Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett
The Tuttle Devil Bug

No one ever accused O.C. Tuttle of producing dull ads, but in the January 1924 Sporting Goods Journal he hit a peak with an ad that ran four full pages in color. The beauty of these pages is made even more striking when one realizes that the magazine is an extra large 9 X 12 inch format. Enjoy.

-- Bill Sonnett

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week
Here's another music video from Madison Brown...

Things I Would Buy if I only had the Money
This vintage ABU 5000C is a superb reel.

This is a great Jim Payne bamboo fly rod.

Red Scale is such a pretty color, especially on a Heddon Spin Diver.

A Cross "Sylph" is an awesome and rare Wes Jordan built rod.

This Heddon Punkinseed 9630 in Red Head Flitter is a rare, rare bait.

A Heddon 175 in Raindow (in the wood box) is an incredible combo.

This is an unbelievable Ed. vom Hofe fishing reel. What's up with the side plates?

I've seen a few Doug English "Merry Christmas" lures, but never one in the box.

Wow! This Jim Heddon bamboo casting rod kit is just beautiful.

Bronson Invaders are always nifty reels, but in the box? Splendid.

This early Pflueger Supreme would make Bob Miller smile.

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Pflueger Scramble? Super sweet.

This Dingley Struan Patent fly reel is a super example.

Staley Johnsons in the box are a wonderful combo.

Love these pin-up vintage boat cushions!

How about an Alfred Ronald Leather fly wallet?

As always, have a good and safe Halloween weekend, and be good to each other, and yourself!

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Review: Van Buren Boys' Blog!

A cool new Fishing History project!

Some of you know the story of how I was privileged to view and authenticate the tackle of George Washington at Mount Vernon (I'm currently writing up the whole experience so stay tuned). Well, I guess I could not get presidential fishing out of my blood, as not long after I was contacted by the Martin Van Buren Historical Site and asked to help them set up a display of historical fishing tackle.

Since Van Buren was actively fishing in the 1840s and 1850s, it would have been impossible from a budget perspective for them to purchase actual vintage equipment. Besides, they are in the process of rebuilding Van Buren's five fish ponds. So I hit on the idea of having some of America's top tackle craftsman construct historically accurate working models of 1840s fishing tackle. This could be used by the museum in a display as well as demonstrated on the fish ponds.

The Van Buren Museum loved the idea, so I sent out some emails to friends I knew who had much, much more talent than myself. Dr. John Elder from California was entrusted with the task of building a Porter General Rod as well as a vintage tackle box. Michael Hackney agreed to build a period fishing reel with actual horse hair line (and even donate one of his incredible period fishing line braiders). Metalsmith Philip Allen agreed to construct some beautiful period metal baits. Royce Stearns will be making hooks from scratch and tying period flies. As for myself? I've been busy trying to resurrect Van Buren's fishing legacy, which has been tarnished repeatedly by angling historians.

To help educate the public on how such items are constructed we've launched The Van Buren Boys blog, which will chronicle our journey from conception to construction to display. So if you've ever wondered how an 1840s rod, or reel, or lure, or fly was made, tune in every week or so to see the update!

As an aside, the work these men are doing is largely volunteer. They should be commended for helping to promote fishing history to the masses. All tackle will be properly marked with the words "Van Buren Project" and the date so that there will be no chance of mistaking it for original, authentic tackle.

Check out the Van Buren Boys Blog by clicking here! Yes we stole the name from Seinfeld...It will also be listed on the links to the right.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bobber Collectors Alert by Harold Dickert

From the Harold Dickert Fishing History Archives

Bobber Collectors Alert

by Harold Dickert

Be on the lookout for this one…

Published in 1886 in a wonderful little book titled “The Boys Book of Sports” is this description of what I would think would be a fantastic find for the float collector. One could easily stumble across this item and never realize it was a bobber.

Taken from a chapter titled “Odd Methods of Fishing” we find the following quotation and description of the Jumping Jack Float…

“This little figure is fastened to a stick, which is secured in an upright position on a float made of a piece of board. Through a hole in the float is passed the string attached to the figure, and tied securely to this the are the hook and line. After the hook is baited, the float is placed on the surface of the water and the little man, standing upright, is left to wait in patience.

Presently a fish, attracted by the bait, comes nearer the surface, seizes the hook quickly, and darts downward, pulling the string and making the little figure throw up its arms and legs, as though dancing for joy at having performed its task so well.”  It goes on to explain only to use on calm water so as to not upset little Jack.

We even get an illustration of  The Jumping Jack Float.

This would be a wonderful folk art find and, I think, is a true testament to the ingenuity of our 19th century ancestors.

