Monday, May 31, 2010

A Memorial Day (Re)Post

A Memorial Day (Re)Post

Today you may be expecting the News of the Week. However, here at Fishing for History we never work on Memorial Day. Instead, I want everyone to reflect on the meaning of this holiday. For too many, it is just a convenient day off from work. But the reality of the matter is that this is a day when everyone should reflect on what it means to be an American.

As I was driving through Indianapolis yesterday on my return trip back home, I looked up in the sky and saw four planes flying in formation. It was the Blue Angels, getting ready for their fly by at the start of the Indianapolis 500. As I listened to the invocation at the start of that great race on the radio, it struck me that those of us interested in fishing history have as much to remember and memorialize as everyone else.

It was, after all, Civil War veterans like Capt. Thos. H. Chubb who helped found many of the tackle companies in the wake of that great conflagration that first popularized the sport of fishing. It was men such as Major Charles Conover of the Kansas City wholesale hardware firm of Richards & Conover that helped distribute this tackle across this expanding nation. And it was the host of veterans who, seeking a moment of solitude to forget the horrors of war, turned to the peaceful art of angling by the legion. It did not matter which side you fought on; fishing was the great equalizer.

In the wake of the Spanish-American war, noted firms such as the Shakespeare Company and Abercrombie & Fitch--who hand-tailored Col. Teddy Roosevelt's personal uniform--plied the growing nation with the tackle it needed and desired. But it was really the First World War that transformed fishing. Returning veterans in 1918 and 1919 created the greatest demand for fishing tackle to that point in the nation's history, and a plethora of companies ranging from Thos. E. Wilson (who created a special fund to care for the families of employees at Wilson Meatpacking who were wounded or died in the war) to the ever-present Winchester Repeating Arms Company entered the fishing tackle field with a grand flourish.

Fishing and the Second World War is a subject of great interest and one I plan on penning a significant work on one day. But suffice to say the contributions of tackle makers was extremely valuable, as noted tackle makers made everything from the Norden Bomb Sight to survival kits. One manufacture--Montague Rod & Reel Company--made everything from bamboo ski poles to intricate firing pins for machine guns, all under the same roof. It was not unique. Back home, the tackle makers like Creek Chub and Pflueger continued to advertise, press for the purchase of war bonds, and remind Americans that brighter days were ahead. And in the wake of the war, returning veterans once again kick-started the American fishing industry and propelled angling to a position as the most popular past time in America.

Hand-made lure fashioned by US Navy Sailor during WWII from an oil tin, engraved with various stops across the Pacific.

So no News of the Week today--you can come back tomorrow for that. Today we remember the sacrifices necessary to preserve our freedoms. My father came back from the war and the occupation of Japan to start a family and fish once again. Others were not so lucky and their absence is still felt today. Is it too much to ask that one day every year we remember the contributions of soldiers past and present?

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 30, 2010

1000 Words

1000 Words

Another amazing image from the Jim Schottenham collection. Wow, this one is very old and shows a classic picture. You have to love that ancient creel!

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

The Moonlight Fish Nipple

The Moonlight Fish Nipple is a very different sort of bait that is seldom seen in collections. I believe this is due to two reasons. First. the bait seems not to have much “collector appeal” as far as appearance. Secondly and more importantly, very very few genuine Fish Nipples have survived and those that have are in pretty rough shape. The whole situation is complicated by the fact that an almost identical lure was produced in Jackson Center, Ohio in the 1940's and early 1950s under the name “Old Timer Nipple-Dipper”.

The first piece of evidence presented here is an actual photograph of the Moonlight Fish Nipple from a 1912 ad in National Sportsman magazine. The second is an illustration from a Moonlight Bait Company catalog, courtesy of Bob King. There is an important point to observe. The rear edge of the rubber nipple is rolled into a noticeable ridge. This feature is missing on the later “Old Timer-Nipple Dipper”. The Moonlight Bait Company catalog speaks of casting the bait into lily pads or trolling it deep. In fact, the only story I have seen in magazines of that day that mentions using the “Fish Nipple” speaks of it as a successful, deep trolling bait that "saved the day" when other baits failed..

