A.H. Fowler reels were sold in the 1870’s. He was born in New York in 1825 and spent his professional career as a Dentist in Ithaca, NY. His experience with making false teeth and his love for fishing resulted in him designing a new fly fishing reel. On June 18, 1872, Fowler received his patent for a side mount, hard rubber fly fishing reel. He named the reel “The Gem.” To him, it was a jewel. The reel was first sold by Andrew Clerk & Co. as the sole agent for sales. In 1875, Fowler improved the design and sold the reels himself. “The Gem” was only advertised in the Forest and Stream magazine in 1874 and 1875.
His reels came in two sizes. The Trout size was 2 5/8 inches diameter and the Bass size was 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When the reel first came out, the rotating part was held to the foot with a wing nut screw like that shown in the advertisements. Shortly thereafter, the design was changed and the wing nut was replaced with a screw holding a click wheel. A click pawl and spring were also added.
Fowler also made six strip bamboo rods. Newspaper articles in the 1870’s and 1880’s describe how Fowler would donate his hand made rods to sporting clubs as tournament prizes. The rods were described as being very high quality. Fowler continued making rods after he stopped making reels. He practiced dentistry up until death in 1903. A.H. Fowler reels are considered to be made by one of the great New York reel makers.
The “A.H. FOWLER’S PAT. JUNE 18, 1872” Fly Reel
The FOWLER Reel April, 1874 “Forest and Stream” Magazine Ad
The FOWLER Reel Feb., 1875 “Forest and Stream” Magazine Ad
The FOWLER Reel in 1884 “Abbey & Imbrie” Catalog
The A.H. FOWLER June 18, 1872 Reel Patent
Another Great Antique Vintage Fishing Tackle Link: