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Post 16 Oct 2008, 14:13 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/20/07
Posts: 628
Location: US-TX

Does anyone know who made the first fiberglass fly rod?
Or ... who marketed the first fiberglass fly rod?
Or ... which country made fiberglass rods first? ... was it England, the US, or someone else?
How did glass get it's start? Was it a monk on a high mountain or blue-collar fisherman who happened to work at a fiberglass plant?
Was it someone famous like Ogden-Smith or someone else who we've never heard of?
Who was the genius who made all of this possible?

Thanks.
I'd really like to know ...



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Post 16 Oct 2008, 14:18 • #2 
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Wasn't the first fiberglass rod post war usage of technology for factories formerly making Antennaes?


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Post 16 Oct 2008, 14:26 • #3 
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The Smith brothers ran the gunshop, smithy, tackle emporium and catalog business for the widow Ogden after James died in 1895, so I think Ogden Smiths is right out.

However, according to copy in the '53 Ogden Smiths catalog I posted on another thread this morning, the first use of fiberglass on a fishing rod was by a defense plant executive during WWII to repair a broken cane rod.

According to Johnson and Johnson, the first producer of solid fiberglass rods was Mr. McGuire and Phantom Products of Kansas City, with Airex and Lionel Corporation close second.

Image

Dr. Havens of NARMCO gets credit for the first hollow glass rod, in 1945, with Dr. Howald producing his rod about the same time.


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Post 17 Oct 2008, 01:36 • #4 
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Very interesting. Thanks, Bulldog.

Does anyone have photos of a first generation Dr Havens or Dr Howland rod?
It would be great to start an "on-line museum" of fiberglass fly rods.


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Post 18 Oct 2008, 11:15 • #5 
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There are some very early PAT PEND Shakespeare rods around. I believe the patents were approved in 1952 and rods so marked were made before then. I had a spinning and early fly rod that were labeled PAT PEND and sent them to the Grandson of Dr Howald who had posted on the board some time ago. He appreciated them and they were worth more to him than the market would value and I gave them to him.

The earliest flyrods I have were yellow blank Wonderods (model 1270T), made with the Howald spiral process and they had red wraps that looked like flat dental floss ... the thread was not round, it was flat. That was what the PAT PEND rod looked like also. I have never seen a Shakespeare with the broad weave glass so often used in the early days by other rod-makers that was a tobacco color.

Donny


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Post 20 Oct 2008, 17:06 • #6 
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I think the story of the broken bamboo rod tip leading to the invention of the fiberglass fishing rod comes from this history of the Shakespeare company by Eric Jesta http://www.antiquelures.com/Shakehistory.htm, "In 1944, Dr. Arthur M. Howald, Technical Director for the Plaskon Division of Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company, was on a trout fishing trip in northern Michigan when he broke the tip of his pet bamboo rod. Because replacement tips were impossible to obtain during the war, he used his knowledge of glass fibre/Plaskon resin fabrication to attempt a replacement tip of fiberglass. Although it proved to be satisfactory, he continued to experiment with rods made entirely of fiberglass. Dissatisfied with these results, he revealed his experiments to Mr. Shakespeare's son, Henry Shakespeare, the Company's new Vice President and General Manager ... "

As for photos of early rods, Glastik has posted some beautiful pictures of very early Shakespeare rods on this forum. His pictures of model 1290 and 1390 rods from 1948 are here https://fiberglassflyrodders.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2524. Rods from 1949 and 1951 are here https://fiberglassflyrodders.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2521, and a 1945 prototype is here https://fiberglassflyrodders.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2523. In addition, I've posted a few (not nearly as nice) pictures of what Glastik has identified as a 1946 prototype here https://fiberglassflyrodders.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1220.

Who's got other pictures of very old fiberglass rods? I'd love to see them. I'd also love to hear any stories about the people who made them. Who out there worked or fished with G. G. Havens or A. M. Howald, or knows a good story about Henry Shakespeare, Ted Williams, or Charles Ritz?