Finally, we present a photo of an “Old Timer Nipple-Dipper and the unique plastic tube that it was sold in. The directions for its use are quite different than those suggested for the earlier Moonlight bait. It is suggested that a 15 to 20 ft cane pole be rigged with 6 ft of 50 lb test line and the bait tied on the end to be “spatted” and “jiggled” on the surface creating a “sucking sound.” Byron Dalrymple, a prominent outdoor writer of the time, wrote of the success he witnessed with this bait and method at Buckeye Lake in Ohio. My first encounter with the Old Timer Nipple-Dipper was seeing one in the tackle box of a friend of my father in 1957. His comment at the time was that the bait was proving very successful with bass at Buckeye Lake.

-- Bill Sonnett

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Friday Funhouse

The Friday Funhouse
Video of the Week
Canada's favorite Red Green on fishing

Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them
This is a pretty nifty Barracuda fishing gaff..

This is a super cool Hedon Vamp with the big green scales.

J.H. Mann made some great early spinners, and they look best with patina like this one.

Instant collection alert: seriously. Just add money!

Well, it appears that Seamasters may have retained their value after all.

Wow! Is this ever a rare color for a River Runt spook.

A vintage ABU 6500 in Brown is a great find.

A Martha's Vineyard eel spear would look great on a cabin wall.

Love this early Moonlight bait in the box.

I've always wondered what a Zink's Artificial Bait Co. Screwtail looked like in the water.

A beautiful, beautiful CCBC Husky Dingbat in Brilliant Greenback.

I know first hand that the Bon-Net musky bait was a killer musky lure.

This Pflueger Muskill has attracted a lot of attention.

The Red Top Beer Lure is the kind of bait we need to take us into the long weekend.

Everyone have a great and safe weekend, and be good to each other, and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, May 27, 2010

UPDATE: 5000 Year Old Field Find (X-Rays)

UPDATE: 5000 Year Old Field Find (X-Rays)

A couple of months ago I profiled a 5000 year old "field find" from my friend Jeff Hatton, the Colorado rodsmith. Curiosity being what it is, Jeff has a friend of his run the mummy through an x-ray machine. A couple of things; first, it definitively is a fish. Second, it appears likely is is a member of the catfish family. A superb find (it was formerly part of a University museum) and it will become a permanent part of the traveling rod how for which Hatton is renowned.

-- Dr. Todd

UPDATE: Fishing Graves and Angling Epitaphs

UPDATE: Fishing Grave Stones and Angling Epitaphs

Got some great feedback from the article yesterday, "A Discourse on Fishing Graves and Angling Epitaphs." Two in particular I felt were worth posting. The first is from Heddon guru Bill Roberts, who writes:

Enjoyed today's blog. Here's one of my favorites. When Charles Heddon died, noted Editor, Author, Sportsman, and close friend Bob Davis had this note placed in Charles hand: "Farewell for the moment, Charley," wrote Davis. "You will see Uncle Jimmy when he comes to greet you on the Styx, the river between the living and the dead, where we anchor in the still water and fish together as in the unforgettable past."

Bill Roberts followed up his email with this one:

Bob Davis was also James Heddon's fishing partner and good friend. Thirty years earlier Bob wrote this upon hearing of James Heddon's death: "TO: JAMES HEDDON, Dowagiac, Michigan: Goody bye, Uncle Jimmy, though you wore your name in water, it will remain indelible forever, and your memory will never fade. Your children will place this, my farewell, in your hand. Hold it until we meet again. BOB."

And his name has remained indelible forever.

That's pretty awesome, Bill!

Perhaps the most simple and poignant epitaph of them all is this fantastic grave stone for Private Paul T. Moore, World War II veteran, sent in by Wayne Mullins. Like Councilman Taft, it simply says "Gone Fishing."