-- Harold Dickert

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Voices from the Past

This has been a rather melancholy few weeks for me. As some of you know my older brother underwent emergency surgery about ten days ago, a scary and dangerous scenario for someone I've always seen (as most younger siblings do to their older brothers) as indestructable. Then the father of a close friend passed away, out of the blue. Finally, as if this wasn't enough ennui for one short period, my next door neighbor Ernie Todd died.

Eight years ago I moved in next door to Mr. Todd, as we always called him. At the time he was 82 and incredibly spry for his age, and was extremely active up until the last few months of his life. I don't know if Mr. Todd was an angler--the subject never came up--but his passing at the age of 90 got me thinking about the passage of time.

Ernie Todd was born in 1919. It was a year of tremendous change. The Paris Peace Conference formally ended the carnage of the First World War; the history professor in me can't avoid the opportunity to instruct that the Treaty of Versailles was just one of a number of separate treaties, each involving a former Central Power (even Bulgaria got its own Treaty of Neuilly).

It was also a critical period for sportfishing history. With the decommissioning of over a million American men from the American Expeditionary Force, a rejuvenated sportfishing industry arose to meet their growing demands. Companies such as Winchester and Thos. E. Wilson entered the tackle industry with a bang, while older firms like Abbey & Imbrie and VL&A grew by leaps and bounds. It was truly a Golden Era, a veritable "jazz wiggler" age as Bill Sonnett pointed out in last weekend's "Deconstructing Old Ads."

Like millions of American boys and girls, Ernie Todd came of age in this new gilded era. When the Crash came in 1929, he would have been too young to understand its import at first, but as dire reports turned into lost wages, jobs, and homes, he would have learned a hard life lesson. As the Depression deepened, hope might have seemed a commodity in short supply, but even in the darkest times there are glimmers of light. The dawn is never far away.

Yet in such crushing economic times--far worse than anything we are experiencing in the 2000s--fishing did not just persevere, it exploded. Boys took to the rivers and streams in unprecedented numbers, while the Civilian Conservation Corp trained hundreds of thousands of men in the art of woodcraft. The Big Five firms of Creek Chub, Pflueger, Shakespeare, South Bend, and Heddon all prospered.

Ernie Todd would have become an adult in the late 1930s, just in time to see the storm clouds gathering over Europe and Asia. For the second time in two decades war broke out and American men and women responded to their nation's call. The fishing tackle industry virtually shut down; the total war effort required to defeat the Axis subordinated most American industries to the federal government. Forty-four months later the war ended, but the world was never the same.

1942 photo of William Shakespeare, Jr. holding what looks like a reel spool. In actuality is is a precision part for a bomber. In WWI the same Shakespeare factory made mortar fuses.

Coming home victorious, Mr. Todd and soldiers like him would have found an American transformed. In the immediate post-war years, Fishing reflected this change. Bamboo to Fiberglass. Casting to Spinning. Silk to Nylon. Wood to plastic. In a period of ten years, the new face of fishing was virtually unrecognizable. By the 1960s, older companies failed at an alarming rate while new ones grew in their place. One by one the Big five were replaced by relative newcomers such as Abu/Garcia, Zebco, Rapala, and Daiwa at the top of the tackle chain.

The 1960s and 1970s quickened the pace of change. By 1980, of the original Big Five firms only Shakespeare survived to live into this new era. Imported tackle began to dominate the American fishing scene; now, if Mr. Todd bought his grandchildren a new fishing outfit, it was as likely to have been made in China or Japan as in America. The 1990s only exacerbated this situation.

And what of the new century? Mr. Todd entered it already an octogenarian, a witness to and participant in the cavalcade of American history. Fishing had certainly changed across the breadth of his life, and if he didn't notice it, millions of others did. But despite the numerous alterations, the rhythm of fishing remains fixed. On clear summer days, grandparents still teach their grandchildren how to fish, just as they were instructed when they were young.

I guess the point of all of this is to remind you that every voice that is silenced that lived through these times is irreplaceable. But not everything is dire news. While doing research for my forthcoming volume on fishing rod makers, I tracked down the descendant of a professional Texas rodmaker (you read that right--split cane from the Lone Star state!) and wrote them a note. Guess what? Not only did I get a response, but the rodmaker himself was still alive--and alert--at the tender age of 99. Will wonders never cease?

I call the Tuesday offerings "Voices from the Past" because I believe we can hear the echoes of anglers in the poems, essays, articles, and books of yore.

