In puritanical rural Connecticut, fishing on Sunday was very nearly a mortal sin. But Everett Horton, a hoop maker at a Bristol crinoline undergarment factory, wanted badly to fish on Sunday. In order to slip unnoticed out of town and to the stream, he invented a telescoping fishing rod. On March 8, 1887, he received a patent for his invention—US Patent 359153 A—and the rest is history.
Horton’s patent application doesn’t mention that his purpose was to dupe his church-going neighbors. Rather, it was to “produce a light and compact rod of superior convenience, elasticity, and durability, and one in which the line is protected against entanglement throughout the length of the rod.” Unlike typical fishing rods, on which the exposed line is guided through rings mounted at intervals along the rod, Horton’s rod had hollow tubes that carried the line inside, protected from tangling. Every angler of modest skill (like me) has experienced the recurring frustration of tangled lines.
Reportedly, Horton walked into a bank in Bristol the next year and asked to see the manager. In the meeting, Horton produced the fishing rod from his pants leg, to the manager’s alarm. When asked why he had made such a thing, Horton replied, “So you can sneak off fishing whenever you like, even on Sunday.”
He got the needed loan and went on to found the Horton Manufacturing Company. And to make a fortune. The fishing rod was instantly popular and by 1900 the Bristol Steel Rod was the most popular fishing rod in the United States. The rod was well-made and performed its intended function—to hide an angler’s intention and keep the line straight—but angling purists didn’t like it (of course). Nonetheless, Horton kept manufacturing his rods, eventually expanding the company into a producer of diverse metal household items.
The Pocket-Fisherman had to have an inspiration, and maybe we’ve just found it.
Anctil, Philip. (Nothing Up Your Sleeve) It May Be A Bristol Steel Rod. Fishing Talks. Available at: http://www.fishingtalks.com/nothing-up-your-sleeve-it-may-be-a-bristol-steel-rod-569.html. Accessed March 7, 2017.
New England Historical Society. Everett Horton Goes Fishing for a Fortune. Available at: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/everett-horton-goes-fishing-fortune/. Accessed March 7, 2017.
U.S. Patent Office. Patent 359153 A. Available at: https://www.google.com/patents/US359153. Accessed March 7, 2017.