Art


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Post 21 Oct 2008, 01:40 • #7 
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Joined: 04/27/07
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Location: Missouri
So it looks like the Wonder Rods were born about 1945, when did the first tobacco brown blanks come about? Was it Wright McGill that first began producing a rod in addition to the Shakespeare rods? Maybe Conolon? The old tobacco blanks can be a little tip heavy but I still like those early rods.

Tim


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Post 21 Oct 2008, 04:30 • #8 
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As Ron noted above, Vic Johnson gives credit to a Mr. McGuire and Phantom products for making the first SOLID glass fishing rods (whether this included fly rods is unclear). Don Phillips also indicates the solid rods came first from the same people. These rods were a length of glass fibers, soaked in resin, hardened, and finally ground to a round, tapered shape. There were no "hoop" fibers in the rod.

Dr. Howald built his rods around a balsa wood core, as shown in one of Glaskyd's links above. Eventually Howald and Shakespeare developed the process used for making Wonderods where fiberglass was spiralled around a metal rod (mandrel), then additional glass fibers running the length of the mandrel were added and cured into a fly rod.

G.G. Havers at Conair wrapped fiberglass cloth around a mandrel and cured it into hollow rods, also in the mid 40s. This was the origin of the technology used to make the tobacco rods and subsequently most rod blanks marketed since. This technique was spun off as NARMCO in 1945, creators of the Conolon rods (the other spin off was Hexcel, the company that made the fiberglass cloth). Herb Jenks started with Conair and left NARMCO in 1947 to help start Pacific Laminates (Silaflex). Obviously NARMCO was working with their fishing rods prior to Jenks leaving in 1947.

Vic Johnson felt that both Conolon and Shakespeare were developing different approaches to fly rod construction at about the same time. Of course, most development of civilian products had to wait until 1945, so the time overlap isn't a big surprise. Silaflex got into the game in the late 40s. Montague, Phillipson, and some of the others followed shortly after.

Tom

Vic Johnson & Vic Johnson - Fiberglass Fly Rods
Don Phillips - The Technology of Fly Rods


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 14:12 • #9 
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I know this is an old, old post. But I have been looking more into the claim that Phantom Products of Kansas City made the first fiberglass fishing rods. Here’s what I found:
Phantom Products didn’t exist until November of 1948. They were formerly known as It Products, Inc. They cite the first use of the Phantom name as September 1948.
Vic Johnson writes that a 1955 catalog states “Phantom, the oldest continuous maker of fiber glass fishing rods.” (Page 10 of his book). But that is not true. The catalog states “Phantom, the oldest continuous maker of fiber glass rods.” Vic added the word “fishing” between glass and rods. That one word changes everything. So maybe they made fiber glass rods, just not fishing rods, just like Narmco made Conolon in 1944, just not Conolon fishing rods.
Or was Phantom (It) the oldest continuous maker because Shakespeare moved production from Kalamazoo to Columbia and Narmco moved from San Diego to Costa Mesa?
The 1947 (written in 1946) Fishing Tackle Digest only has one brand of fiber glass fishing rod, the Shakespeare Wonderod. The second edition of 1949 (written in 1948) lists Narmco for the first time. The 1951 edition (written in 1950) finally lists Phantom as a rod maker.
I’m not convinced that anyone predated Dr. Howald’s documented 1944 date for a fiber glass fishing rod.


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 14:21 • #10 
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If you really want to argue, it was John Harrington when he was employed by Douglas Aircraft during WWII, and made fishing rods for personal use.


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 14:48 • #11 
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I don’t want to argue, just show me the documents from that time as evidence. Not someone’s recollections from decades later. Patent info would be fine.
Besides, WW2 ended in September 1945. There’s a lot of time between Dr. Howald’s June 1944 documentation and September 1945.