Today, I have no trouble hearing such distant voices. They are everywhere, and now Mr. Todd has joined the chorus.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, October 26, 2009

News of the Week: 26 October 2009

The rest of the story on the World Record Bass...Twin Lakes tackle show gets some press...dolphins make a cool holds steady...more on the (possible) end of the bluefin...both new world record trout were caught on rapalas...some anglers prefer outrageous fish crime...a 60 pound cat...EPL star says fishing makes him better soccer player...a new fly angling journal...a custom rod builder gets must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: The Rest of the Story on the World Record Bass.

The Twin Lakes tackle show gets some nice press.

Dolphins are making a cool move.

Of red hooks and rattling lures.

Why fishing is doing well in a tough economy.

We are talking some BIG yellowfin tuna.

More discussion about the (possible) end of the bluefin tuna.

Hunter's invention may help anglers, too.

Oh, by the way, the new world record Brown and Rainbow were both caught on Rapalas.

These anglers prefer blondes.

Aussies are happy as Happy Micks is in new hands.

An (alleged) outrageous fish crime is exposed in Marin County.

Local Iowa man donates 257 fishing lures (mostly hand carved) to Nature Center.

Sissonville angler lands 60 pound catfish.

This angler is slightly more Montanan than you.
EPL soccer star claims angling makes him a better player.

This kid is hooked on fly-fishing.

Greenville angler lands monster flathead.

A review of the new magazine The Flyfish Journal.

There is a new eel fishing record. Of sorts.

Finishing with a Flourish: Randy Phillips is a talented custom rod builder.

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dealer Display Cards, Part 15

Dealer Display Cards, Part 15

This is a nifty Point-of-Purchase display card showing the famed Heddon Stanley Hook Harness. A really nifty piece, and one you don't see very often. You do find the individual hooks on cards occasionally, but the entire card is a fairly scarce item.

-- Dr. Todd

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

I believe the words over the tent read "Copywriter Wanted, Young Lady Prefered." What an awesome photo. Courtesy Doug Jobe.

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett
The Al Foss Jazz Wiggler

Dealer publications are always a great source for dating the introduction of new products. This announcement from the January 1924 Sporting Goods Journal concerning the introduction of the "New Jazz Wiggler" claims that one of it's strong points is that the heavily weighted body absolutely insures that the lure cannot turn over. Apparently the weight was not great enough to keep the bait from turning over in this ad, as the illustration is up side down!

-- Bill Sonnett

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Funhouse

Video of the Week

As winter comes barreling down on the great state of Ohio, my thoughts turn to spring at the Beginning of Roaring River.

Things I Would Buy If I Could Only Afford Them

A Penn Spinnfisher 711 in black is a super cool spinning reel.

The Ed. vom Hofe "Commander Ross" 14/0 behemoth is about as nice of a saltwater reel as you will find.

The classic Kentucky reel: a B.C. Milam #4.

A Heddon #150 from ca. 1905 is one of the few things on which a high forehead is a thing of beauty.

An Al Foss Easy Control No. 3-25 reminds me of my brother, who is recovering from major surgery. He once called me excitedly after a tackle show where he'd run across an Al Foss reel, and told me that when he spun the handle it ran for ever and ever. Get better soon, brother.

Hardy Bros. was not known for spinning reels, but this Altex No. 2 is a nifty find.

Expert minnows are consistently confounding for me; this Woods model is a nifty find even if I don't know where it fits in the Expert family tree.

A Bite-Em-Bate in the box is a super cool boxed combo.

Fin Nor made some beautiful reels, and this 9/0 is a good example of their aesthetics.

If Zink Screwtails are rare, the advertising must be impossible to find.

A Creek Chub Pikie in Red Head/Orange with Black Spots! Yes, please.

Pflueger 5-hook minnows sometimes get shoved aside by Heddons and Shakespeares, but this Wizard is a sweet bait.

Ah yes -- my favorite baitcasting reel. The ABU Ambassadeur 5000.

A Heddon Spindiver in Green Crackleback is a great bait.

Millsite Daily Doubles have skyrocketed of late; this spin size in the box is no exception.

With its angular sides, the Heddon "00" must have been a very difficult lure to manufacture.

A CCBC Injured Minnow #1500 in rainbow is a sweet find.

This Montague fly rod has already attracted 19 bids.

An Ed. vom Hofe Model 360 is an unusual hand-made reel.

Wow! The Red Scale on this Heddon Zaragossa is just beautiful.

If the Ambassadeur 5000 is my favorite all-time casting reel, the Mitchell 300 is my favorite all-time spinning reel (along with the 308). In honor of Wallace Carney's forthcoming book, this nice NIB package is a terrific example of this popular reel.

This ultra rare Scottish William Landell brass fly reel is an incredibly cool find.

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

-- Dr. Todd