Saturday, February 2, 2008

The United States Line Company - From Buggy Whips to Fishing Line

The notion of the buggy whip industry as the archetype of a dated, dying business has entered common parlance. The example of the buggy whip industry being made obsolete almost overnight by the rapid rise of the automobile industry has long been used in business schools to teach students the critical importance of adapting a business to meet the changing conditions of the marketplace.
The U. S. Whip Company made buggy whips like this one for more than 100 years.

United States Whip Company factory in the 1920s

Fortunately, for those of us who collect fishing tackle, and in particular, line spools; the United States Whip Company which had been established in 1822 survived the fate that befell most firms in the buggy whip industry in the early 1900s by transforming its core business from the manufacturing of buggy whips to the manufacturing of fishing line.
In the book that I am currently writing, America's Vintage Fishing Lines, the transformation of the United States Whip Company is described by a spokesman for the United States Line Company: "It was not easy to make the transition from one of America's largest buggy whip manufacturers ... to a World-Wide supplier of braided sport fishing lines. The sleeve of a whip was a braided rattan material so essentially we were braiding people. In the early 1920s as buggy whip sales slumped, U. S. Whip had no choice but to braid something else. Choices at that time were braided silk medical sutures, braided radio dial cord, or fishing lines. We at U. S. Whip chose the latter and since 1926 we have been braiding sport fishing lines ... and, we also changed our name and became the U. S. Line Company."

U. S. Line Company Factory as it appeared in the 1930s

When the U. S. Line Company began its new venture it decided to produce the very best braided Japan silk fishing lines that could be manufactured by drawing on its more than 100 years of whip braiding experience. The firm also created a beautiful full color catalog to promote the sales of its new "perfectly braided" fishing lines.

U. S. L. emphasized the detail and qualities of their braiding work with close up views of their lines in ads like this one from the 1920s

For the cover of their very first catalog the U. S. Line Company hired none other than Lynn Bogue Hunt, the famous sporting artist whose work had graced the covers of Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, as well as calendars and posters for the Remington Firearms Company.The U. S. Line Company introduced their first fishing lines which were described as being "perfectly braided," and even created one "top of the line" product which they labeled the "Perfection."

Unfortunately, the "Perfection" brand name was already trade marked by another line company, and so the name had to be changed to something else immediately after its introduction.

After publishing their very first catalog in 1926, which had been very costly to produce, a revised version had to be created. Rather than reprinting the expensive catalogs, U.S. L. used a rubber stamped notation that was placed in all of the remaining supply of catalogs that appeared above the "Perfection" brand name. It noted that name "Perfection" was now being changed to the trade name "Satisfaction."

The Satisfaction brand name also replaced the Perfection brand name on line spool labels as well in 1926 and was then offered continuously thereafter for the next eleven years.
The Satisfaction brand appeared for the very last time in the 1937 Catalog.
The collector who can find a line spool of the U. S. L. Satisfaction line will have found a pretty rare and historic "introductory year brand" that is now over 80 years old.
However, the collector who can find the even more scarce U. S. L. "Perfection" brand line, will have a fishing line that was made for only a very few weeks or months during 1926 - the very first year that one of America's very oldest companies quit making buggy whips and started making fishing lines instead.
If anyone has any additional U. S. L. products or historical information that I could include in my book, America's Vintage Fishing Lines, then please write to me at Thanks, John Etchieson

1 comment:

Ron said...

i just found two reels of line imperial us trolling line lead-cored 18 LB test 100 YDS,what year was it made and what did they use it for,OK Mate my email is and i am in Australia OK Thank You Mate Ron