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Antique fishing lures to be displayed at Morristown museum

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MORRISTOWN - The names attached to some of the antique fishing lures on display at the Morristown Gateway Museum this week often can be as unique as the shapes, colors and designs of the vintage angling gear itself.

The Paw Paw Wattafrog, hand-hewn and painted and hinged at the joints with tiny brass swivels, is a prime example, according to Ogdensburg antique fishing lure collector Shannon M. Demers.

“It was made in the 1940s and moves like a real frog,” said Ms. Demers. “It was used for bass and pike.”

Ms. Shannon is one of several regional collectors who will showcase part of their antique fishing collections at the Gateway Museum for two weeks beginning on Wednesday. The Morristown exhibit will feature hundreds of fishing lures, some dating as far back as the mid 1880s.

Museum Trustee Gary R. Alford said he came up with the idea for the exhibit because the antique gear provides an interesting glimpse into the region’s culture, craftsmanship and creativity. He said a century ago many of the lures, some manufactured in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, were commonplace in tackle boxes across the north country. Today, he said the artifacts fall squarely into the category of regional folk art.

“They are folk art as much as anything else at this point,” Mr. Alford said. “I enjoy folk art and I enjoy fishing and the natural combination of the two is antique fishing lures.”

Mr. Alford said the Gateway Museum display will feature hundreds of lures, some crafted by Earl W. Meade, a longtime summer resident of Morristown in the early 1900s. Others will include what he described as one of the best collections of vintage W.D. Chapman lures found anywhere in the world. The collection of lures crafted by Mr. Chapman, originally from Theresa, is owned by Ray Batholomew, Norwood, according to Mr. Alford.

He said the exhibit will also feature lures made by the former C.W. Lane Company, Madrid.

Mr. Alford said some of the vintage lures are works of art, while others border on odd. He said one of the items visitors to the museum can marvel at this month is a trolling lure that consists of a water-tight glass tube with fins and propellers designed to hold a live minnow as bait.

“Some of these are really funky things,” he said.

The exhibit will also feature of number of antique fishing spears, according to Mr. Alford.

The Morristown Gateway Museum’s two week display of antique fishing lures and equipment begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. The event is free of charge, and light refreshments will be served, according to organizers.

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