Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Front Cover

Within the last year, I have gotten into collecting and fishing old vintage tackle.  At this point, I’ve acquired a good selection of reels and a few rods.  One of my favorite rods is an old 4-foot, 6-inch Richardson Rod pistol grip that s just plain fun to cast.  Another piece of history I have is a 1935-36 Richardson Rod & Reel catalog given to me by a reader.  As fun as their rod is to cast, this catalog is a joy to read and look at.  So, today in Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog, we’re going to delve into that book and see what they had to offer.

First off, the catalog is probably one of the nicest catalogs I have ever seen.  The colors used, the print, and the images are just beautiful.  Not only that, the catalog is giant.  Looking at the cover it appears to be printed on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper.  But when I went to open it, I realized that the catalog was folded and each page was printed on 11 x 17 glossy paper.

This was an expensive catalog to print and considering that it was printed during the great depression means that the Richardson Rod and Reel company was doing pretty good during this tough time.

Richardson Rod & Reel Company was based out of Chicago and started business in 1916 with the acquisition of Van Doren rods.  Prior to that, they were the Richardson Ball Bearing Skate Company. In addition to rods, the company made landing nets and gaffs, which are also featured in this catalog.

In 1920 they bought out Talbot Reel & MFG Company thus adding high-end reels to their inventory.  But although they advertise their company name as a rod and reel company, there are no reels offered in this catalog.

Speaking of the catalog, let’s move on to it.

The first thing I noticed about the cover was the great illustration of the rod and reel being cast.  The colors red, yellow, green, and black on a white background really pop.  Also, it’s hard to miss the Richardson Rod & Reel Co. writing at the bottom of the cover.  Just up from that, though, was something that caught my eye.  Written in the red rectangle was,




It appears that this catalog was printed for some factory rep in Argentina, which I find quite curious.  How much fishing tackle was being exported at this point in time?

Opening the catalog, you’re greeted with everything you need to know about the company.  They state their company policy, new technologies they were using, their guarantee, and what they manufactured.  Again, no mention of any reels.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 1

Page two opens up with their Brookside “One Piece” Solid Steel casting rods, models 1 and 10.  These rods come in five different lengths, between 3- and 5-feet, in 6-inch increments.  What I find interesting is the hexagonal cross section, like the split bamboo rods of the day.  Why they chose this shape, I don’t know.  Was it to mimic split bamboo or did it provide a superior action?

Also, look at the specifications of each rod.

Blade (blank) – hexagonal and gun metal or bronze plated

Guides – Three plus tip top genuine agate

Windings – Nickel silver wire, soldered, striped red and white at guides, butt and tip.

Handle – Offset die cast aluminum, polished and chrome plated.  Kantslip reel band.

Grips – Shaped specie cork.

Bag – Heavy duck with wood protector.

Lengths – 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2, and 5 feet.

One  design and manufacture element I find cool is the use of metal thread to wrap the guides.  One I find that had me scratching my head, and this isn’t just with Richardson Rods, was the minimalist use of guides.  As a custom rod builder, I learned that you used enough guides to keep the line off the rod.  Three guides, even on a 3-foot rod, may not be enough to accomplish this, let alone on a 5-foot rod.

You also need to note their description of the pistol grip handle.  It’s not even called a pistol grip.  They call it a “modern design offset handle.”  By 1935 the pistol grip had almost replaced the standard straight grip on all baitcasting rods.  This was due to tournament casters preferring the feel and accuracy of the offset handle over the straight handle.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 2

The next page continues with their Brookside models, this time Models 20 and 30.  These rods deviated from models 1 and 10 only in a couple ways.  First the finishes were either a grained bamboo or black flexible finish.  Next the rods were wrapped with silk thread and the model 30 grips were made from rock maple with a black finish.  Honestly, that handle looks really sharp.

What’s just as impressive, though, is the catalog itself.  The colors are vibrant and show off the product in a very seductive manner.  You take this much pride in creating a form of advertising I can only imagine the quality of these rods in their day.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 3

Page four features their Peerless series of one piece rods.  This series of rods came in three models, the 40 Bait Casting, 55 Bass Rod, and 56 Musky Rod.  All the shafts were the hexagonal design.  They also list a model 57 but this was a package kit that came with a 55 and 56 shaft, one handle and a special rod bag to carry the whole set.

The 40 and 55 model rods came in five different lengths, again from 3-, to 5-feet.  The model 40 was wrapped with silk thread, where the 55 and 56 used wire.  Their finishes varied between a grained bamboo finish on the model 40 and cadmium plated for the 55 and 56.  What I don’t like is the fact that on the 40 and 55, there were only two guides plus the tip top.  The model 56 wasn’t much better with three guides.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 4

The Champion series was next on page five.  This series of rods was obviously a grade lower in cost but still the same quality as the other rods they made.  The rod shafts were square instead of hexagonal, they only had two agate guides and a tip top, and the cork on the grips was a lower quality.

Handles used in the Champion series was a lower grade offset handle which used a clamp screw instead of their Kantslip reel band, or a standard straight handle.  Models 152, 157, and 159 came with the pistol grip where models 125 and 130 came with the straight grip.  Rod lengths again were 3- to 5-feet.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 5

Pages six and seven featured trolling rods designed for heavy freshwater and ocean fishing.  Since we’re only interested in bass fishing, we won’t cover them in any detail but we’ve placed them below in the event someone is interested in looking at them.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 6
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 7

Pages eight and nine bring us to Richardson’s jointed or multipiece rods.  These rods came in the Brookside, Peerless, and Champion series as well as a fourth, the All Star series.  Models covered the gamut including bait casting and a bait/fly rod combo.

Unfortunately, there are no prices in the catalog which means we can’t compare prices between the different series of rods.  It’d be nice to know if the multipiece rods sold for more than the one-piece rods.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 8
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 9

Pages 10 and 11 show off their telescopic rods, again in the same series.  All these rods came in only one length as opposed to multiple lengths with the one-piece and multi-piece rod models.  All were made to the same standards of their top-of-the-line rods according to the brochure.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 10
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 11

To end the catalog, Richardson filled pages 12-15 with landing nets, gaff hooks and extra guides.  They were known for producing one of the best nets in the industry and dedicating three whole pages to them shows how proud they were of them.  I wonder if any of these nets have survived over the years.

Gaff hooks were another product they were known for.  What many today don’t realize is that you were as likely to see a gaff in a musky, pike, or salmon boat as you were on an ocean going boat.  Remember, fishing wasn’t just a sport back in the 1930s, it was a way to feed the family.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 12
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 14
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 13
Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Page 15

That about does it for this amazing catalog.  I honestly can’t say I have seen a better looking catalog in a long time.  I hope you enjoyed this look back into the days of steel rods and great marketing.  And, if you have any information on Richardson Rod and Reel Company, please let us know in the comments section below.

Richardson Rods 1935-36 Catalog Back Cover