Tuesday, October 13, 2009

History of Samuel Allcock & Co. (1888)

The following history of the venerable British firm of Samuel Allcock was published in the 1888 edition of Wyman's commercial encyclopædia of leading manufacturers of Great Britain. Allcock was one of the largest -- if not the largest -- makers of fish hooks in the world and branched out to produce materials for all kinds of angling. Samuel Allcock was a bit of a crank, as well, as I illustrated in a chapter in my History of the Fish Hook in America, Vol. 1.

Samuel Allcock & Co., Fish-Hook and Fishing Tackle Manufacturers
Standard Works, Redditch
Telegraphic Address: Allcock, Redditch.

No house in this trade has entered into it in such a comprehensive way as the above Firm or infused into it such a progressive spirit and invincible determination to succeed, with the gratifying result that they stand in the van of this industry. For 
more than thirty years Mr. Samuel Allcock, the son of the founder, has 
been at the head of it. Not only do the Firm possess extensive Works 
at Redditch, where hand labour of the most skilled kind, combined 
with long experience and great judgment is employed, but to ensure the very best material for the gut of the hooks they carry on a silkworm factory at Murcia in Spain. Probably no other industry requires such a multiplicity of minute details as fishing-tackle making; to turn out a first-class fishing-rod it has to pass through some dozen sets of skilled operatives, and so with the baits and floats.

Comparatively little machinery is used, but it is the deft fingers and fertile brains of the operatives that are in constant requisition, and it is partly this fact that gives this special industry an impregnable position in this country; for, in spite of the most hostile tariffs the world over, Redditch sends its manufactures into every market, and in yearly increasing quantities; and to keep abreast of the times and still more firmly and wisely to maintain that enviable position, this Firm at once adopt all kinds of improvements, and have a special staff of intelligent employes whose business it is to study not only the different requirements of the varied markets, but to humour the tastes and fancies of the various fishes in the dress-up and appearance of the flies. Salmon, above all fish, are the most wary and fastidious, and require such a perfect presentment of nature, that the distant markets of Africa and the East Indies have to be searched to please him, and fly-making to be elevated to a fine art.

The different parts of the fishing-rod are composed of ash, hickory, greenheart, washaba, bamboo, and certain woods from China and the East Indies, but the best of all is the Dorset English ash, and it is a singular fact that although these woods are grown extensively in the United States, and the industry protected by a high tariff, they cannot rival in quality the best English goods, or keep them out of the market. The manufactures carried on at these Works consist of all kinds of floats, reels, swivels, landing-rings, gaff-hooks, gut-finishing, fly-dressing, and baits, to which there is no limit in change and ideas, comprising a spoon bait, an odd epicurean fish fancy, flexible fish, and the big "Paragon" baits for dolphins; flies, beetles, and other insects, and even lady-birds and frogs are utilised to tempt the appetites of the gourmands of the seas and rivers. The flies especially are of the most elaborate and enticing appearance, and it is no wonder young and old fall victims to the lure. No lesc than 1,700 different kinds and sizes of hooks are made, and are arranged in such order in the storerooms that at a minute's notice any given size required can be produced. Owing to the numberless articles required the stocks kept are very great, and are a picture of order, neatness, and regularity.

Messrs. S. Allcock & Co. are well-known and successful exhibitors, and were among the first to send contributions to those fishery exhibitions which attracted so much attention, and they carried off gold medals at Paris, Berlin, Wurzburg, Norwich, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, South Adelaide, Calcutta, and the highest awards at all the other exhibitions at which they were contributors, and we had the pleasure to inspect a superb case of fishing tackle previously to its departure for the Exhibition at Melbourne in the present year, 1888, and which case will be placed in Group V., Class 38, and will be numbered 725 in the Catalogue, and the contents of it will worthily maintain their present prestige and position in the trade.

-- Dr. Todd

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