Thus she hit on the idea that every lure made would be sent out with the following blessing:

"We pray that fishermen will have big catches, will learn to fish with the Great Fisherman, and will be protected from accidents."

Having found her hook (pun intended again), Mother Angelica used her advertising connections and got a friend in the business to print 5000 circulars. Then she hit up every outdoor columnist she could find, who penned a number of articles on her venture.

To the great shock of everyone, she was flooded with orders from every corner of the country, and from celebrities including baseball and angling legend Ted Williams. As the article declared:

Thousands of lures have since been mailed from the monastery. They come in a dozen varieties, for spinning or casting in either fresh or salt water. "Little Jonas" is the name given one number; others are called "St. Michael Wet-Fly" and "St. Raphael Dry-Fly"

In 1961 the esteemed Sports Illustrated, which at the time published many articles on angling, even honored her with an award for “special contributions to the sport.”

The most amazing thing about her venture? Within two years she had raised enough money to help construct a new monastery in Alabama, specifically designed to cater to African-Americans in this most critical period in Civil Rights history. In 1962, when the monastery was completed, she transferred the entire St. Peter’s Fishing Lure company to Alabama, in accordance with the charge to make it “self-sustaining.” The Our Lady of the Angels Monastery was officially established in Irondale, Alabama on May 20, 1962.

From the picture, it appears that some of the fishing lures sold by St. Peter's Fishing Lures were knock-offs of famous baits such as Helin's Flat Fish as well as a selection of spinners and worms that were popular at the time. The author has not seen any lures from St. Peter's but would love it if anyone who has one would send in a photo so we could see what one of these lures looked like.

As for Mother Angelica, she rose to dizzying heights. Soon after moving to Alabama, Mother Angelica got out of the fishing lure business to concentrate on working with the poor, and eventually, a budding second career. Many of you might recognize her in a later photograph, for Mother Angelica went on to found the Eternal World Television Network (ETWN), which ran a television show she starred in for decades afterward, making it the most watched religious network in the world. Time Magazine in a feature article in 1995 called her “arguably the most important Catholic woman in America.” She authored over 50 books during this time.

Mother Angelica retired from broadcasting in 2003, but still lives in the Birmingham monastery she constructed with the funds from St. Peter’s Fishing Lures, perhaps the least likely tackle manufacturing firm in the history of America. While her later years were embroiled in controversy, in our particular case we can remember her for being not only an influential Catholic voice but also as a tackle maker with an unforgettable history. After all, how can anyone forget the story of the “Fishing Lure Nun?”

You can read a great deal about the non-fishing tackle career of Mother Angelica in the following articles:

The Odyssey of Mother Angelica by William A. Donohue (note some of the information on her tackle connection is erroneous).

Mother Knows Best in Time Magazine (1995).

A short Encyclopedia of Alabama article on Mother Angelica.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voices from the Past: A Fishing Lure Tragedy & Mystery

The following blurb from The Cumberland Evening Times dated 11 February 1955 is both a sad story and a bit of a mystery. It details the grisly demise of a fishing lure maker, but the mystery is what exactly is the Chamberlain Spoon? Has anyone seen one before? I sure would like to know what one looks like...

Friends Collect Funds To Bury Fish Lure Expert

ST. MICHAELS, Md. Friends have begun collecting a fund to pay for the funeral of Joseph Ennels Muse Chamberlain, a fishing lure expert who killed himself yesterday. County Medical Examiner Louis A. Welty said Chamberlain shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber rifle.

The 69-year-old Chamberlain gained fame in the fishing world in 1939 after fashioning the Chamberlain spoon, a lure which proved tremendously effective with bluefish. He also invented and patented the first spoon used for trolling.

At one time, he operated a shop here to manufacture spoons, but he gave up the business after a scrape with the government over taxes. Friends believed he made, and lost, a small fortune.

Chamberlain continued to earn a living by making spoons and buck-tail lures, but never again in large quantities. He left no immediate survivors.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, September 22, 2008

News of the Week: 22 September 2008

The model for Quint in Jaws is dead at 82...striper lure maker Gary Hull has passed...Cormorants are angering more anglers...the trophy fish of Lake Erie...Chetek's Calhoun Museum is in danger of closing...a fluke slot limit...walleyes rule northern Minnesota...Georgia has a new state record gar...a fish that glows neon red...it must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: Legendary and controversial Montauk shark angler Frank Mundus--long rumored to have been the model for Quint in the movie Jaws--has passed away at the age of 82.

Striper fishing legend and lure maker Gary Hull has passed away at the age of 62.

Long time NFLCC member Dave Hartranft has passed away.

Kathy Scott--author of Moose in the Water, Bamboo on the Bench--has a new book out on bamboo rod making entitled Changing Planes.

The story of a ghillie, a woman, and a fly rod.

Cormorants are angering more fishermen...

One Kiwi writers pens an article on a (nude) fisherman the author would like to catch.

Discovering trophy fish...in Lake Erie?

The 10th IGFA Fishing Hall-of-Fame induction is next month.

The Chetek Hazel Calhoun Museum--home to some great Heddon fishing tackle--is in danger of closing.

The loss of a fishing rod is a tragedy...unless it can be fixed.

One author opines on fishing machines.

97 year old better angler than you; boats 150 pound black seabass.

Aussie fishing is hooking the internet.

The Savannah Morning News opines on the allure of lures.

ASMFC is considering a fluke slot limit

South Mississippi has set a number of state records of late.

Walleye definitely rule in northern Minnesota.

From the Obvious Files: The largemouth bass is the number one game fish in America.

Why our quest for trophies can ruin a fishing trip.

Georgia has a new state record gar.

Catching snapper is a snap.

Belleville's Mr. Bass can fish circles around anglers half his age.

Trophy stripers and wahoo are making a huge splash.

A South African village is tired of poachers and is trying to so something about it.

1912 Revisited: A visit to Prichard's Lake almost a century ago.

We're just wild about catfish...

Finishing with a Flourish: One fish, two, red fish...glow fish?

-- Dr. Todd

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

Malaysia...where the fish spit at you. The Archer Fish in action!

Things I Would Buy If I Could Afford Them

Wow! This Shakespeare Musky Minnow has the collector world in a frenzy!

Ho hum. Saw someone post recently about how all Heddon rods weren't very valuable...just like this Deluxe about to hit 4 figures.

One of my rules here at Fishing for History is I try to never post an auction that has a reserve or one that doesn't have a bid on it yet...but screw it. I like this Delaware Bait Assortment from Grube.

You don't see many Danielsson fly reels for sale (don't really look for them but that's moot), and this one is a nice one.

This 1852 patent J.T. Buel is a honey of a bait.

What's that? You say you want 100,000 South Bend reel parts? Well, this auction is just perfect for you!

Pfeffer Brownback...a classic Florida bait.

This Storm Big Mac display board shows a lure doesn't have to be 100 years old to be collectable.

This Penn 706Z is a classic spinning reel.

Everyone loves a Gee Wiz frog...especially when they are red head/white!

You know, I was thinking the other day, we don't get nearly enough on the blog about...collectable thermos bottles???

How about a mystery spinning reel, known only as "DUKAC." Where is Poirot when you need him?

A Jamison Coaxer in the box. My pick as about the most successful lure of its era.

A nice Rochester Quick-a-Part reel is a nifty find.

This 1929 Ed. vom Hofe catalog is a classic.

As always, have a great weekend, and be kind to others--and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd