Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Voices from the Past: Who in the World is Rance Ham?

Who in the World is Rance Ham?

In the course of research, sometimes I run across something that just perplexes me to no end. This was the case when I discovered in my files a photocopy of an advertisement for Kirtland Bros. of New York City (from a 1907 Forest & Stream magazine). Now, I have two catalogs from Kirtland, one of which (1927) contains a very rare Eustis W. Edwards trade rod. So I knew that Kirtland sold fly rods, and some good ones.

What I didn't remember was the "Rance Ham Idea '3-in-1'" fishing rod. Developed by a "Maine Guide of 40 years' experience" it was a combination rod--fly rod, a bait caster, and a trolling rod. Hand made from split bamboo, it came with a one-year warranty and sold for the astounding price of just $5.

The question is, who was Rance Ham? Knowing a bit about Maine and its guides, I could find next to nothing about Rthe name, despite its unique qualities. The second question, did Rance Ham make these rods himself? If so, he followed in the long tradition of guides-turned-rodmakers, ranging from Hiram Leonard to Amasa Ward. Kirtland Bros. certainly put its reputation on the line with the Rance Ham model, as its advertising copy promises everything except double your money back if you were unhappy.

So...who in the world was Rance Ham? And has anyone ever seen a genuine Rance Ham fly rod????

-- Dr. Todd

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