The Lure of Yesteryear

By Jim Schottenham

Trory-Minnow-photo-2In the world of fishing tackle collecting, the American made wood lure (especially the wood minnow) stands supreme, boasting the largest number of active collectors specializing in fishing tackle of any kind. The origins of the wooden plug in America has long been debated and was the subject of a trial between the William Shakespeare Company against the Enterprise Manufacturing Company in 1908. Joseph Pflueger testified that in 1898 he spent time fishing on Twin Lakes in Kent, Ohio, and was eager to get an example of the lure carved by, “…a certain fisherman who worked in the file works of Kent.” He claimed he obtained a lure from his friend, Mr. Fred W. Trory, who worked in the same machine shop as Samuel H. Friend, the aforementioned“certain fisherman.” Mr. Friend and his brother-in-law, F. A. Pardee, purportedly hand carved and painted two styles of wood bodied lures, one of which is now known as the Pardee Minnow.

Also around 1898, an employee of the U.S. government railway postal service was producing his own hand carved and painted wooden lures. Charles C. Shaffer, an Alliance, Ohio, native is credited for creating the “Expert” minnow. The first wooden plugs offered commercially by the famous Heddon family appeared in print advertising in 1902, but the late James Heddon carved for his own use wooden minnows, and according to James’ son, his grandfather had been
doing so since the 1850s.

To further muddy the waters, an article written  in 1918 by E. A. Pflueger of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, states that in 1883 they “… put out the Comstock Wood Minnow, the body being made of wood with glass eyes and spinners mounted upon the side instead of at the head and tail. In the year 1898, we were the first to place on the market a wood minnow of the present day structure…”, likely referring to the Trory minnow. It is this writer’s contention that the Comstock minnow used a wooden or cork body to facilitate buoyancy, and utilized the metal spinners as the main fish attractors and therefore should be categorized differently.

This early American wood minnow sold at Lang's Auction for $24,150

This early American wood minnow sold at Lang’s Auction for $24,150

Examples of these early lures are understandably extremely rare. An example of the first wooden minnow was sold through Lang’s November 2006 auction displaying characteristics of the earliest Pardee and Trory minnows  shown above. The Pflueger Trory Wooden Minnow is valued at $25,000. Found in the tackle box of Hiram C. Rice, an angler who lived and fished in the Twin Lakes region of Ohio, the first American minnow (below) sold to a collector for $42,560.

The first American wood lure above sold at auction for $42,560

The first American wood lure above sold at auction for $42,560

Another early and important minnow was offered during the November 2008 Lang’s Auction, also with characteristics of both the earliest Pardee minnows and Trory minnows, also discovered in the Twin Lakes area of Ohio, sold for $24,150 at auction. Regardless of the maker, the early American wooden minnow shall remain at the top of the
lure collecting mountain for the foreseeable future.

Lang’s next auction will be held on November 1 & 2, 2014. For more detailed information, please visit www.LangsAuction.com, or call 315-841-4623.

The Lure of Yesteryear