Nothing more needs to be said beyond that.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Discourse on Fishing Graves and Angling Epitaphs

A Discourse on Fishing Graves and Angling Epitaphs

by Dr. Todd E.A. Larson

ep·i·taph (n.) [ep-i-taf, -tahf] 1. a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site. 2. a brief poem or other writing in praise of a deceased person.

I love cemeteries. This doesn't make me weird (I have plenty of other reasons to be considered weird well beyond my fondness for cemeteries), and to prove my point just google the words "Cemetery Tours." You'll find nearly 3,000,000 results.

One of my all-time favorite cemeteries, by the way, is Cincinnati's famed Spring Grove Cemetery, the final resting place for such notables as General Joseph Hooker (and 33 other Civil War generals), eight Congressional Medal-of-Honor winners, baseball hall-of-famers Waite Hoyte and Miller Huggins and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase, among others. It is the largest non-profit private cemetery in America.

I thought I'd dig around and see if I could find some fishing-related graves, and along with it, try to discover a few angling epitaphs. I found a lot more than I ever thought I would!


As an admirer of cemeteries, I'm always interested in both fishing-related gravestones and of fishing themed epitaphs. Some are famous, and some are just ordinary folk who wanted the world to know their love for fishing.

Fittingly, we begin with the apostle of the sport of fishing, Isaac Walton, who is interred at Westminster Abbey. Here is a shot of his grave stone (more on his epitaph later):

One didn't have to be famous to have a classic angling grave stone. Here's one for John Murray, the Gamekeeper for the Kenmore family, located in Kells Churchyare, Ireland. What a classic scene!

Perhaps no American has a more fitting grave stone than pioneer bamboo rodmaker Hiram Leonard. His grave stone is capped by an awesome carving of a classic Maine canoe. A fitting memorial to a man who was so accustomed to the Maine woods that it was a second home for him.

Here is a bit more subdued gravestone commemorating another angling titan, James A. Payne, posted by the canefather Sante Giuliani.

Famous anglers such as Zane Grey have popular gave site destinations. Here's a pic of Grey's grave stone near Lackawaxen, PA, near the Delaware River.

With new processes involving lasers and acid etching, you can really make a phenomenal tombstone today, as evidenced by this example:

I'm sure there are many, many more but this will have to suffice for now.


Ah, the epitaph--that last chance to be pithy with the world. There are many neat epitaphs and some of them are fishing-related.

But we must begin again with our previously mentioned apostle, Isaac Walton. In Westminster Abby his tomb reads:

Here resteth the Body of
Who dyed the 15th day of December
Alas he's gone before
Gone to return no more!
Our panting Breasts aspire
After their aged Sire,
Whose well spent life did last,
Full ninety years and past
But now he hath begun
That which will ne're be done
Crown'd with eternall blysse:
We wish our souls with his.
Votis modestis sic flerunt liberi

We love the British, for here is a classic angling epitaph, this one for John Murray of Kenmure, who died 03 Jan. 1777. His epitaph was written by the Rev. Alexander M'Gowan of Dalry:

Ah ! John, what changes since I saw thee last—
Thy fishing and thy shooting days are past;
Bagpipes and hautboys thou canst sound no more,
Thy nods, grimaces, winks, and pranks, are o'er;
Thy harmless, queerish, incoherent talk,
Thy wild vivacity and trudging walk
Will soon be quite forgot; thy joys on earth,
Thy snuff and glass, riddles, and noisy mirth
Are vanished all—yet blessed I hope thou art,
For in thy station thou hast played thy part.

Fishing epitaphs have a more ancient origin, and the most famous is the one from Leonidas of Tarentum, who lived in the 3rd Century B.C. It's called, fittingly, "Epitaph for an Angler":

Parmis, the son of Callignotus—he
Who troll'd for fish the margin of the sea,
Chief of his craft, whose keen, perceptive search,
The kichle', scarus, bait-devouring perch,
And such as love the hollow clefts, and those
That in the caverns of the deep repose,
Could not escape—is dead.

