Bamboo Bonzai

Winchester Rods

Reprinted from Michael Sinclair's Bamboo Rod Restoration Handbook

Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, Conn. was an old and highly respected manufacturer and seller of sporting goods of all sorts. The products they sold were usually marked with the famous Winchester logo, though many were not actually made in their own factories.

In the period immediately following [World War I], Edwards was approached by the Winchester Company about making rods to sell under the Winchester trademark. In 1919, the sale of E. W. Edwards Rod Co. was finalized, and as a condition of the sale Edwards went to New Haven, Conn. to supervise the manufacture of the Winchester Rods for five years - Eustis Edwards had been one of H. L. Leonard's proteges in New York, and had also been one of the principals in the Thomas, Edwards & Payne Co. which manufactured the Kosmic rods. As such, his name was associated with it.

It was perhaps the Edwards reputation as much as his rodmaking skills that made him the choice of Winchester to build the rods that would carry their trademark. This does indeed seem to be the case. From the very beginning, Winchester boasted that "These rods are made under the direct supervision of Mr.E. W. Edwards." The highest grade rods (those selling for $50) were advertised as "Hand-made throughout by Mr. E. W. Edwards. These rods are perfect in every detail."

Edwards may not have had as much control over the rod building operation as the catalogs lead us to believe. He became uncomfortable with the lower quality of the mass-produced rods, and when his contractual obligation was completed in 1924, he left Winchester and went into business on his own.

Edwards/Winchester Rods of higher grades were very good rods; they used high quality nickel silver ferrules and hardware, and had good taper designs. The higher grades were the equal of any rods in production, and were better than most. The cane and finishing work was absolutely first-class. The middle grade rods were strictly average in all respects. But, the lower grades had few redeeming qualities. The hardware used on the lowest grades was nickel plated brass, as were the ferrules. The cane work was typical of lower grade production rods, with random node spacing and little care in matching the cane for color and quality. The end result was a cheap rod that equalled the lower grades of Montague and Horrocks-Ibbotson.

It is no wonder that Eustis Edwards soon tired of this type business.

Markings on Edwards/Winchester Rods are usually only the model number, a four digit number that begins with the numeral "6", and corresponds to those shown on the chart. This number is usually stamped into the reelseat hardware, but may appear written on the rod shaft. Note that the model number designates the grade, length and type of action. Unless you have the chart as a reference, the model numbers are very confusing.

After Edwards left Winchester, the company continued to produce rods for several years without benefit of Edwards' expertise.

The rods certainly did not get any better during this period. Without being able to use the Edwards name, Winchester needed a name to help sell its rods. In the late 1920's and very early 1930's, Courtney Ryley Cooper, famous angling author, was the Winchester "poster child." Full page, full color advertising was used in sporting magazines to announce that Courtney Ryley Cooper uses Winchester Tackle.

By 1935, Winchester had sold its rodmaking division, both bamboo and steel, to Horrocks-Ibbotson of Utica, N.Y. H-I/Winchester rods were of average or lower quality. The markings on these rods are usually simple. The Winchester name and model name are written on the rod shaft, with white ink, with the letters reading toward the grip. The rods themselves are standard H-I models which were re-named to help distinguish them as Winchesters.

It does not seem that Winchester sold these rods. If that is true, Horrocks-Ibbotson made use of the Winchester reputation much as Winchester had exploited the Edwards name in the early 1920's. Wraps for H-I/Winchester rods varied dramatically, and almost any H-I wrap pattern may be used as long as you pay attention to the relative grade of the rod.

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