Montague Fishing Reels
Known as one of the Major reel manufacturers in the U.S, Montague is responsible for some of the finest German Silver Reels ever crafted. Montague dates way back to 1881 when Leander L. & Eugene Bartlett purchased the ( J. G. Ward fishing rod business located in Amherst, Massachusetts.) By 1882 the Bartlett’s started a factory in Montague City, Massachusetts to make split bamboo rods. Sometime in 1885 they added on to the Montague City factory and became incorporated as the (Montague City Rod Company.) Montague crafted reels of all types and styles at various price sets. Tackle houses who purchased a minimum order, could have reels stamped with their label or name and numbers. Montague reels were sold by many of the finest outdoor retail establishments either by walk in sales or mail order via catalogue. (Von Lengerke & Antoine or otherwise known as VL&A) (Abercrombie & Fitch) (Abbey & Imbrie) to name a few. Montague had a way with German Silver, they were masterful and made some very high quality reels for these tackle houses most of which catered to high society people who demanded only the best quality German silver reels. For us here we are focused on the Montague reels sold to Von Lengerke & Antoine the infamous VL&A. VL&A was formed in 1891 and very quickly became known as one of the premier sporting goods retailers in Chicago, located at 335 Wabash Ave, in Downtown Chicago. VL&A was formed as an extension of Von Lengerke & DeMond, which was started just a short time prior to VL&A. Stiff competition formed between VL&A and Abercrombie & Fitch, which would later end in the favor of Abercrombie & Fitch. Not necessarily because they were better but because of circumstance. In the late 1920's Chicago was rife with gangs fighting over turf and bootleg liquor, the VL&A location at 335 Wabash Ave was right in the middle of Al Capone's turf. Capone dominated Chicago from 1925 to 1931 and became perhaps the most famous gangster in the United States. Al Capone gang members, and after our research we believe the big man Al himself shopped VL&A Chicago on a regular basis, for pistols and Sub Machine Guns made by Colt. The gang could go get gun's under the guise of calling them a "Sporting Good", dressed in their pinstripe 3 piece suits, fancy hats, & shoes these bad guy's blended in to the high society people VL&A attracted to their store. It is known fact that 2 of the iconic Thompson Sub Machineguns with the round drum magazines used in the February 14, 1929 St. Valentines day Massacre, in which 5 of Al Capones men killed 7 men from a rival gang were sold by Colt to the Capone gang through VL&A. Sold and delivered to be picked up at VL&A, 335 Wabash Ave, in Downtown Chicago the two guns were traced back to the store via ballistics testing and serial numbers. Which means fishing reels dating back to this time period stamped with VL&A on the face plate could have been in the stockroom at the time these machine guns were picked up by Al Capone's men. VL&A was never able to recover from the image and scandal surrounding the dealings with the Capone gang, even though we believe they had no other choice, VL&A was in a "Do what we want, or else" situation and probably paying protection money as well. VL&A sold out to Abercrombie & Fitch in the early 1930's as the infamous Al Capone was being pursued by Eliot Ness and his famous "Untouchables" Capone facing the beginning of his downfall. Big Al would end up being convicted on Tax evasion charges and spend time in prison, later he would be sent to the infamous Alcatraz prison as one of the very first inmates, he would later be released for medical reasons and good behavior, Capone would pass away in 1947. This wild twist in the Montague Fishing Reels sold to VL&A, for their VL&A fishing reel series adds to the appeal to collect these great reels. We are searching for more of these fantastic German Silver reels from this time period.
Montague VL&A Expert #3 German Silver Reel. Our reel dates to 1928-29. This is one of the finest reels VL&A had ordered from Montague for their store and catalog. Made from German Silver with Jeweled Bearing ends Balanced Ivory gripped handle, and the clicker and drag on the face plate. This reel was fast, easy to use and durable. The 1928 VL&A catalog says " We consider this to be one of the most practical reels that we have ever had the pleasure of offering to our customers" We Agree, this reel cost $12 net back in 1928. At 80 yards capacity and around 8 ounces, this was a fish catching machine, and one of our favorites.
Al Capone enjoyed fishing, could that be a Montague VL&A Reel he is seen using in this photograph? Good question Eh! We know the VL&A store in Chicago at 335 Wabash Ave, was frequented by the gang, it's not a stretch to believe they purchased fishing equipment as well. Just another of the deep rich stories the collecting of fishing equipment holds.