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 15:07 • #12 
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The Purist wrote:
I don’t want to argue...

all facts to the contrary


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 15:20 • #13 
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I’m not quite sure what you are implying there Bulldog. I’m presenting facts that I’ve learned through research, not my feelings or just regurgitating something that I read. As a collector, I choose to be a historian. As a historian, I choose fact over fiction.


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 16:51 • #14 
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The Purist wrote:
I don’t want to argue, just show me the documents from that time as evidence. Not someone’s recollections from decades later. Patent info would be fine.
Besides, WW2 ended in September 1945. There’s a lot of time between Dr. Howald’s June 1944 documentation and September 1945.

Purist, Do you have images of the Phantom catalogs that you could post?

If patent information is the only criteria, Libby Owens Ford gets the prize with patent GB627255A. Dr. Howald was working for Plaskon, a division of Libby Owens Ford, but surprisingly no authors are listed on the patent documentation. Libby Owens made the glass fiber and licensed their patents to anyone and everyone (potential customers).

Howald and Harrington used fiberglass on their fishing tackle 'projects' during WWII. Howald and Havers worked for large research organizations that would support strong patent protection. Both did basic research on the raw materials and processes. Harrington did not have corporate support and relied on the 'trade secret' approach to protect his technology. How McGuire and Phantom/It came by their technology, I don't know.

The technology developed 75+ years ago and the catalog prose was spun soon after. The people involved are long past their days of filing patents, writing memoirs, or replying to emails. Unless new primary sources are uncovered, all we can do is speculate.


Tom


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 17:25 • #15 
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Here's the original patent referenced in the GB patent above: https://patents.google.com/patent/US2571717A. Filed February 1946 and granted October 1951. The patent is about the manufacturing process more than the details of the usage, but it does describe the water-resistant properties of the result if the adhesive is water resistant.

Best quote for my money in the patent:

    "[...] peculiarly effective for use as shafts for fishing rods."


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 18:33 • #16 
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The ‘54 Phantom catalog is on the auction site now. There is also a reference to the verbage on it at the Corning Museum site.
Only Vic adds the word “fishing” between glass and rod, the catalog copy does not. However, the catalog does say “Fiber glass fishing rods” elsewhere on the cover, so they could have added the word “fishing” to their claim, but did not.
Dr. Howald did his experiments in his garage as a private citizen. No one, not Narmco, or LOF could dabble in fishing rod research during WW2. It was against the law. They would have lost valuable government contracts worth more than the fishing rods if they had. No one was anticipating the end of the war in 1945. No manufacturer anticipated the atom bomb.
So Harrington may have made fiberglass rods for himself during the war, but was it in 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, or 1945? For a fact we know that Dr. Howald was on it in mid-1944. Some might say “who cares?”, but I think the historical record of such a grest leap in technology should be accurately presented.


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Post 15 Aug 2020, 20:07 • #17 
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Catalogs document what is actively marketed at the time of printing. They are sales documents spun from the purest of puffery, hype, BS, and breathlessness. They are not accurate accounts of the recent corporate past.

Howald didn't melt his own glass yarns and synthesize polymers in his garage. He obtained his materials from work. He may have stayed late at the office to fix his tackle when nobody else was around. I would have. If Havens had an idea for civilian products, he certainly documented it well for future use. His employer paid his salary, not the US government.

Once WWII was over, companies did what they could to once again acquire raw materials and make products. Startups like Harnell, Pedley, Pacific Laminates, or Phantom didn't have the money for glossy catalogs, but that doesn't mean fishing rods weren't going out the door. The bigger companies like Shakespeare and Heddon retooled in a hurry. Convair Aircraft was probably already pivoting to peacetime production when they created NARMCO in 1944. While it is a disappointment to us, for all of these companies documenting the fine details didn't pay the rent.


