Small Maker & Folk Art Fishing Tackle
John B. Gesaman
Canal Fulton, Ohio
Following up on a lead from an antique dealer I was able to track down a descendent, obtaining both an oral history and some of his lures. I was also able to obtain a newspaper interview from the early 60s.
“Honest John” was a professional pitcher in his youth, playing in the Ohio-Pennsylvania minor league. I reached out to a minor baseball historian. Based on the photograph of John in his uniform, he most likely player for the Sharon Steels 1905-06, Sharon Giants 1907-08, 12 or Sharon Travelers 1911, all from Sharon, PA. It appears he started on a coal miner team out of Greenville Ohio and moved up to the Ohio-Penn league. He pitched for 7 years until he injured his arm. In a published interview he reminisces of playing in exhibitions with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Rube Marguard.
Father of 15, he worked in the coal and limestone mines around North Lawrence, Ohio. We worked till the age of 74. In his later years he live in Urban Hill, living in a family run trailer park.
According to his descendent and newspaper interview in the early 60s, he was whittling fishing lures as a past time. He relative remembers him hand carving each of lure out of a block of wood. He made the lures in groups; first carving them, rigging the lures and finally painting them. He hung his lures from his trailer home awning and nearby trees to dry. He enjoyed traveling to Canada on fishing trips during the summer. The lures were made from the 1930s thru the 1960s per family history. It’s was not clear if he sold the lures or gave them away, but enough lures have been found outside the family to suggest he may have had a small side business selling lures as well.
His lures are one piece wood carvings with carved heads or lips. Most are simple screw eye rigging, but one has been found with a cup rigged belly hook. Frog lures are found in a variety of paint patterns, with painted, carved and hat pin and glass eyes. Other wigglers are painted in a variety of attractive striped and shore finish patterns. The paint quality varies from very crude to very detailed artistic quality.