Parmis had lured
A julis from its rocky haunts, secured
Between his teeth the slippery pert, when, lo!
It jerk'd into the gullet of its foe,

Who fell beside his lines and hooks and rod,
And the choked fisher sought his last abode.
His dust lies here. Stranger, this humble grave
An angler to a brother angler gave."

Of course many of the early epitaphs deal with the profession of angling as opposed to the sport. Another great fishing epitaph is for William Easton, who is buried in Hessle-road Cemetery, Hull.

Who was lost at sea,
In the fishing smack Martha,
In the gale of January, 1865.
Aged 30 years.

When through the torn sail the wild tempest is streaming;
When o'er the dark wave the red lightning is gleaming,
No hope lends a ray the poor fisher to cherish.
Oh hear, kind Jesus ; save, Lord, or we perish!

Of course, like all written forms the epitaph gives opportunity to the witty, like the Block Island sea captain who had been engaged in the fishing business, and who wrote the terse epitaph engraved on his tombstone :

He's done a-catching cod,
And gone to meet his God.

Not all fishing epitaphs are about commercial anglers. Take, for example, the following for Brian Tunstall, eighteenth century angler:

Here lies poor but honest
Bryan Tunstall
He was a most expert angler
until Death envious of his art,
threw out his line hooked him
And landed him here the 21st day
of April

Or the aptly-named Mr. Fish:

Worms are bait for fish
But here's a sudden change,
Fish is bait for worms-
Is not that passing strange?

And Mr. Arthur Sutton:

Arthur James Sutton
5.6.1946 - 31.1.1996
Beloved Husband Of Barbara
'Gone fishing', the sign said
that hung upon the door.
An Angel had put it there,
God was waiting on the shore.

And finally, one more close to home, a member of the famed Cincinnati political Taft family buried in Spring Grove cemetery. Charles P. Taft, former Cincinnati City Councilman, has the following words on his grave stone:

Gone Fishing

It's as concise and as fitting an epitaph as one can possible hope for an angler, in life and in death.

-- Dr. Todd (who hopes not to have an epitaph for a good, long time).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Voices from the Past: Wallace Beery (1931)

Remembering Wallace Beery--Actor, Renaissance Man, and Angler

The following article was published in the Syracuse Herald dated 06 December 1931. It is a profile of the actor Wallace Beery, and underscores just how much more interesting, and talented, actors were in the Golden Age of the Silver Screen. Of course, this being a fishing blog, we must emphasize that Beery was a noted angler, and according to the article owned "several hundred fishing rods." I once saw a photo in an old movie magazine showing his tackle room, and that claim is not an understatement. It was literally overflowing with tackle. For some time he held the world record for a Sea Bass he caught off Catalina Island in 1916, a record that was not broken until 1951. It was one of his proudest feats. So interested was Wallace in fishing that while filming the picture Bad Man of Wyoming in 1940, he bought a cabin on a nearby lake and forced shooting to end at 5 each day just so he could fish before dark.

For those of you who don't recognize the name, Beery was a phenomenal actor who appeared in over 250 movies and won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the movie that he was promoting for the article below, the terrific film The Champ, which co-starred child star Jackie Cooper. At times a difficult man, as one scholar declared, he was "often praised for his enormous talent and derided for his phony personality." He had a brother named Noah Beery who was a famous actor as well. His son Noah Beery, Jr. played James Garner's character's father in The Rockford Files. Perhaps as a nod to his uncle Wallace, Noah Beery Jr.'s character often derides Jim Garner for not having time to go fishing with him in the show.

Wallace Beery was for a time the highest paid actor in Hollywood and among its biggest draws. He was also a fanatical angler, something we pause to remember today.

* * * * * * * * * *

Wally Beery, Once an Elephant Trainer, Now Raises Canaries

A Teetotaler, Star of "The Champ," Likes Malted Milks With Whipped Cream

Editor's Note: Here is an authentic and revealing, vignette of Wallace Beery, no stranger to either the Syracuse airport, a favorite port of call on his transcontinental flights; or Syracuse fandom. Mr. Beery currently is starring with Jackie Cooper in "The Champ" at Loew's State.