Tom


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 07:33 • #18 
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I seriously doubt that Dr. Glenn Havens had much to do with the invention of hollow glass fishing rods other than to approve the research. He wasn’t a fisherman, he was a tennis player. His only patents up until then were for tires and artificial limbs. His only patent for fishing rods came later for his “sandwich” method of compressing the impregnated cloth to the mandrel. This was quickly abandoned because it resulted in two spines that had to be carefully ground off and the guides had to be carefully oriented on the shaft. The Howald Process left no spine.
The earliest documentation (that I’ve yet found) for a Conolon fishing rod is a single ad in a sporting magazine in 1946 for a San Diego company called Sun Aire Ltd. who advertised Conolon tips on their deep sea trolling rods. The ad never appears after that. My working theory is that the owner of Sun Aire commissioned these tips from Narmco. They would have had tips the size of soda straws. Dr. Havens likely saw this product as a good post-war production item for his company and either bought the idea from Sun-Aire or hired its owner. That may have been Herb Jenks. For reasons unknown to me, Jenks and four other Narmco employees left in 1947 to start up Pacific Laminates and Sila-Flex. I know it is all speculation, but it is based on known facts from the research I’ve done. I think it is a stretch to give Dr. Havens credit for inventing the tubular fishing rod, although he was instrumental in the development as Director of Narmco.


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 09:14 • #19 
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I don't recall where I read it or why I was researching, but Jenks was said to have several patents relating to the use of 'glass while working for Narmco, you might check that line of thinking. When I was looking at all that stuff, my impression was that they all were associated and worked on the various aspects of using 'glass with resins through the war effort, again I don't recall why I thought that, facts that would make the precise development of 'glass rods clear aren't well recorded.


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 09:39 • #20 
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Fortunately the Howald family saved Dr. Howald’s hand-written notes on his rod experiments that pinpoint the date he started.
There was a lot of fiberglass/resin work being done all over the country during the war by these big companies, just not on sporting goods.


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 10:57 • #21 
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Both Bob Miller and Todd Larson are history professors at major universities. Both of them live with an affiction for antique tackle, Bad Bob the Pflueger columnist in The Reel News, Dr. Larson provides a vehicle to publish books on antique tackle. Both post to be extremely helpful when people ask questions.
Neither one of them dredge up 12 year old discussion threads to "answer' questions not exactly being asked.
The question answered is, who did the best job documenting the work he did on early glass rods?
A better question would be, who took the first glass rod fishing?

If you look at the history of patents, Marhoff's level wind patent was enforced until it expired in 1928.
Kinda of a shame, because Douglas' 1918 patent in the first model Pflueger Supreme was radical, freespool, anti-reverse, and defeated the level-wind mechanism during casting, left behind in 1928 until all modern low profile baitcasters brought it back.
Hardy's flip-bail spinning reel patent, 1932, was enforced until 1954 with wartime extention, though by 1951 everyone was ignoring it, both Shakespeare and Mitchell introducing their flip bails.
Gotta wonder if there's a reason Libby-Owen's fiberglass fishing rod patent was never enforced. If you want a guess, it was because everyone's approach to making new fiberglass rods right after the war was so novel, there was no way to enforce it.
Indeed, if you compare the output of early glass rod design, none of them are quite alike.
It's the differences that make them special, useful, and desirable after 75 years.


Last edited by bulldog1935 on 17 Aug 2020, 09:31, edited 2 times in total.

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Post 16 Aug 2020, 11:21 • #22 
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A good question, and lots of good responses. I guess this corrects what I had heard that GIs, during WWII, repurposed fiberglass aerials from tanks for fly fishing.

Thanks,
steve


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 11:25 • #23 
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I heard that about beryllium copper radio antennae.


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 11:36 • #24 
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Hm, maybe that's what it was and the story got corrupted along the way to be fiberglass.

Thanks,
steve


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Post 16 Aug 2020, 12:49 • #25 
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The main use of fiberglass in WWII was radar domes (Douglas Aircraft, Convair Aircraft) - the research and production personnel are where the first glass fishing rods originated.
The different styles of these two types of people led to different, though parallel chains in their approaches to development and business, different approaches to achieving the necessary rod strength, durability, tapers (mandrels), as well as the way they were marketed once production and sales began.


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