This may sound like a couple of other posts but this article adds more depth and comes with credits.
In 1872, brothers Leander L. Bartlett and Eugene P. Bartlett both born in Pelham, Massachusetts, began working in the fishing rod factory of Joseph G. Ward. About nine years later in May 1881 the brothers bought Joseph G. Ward’s fishing rod manufacturing business in Pelham, Massachusetts. J. G. Ward had been manufacturing rods for thirty-five years prior to the sale. Thus was the started the largest company in the world to become engaged in manufacturing both rods and reels. They offered a reel imprinted with the “Montague City Rod Company”, “Amhurst, Mass.”, stamping which was based on what was advertised as the Edward Follett patent although this patent probably didn’t exist.
In 1882 they built a factory in Montague City, MA for manufacturing split bamboo rods. Leander managed this factory and Eugene the Amherst factory. Joining them were Charles W. Hazelton and B.N. Farren. In 1885 a two story addition was added to the Montague City factory. The Montague City Rod Co. was incorporated October 24, 1885 with $21,000 in capitol.
Early in 1891 Thomas H. Chubb’s factory in Post Mills, Vermont, which manufactured rods and reels, was destroyed by fire for the third time. In July 1891 Montague City Rod Co. purchased what remained of the Chubb factory. Montague was marketing exclusively on a wholesale level and needed a retail outlet. T.H. Chubb stayed on for a year after the fire, directing the reconstruction of the new factory and aiding as needed. This company continued to be known as the T.H. Chubb Rod Co. Montague possibly/probably began making reels at the Chubb factory on a limited basis. In 1899 Montague purchased the reel making plant of U.S. Net and Twine/Frederick Malleson/A.G. Spaulding & Bro., the waters being somewhat murky here, located at 163 Grand Ave. in Brooklyn, NY. Now the manufacture of reels began in earnest. The reels were often stamped with the names of the retailers but never with the Montague name. Others were not stamped on the reels at all but on the box itself.
Leander L. Bartlett’s death in 1922 had little effect on the business. Montague was at its peak or manufacturing in 1925 when the death of Eugene P. Bartlett (born 1853) sounded the beginning of the death knell for the company. Upon his death a re-organization became necessary in order to settle his estate, and the following year Charles W. Schuler became president, W. Bruce Pirnie chairman of the board of directors, and Raymond P. Bennett became assistant to C.W. Schuler, and later the assistant treasurer and a member of the executive committee.
The company was administered by the First National Bank of Amherst which sold the stock to a brokerage firm in Springfield which bled the company dry. On September 20, 1927 the company name was changed to Montague Rod and Reel Co. and the reel making machinery was moved from Brooklyn to the Montague City factory shortly thereafter. Stock was sold to the public. Also in 1927 they decided to give name recognition to their rods and may have used the fish and talon logo on their rods. The logo appeared on the cover of the 1927 catalog for the first time and they started offering level wind reels that year.
When the holding company bled Montague dry the company was in serious trouble with the crash of 1929. Many orders from former customers were cut back and others cancelled any future orders altogether. Montague also did not make their top of the line reel, a Kentucky style to compete against makers such as Horton and Talbot, after 1929. Over the life of the company they produced casting reels with over 450 different names stamped on them and some 150 reels of a different design with the same name stamped on them. This did not include the fly reels or salt water reels. In 1930 Montague Rod and Reel Company had capitol of $600,000 preferred and 20,000 shares of common stock of no par value.
By 1930 they began offering a cheap line of non-level winding reels stamped with the Montague name. The Montague level winding reels with the hard rubber side plates were not stamped with their name. This was the first time Montague company had put the Montague name on a reel since before the turn of the century.
The 1932 Wilmarth Tackle Co. catalog, of Roosevelt, NY, had an advertisement offering new closed out Montague reels for a bare fraction of the original cost. Montague was eliminating their reel inventory for pennies on the dollar. The Pelham facility in Amherst, MA was officially closed on June 21, 1931. The Thomas H. Chubb factory was closed in 1933. By 1934 the stock was controlled by the principals of the Ocean City Reel Company, Paul J. Johnson and his father-in-law, Louis M. Moskowitz. The reel operation was moved to Philadelphia and the reel inventory was carried in the Ocean City catalogs until it was sold. Ocean City continued to sell Montague rods. Also by the time Ocean City acquired the Montague company many reels were being stamped with the Montague logo which were not of the Montague design. This continued for a number of years during Ocean City’s ownership.
The Reel News Vol. 7, No. 3 Fall 1997. (Phil White)
Fishing Collectibles Magazine Vol. 1, No. 4 Spring 1990 pp. 9-10. (Rick Stringer)
A Treasury of Reels by Jim Brown p. 82, pp. 83-4, pp. 113-114, pp. 126-27.
Classic & Antique Fly Fishing Tackle by A.J. Campbell p. 157, pp. 162-63.
The American Fly Fisher Vol. 7, No. 4 fall 1980 pp.12-18. (Mary Kefover Kelly)
The American Fly Fisher Vol. 11, No. 3 Summer 1984 pp. 3-5. (Mary Kefover Kelly)
History of Massachusetts Industries Their Inception Growth and Success Vol. 1
(Orra L. Stone 1930 – Boston)
Excerpts from: 1930 Montague City Rod & Reel Company Financial Report.
Horace Gray & Son – The First Fishing Rod Factory (PDF file) Pelham Historical Society
Various tackle catalogs.
Research by James K. Garrett & Lenard Brooks