Wallace Beery shaves himself with an old-fashioned, straight razor, but he never walks when he can ride and never rides when he can fly. He has a transport license and an eight-passenger plane.

He keeps a kennel of bird dogs and raises canaries. And he used to be an elephant trainer.

He plays tough huskies on the screen now, but he got his motion picture start--and guffaws telling about it--impersonating a Swedish servant girl in a comedy. "Butch" in "The Big House" is his favorite role.

He was born in Kansas City--brother Noah is also a film light--and directing movies in Japan was only an incident in his varied career.

He is an amateur camera fiend, with color photography, his favorite hobby.

Several hundred fishing rods are his own, and he keeps a small arsenal of hunting rifles.

His airplane machine shop is in his house. He studies aerial navigation and has no fear of accidents.

When film people are going on a trip en masse he usually leaves later in his plane and beats them there. He drives an open car. More than six feet tall, and more than 200 pounds on the hoof, he eats accordingly-—the rare-steak-for-dessert type of appetite. He is bow-legged, but doesn't like to be reminded of it.

When he talks the rafters shake and when he shouts--as you have heard him on the screen--they dance. His eyes are baby-blue. He makes a clucking noise with his mouth to put "periods" in conversations. His hair is thinning on the pate.

He is a teetotaler, but he has a weakness for sweets and malted milks with whipped cream. He doesn't have to bother about his waistline. When he eats in the studio commissary, he takes off his coat as well as hat.

Between scenes he whittles wooden gewgaws. He never wears make-up, and is Will Rogers only rival at gum-chewing.

He owns an island in a High Sierras lake, and is a member of a bank advisory board. He is modest, unassuming and big hearted, with a gentleness and sympathy as large as his frame.

He hates personal appearances and avoids parties and cafes. When he dons evening clothes he looks like a magician trying to get out of a straight-jacket.

Here is a video showing how, for such a big guy, how remarkably dexterous he was.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, May 24, 2010

News of the Week: 24 May 2010

2 year old girl better angler than you, catches 20 pound musky on barbie pole...Dan Basore gets profiled...a new record fly rod tarpon...dynamiting for fish?...golfers attack canoeist...Bismarck man reinvents the fishing rig...Alabama bluegill time...Montana's new record tiger musky...the New York Times reports on John Shakespeare (son of Wm. the tackle maker) and his Bugatti must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

Don't have time to read 50+ fishing and tackle collecting blogs and web sites? Well, let us do it for you! Follow all of the latest news, articles, and stories on our Whitefishpress Twitter account! Hint: You don't need to be a member...just bookmark the Twitter Feed Page or click on latest links to the right!

The Big Lead: The return of the Barbie Pole.!

Dan Basore. gets profiled by The Winona Daily News.

ESPN reports a potential new record tarpon. on fly rod.

Two men intended to use dynamite for fishing..

Idiot golfers target canoe anglers, send one to hospital.

Weird animal washes up on Ontario lake shore..

The skinny on heavy metal angling..

A Bismarck, ND man has a new twist on a classic rig.

It's Alabama Bluegill Time.!

The best fly rod for steelhead....

Montana has a new record tiger musky..

Is this the very best fish story ever.?

The New York Times reports that John Shakespeare--the son of Wm. Shakespeare of fishing tackle fame--once sold 30 Bugatti cars. for $85,000 (hint: even today the Bugatti Veyron is the most expensive car available).

Finishing with a Flourish: Appreciating a life full of fishing.

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Please Help the Heddon Museum!

Please Help the Heddon Museum!

Joan Lyons emailed me and asked that I post this letter from her, along with a downloadable PDF file containing her quest for help in completing her book (you can download it by Clicking Here. Here is her message:

I am starting to scan the items I need to show in my upcoming Heddon Research book. There are some items I have copies of, but they are not good enough for printing in the book. I am looking for originals on the list below.

