Whitefish Press

The Chronological History of Penn Reels, 1932-1957

Michael Cacioppo


8.5" x 11" Softcover - 286 Total Pages - Full Color Throughout - 100s of Photos


One of the greatest success stories in the history of fishing tackle is the Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia, Penn. Founded by Otto Henze in the teeth of the great depression, Henze revolutionized the field of saltwater angling, making the sport affordable for the working man by creating brilliantly simple and rugged fishing reels that would stand up to generations of use. Here, for the first time ever, Penn reel historian and collector Michael Cacioppo takes you through the history of Penn year by year, from its founding in 1932 through its 25th anniversary year of 1957.

In between you’ll watch a fledgling company, founded on determination and hard work, enter the cut-throat business of fishing reel manufacturing and come to dominate the saltwater field in less than a decade. From the original Models F and K to the Sea Ford to the legendary Penn Senator, this book covers the origins and development of all Penn model reels built during the company’s first quarter century of existence. This book contains the most complete history of the company yet written, hundreds of full color photos of reels, surveys of every known Penn catalog, and a detailed appendix covering every reel made during the years 1932-1957 on a year-by-year basis. Includes a Foreword by David Martin, formerly Penn's CEO and CFO! A must have for anyone who has ever loved a Penn reel!


The Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company was founded in Philadelphia, Penn. in 1932 by Otto Henze, a German immigrant who came to America in 1922. He became a machinist at the Ocean City Manufacturing Co., where he learned the art of reel making. In retrospect, you could not have picked a worse time to start a company in American history. The Great Depression was in full swing; the Gross National Product fell 13.4% that year alone, the biggest drop in American history, and unemployment soared to over 25%.

Henze was not dissuaded by the bread lines. In 1932 he worked out the details of his prototype reels, which he designed with a philosophy that guided Penn down to the present: "make it simple, make it work." Working out of a third floor loft in the shop of William Schmitz & Co., he built the first Penn Models F and K. The Model F was a classic bakelite surf casting reel; the Model K had reinforced side plates and a free spool mechanism (some also had a star drag).

By 1933, he was ready to sell to the public. Documents tell us that he sold around $7500 worth of reels that year, but the fact that his reels had all the features of his competitors but at half the price made Penn an immediate success. In 1936, just four years later, his gross sales had increased tenfold. As the title of an article in The Sporting Goods Dealer that year declared, it was Henze who made a "Millionaire's Sport Become the Sport of Millions." The most important voice in the sporting goods world credited Henze with pioneering big game fishing reels at budget prices.

By 1939, Penn had grown so large that they were the dominant force in the saltwater fishing world; World War II intervened and Penn played a role in this world conflict. After the war, Penn saw incredible growth, entering a golden age in the company's history. From the Model 85 to the Squidder to the Senator, Penn said the standard for the field.

For the first time, author Michael Cacioppo outlines a chronological history of Penn reels. From the very earliest prototype to the 25th anniversary, Cacioppo has left no stone unturned. This exhaustively researched book, the product of over fifteen years of research, is the most definitive history of Penn written. Perfect for collectors, historians, and anyone who ever loved a Penn reel, it has hundreds of color photos and reproduces numerous early company ephemera and advertisements.


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The Chronological History of Penn Reels, 1932-1957
September 2014, Softcover
$54.95 Retail Price -- SPECIAL $49.95



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