Most of it is paper catalogs, dealer flyers, ads etc, but some is information is needed on specific lures and boxes. Anything you can do to help is greatly appreciated.

I need your help. If you could: send me the item and I will return it…or sell it to me for the Museum library, or scan it at the highest resolution possible and email it to me, or take a good photograph /non shiny white background and email it to me or take a good photograph/non shiny white background and mail it to me…last resort.

Let me know you will bring the item to the national and I can take the picture.

I need your name & address and your written permission for release to use the pictures and will give credit with your name under the photo/scan…or not if you wish.

I will always give credit for information or help in the book.

If you have the item or any questions, please call me at 269-782-5698 or email me at . Please email me here and not on Joe’s board, for it is easier for me to answer and find you.

Do not send anything until you have called me in case someone else has already sent me the item.

Please don’t ask me “When will the book be done”…I’ve never done this before and there are over 1000 pictures that need to be put in and organized..probably at least another year for volume 1. There will be three volumes. The one I am working on now is Volume 1-Lures. Volume II is Rods, Reels And Line. And Volume III is Dealer and Misc. items.

The working title is “Everything in a Heddon Catalog…and a little bit more.” 98% is information from the catalog put in table form. The information is ONLY from the catalogs, factory printed information or ads where there are no factory papers. The other 2% is non-cataloged information and VERY brief history and hardware chapters. Basically, you can take a lure (or any item) and find out when it was cataloged, what cataloged colors (or details if it is rods) it was made in and what changes/sizes etc. were made in the catalogs over the years it was produced. I have over 1000 pages of text/pictures for the 3 volumes.

Thank you all again for your help.

Joan Lyons / Heddon Museum
204 W. Telegraph St.
Dowagiac, MI 49047
269-782-5698 – Home phone

1000 Words

1000 Words

Jim Schottenham shares a fifth photo from his extensive collection of vintage angling tin types. This one is a superb photo of a large pike and a young man -- a fairly rare thing in fishing pics. The majority of these images are of adult men, followed by a smaller percentage of children and women.

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett UPDATE


Someone asked on Joe's Board if Bill could provide photos of the first Heddon Lures. Here is his post!

Earliest production "Dowagiac Perfect Surface Casting Bait" with "rimless Cup" brass cup hardware 1902.

A school of the first and second versions of Dowagiac Underwaters, both from the season of 1902. First version are the two with a floppy round-ended prop.

-- Bill Sonnett

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett
Heddon's first Ads

For many years the ad shown here from the August 1902 issue of Field & Stream was the earliest Heddon ad that I was able to find. Then fellow researcher Jerry Martin came up with the following ad and accompanying write-up from the July 5, 1902 issue of The Sportsman's Review. As many students of early Heddon history know, Heddon put out two catalogs their first season. The first is known as the "one lure" catalog as there is only one lure shown. In these ads it is named the "Dowagiac Perfect Surface Casting Bait." 

From the July 05, 1902 Sportman's Review

Write-up from the same issue,

The second catalog is known as the "three lure" catalog as it contains an additional two lures: the "Dowagiac No. 2" (four-hook "slopenose") and the "Dowagiac Underwater" (with hanging belly weight). Sometime between the two catalogs Heddon decided to change the name of their lure from the "Dowagiac Perfect Surface Casting Bait" to the "Dowagiac Expert." This was clearly to play off the success of the best selling wooden minnow of the day, the F. C. Woods "Expert."  Charles Heddon testified in court some years later that when the Heddon company started they considered F.C. Woods to be their "stiffest competition."
Those first "Perfect Surface Casting Baits" are believed to be the "rimless-cup slopenoses" that are so coveted by today's collectors. By the time of the second 1902 catalog, the "Dowagiac Underwater" (with hanging belly weight) featured rimmed, gold-washed cups and we must assume so did the newly renamed "Dowagiac Expert." The forward to the 1903 Heddon catalog claims they made 6000 baits in 1902.  If this is true, very few have survived as they are all very hard to find.

From the August, 1902 Field & Stream

-- Bill Sonnett