Thursday, January 29, 2009


A Few years ago I had an opportunity to contact a man from Norway who was interested in glass fishing floats and the history of the makers and users of the floats.

An initial email was sent not only to introduce myself as a collector of European glass fishing floats, but also to encourage him to hunt for specific floats and the history of their use in his country. It was also mentioned that his country was where the earliest floats came from, and that I thought there were many possibilities for finding floats and historical facts about the earliest makers of floats. I hoped that he would take me up on the challenge to get more involved.

Per wrote me a very nice return email, and said that he would see what he could find. Well, if you happen to know Per, then you know that once he has his head in a direction, the best thing to do is to sit back and appreciate his incredible flow of energy in action.

During the next few years, he advertised, he wrote letters and emails, he telephoned and he made numerous expeditions in Norway and neighboring Sweden to find floats. Whenever he and his lovely wife Tone, were on vacation, they spent time antiquing, and Per found some wonderful floats in countries outside of his homeland.

Together, we shared hundreds of emails. Man! We had a lot of fun during those years, and became friends. I will never forget the excitement whenever I opened one of those emails. I've kept all of them in a file. Some of the emails that stand out, were sent while Per was on expedition, or on vacation with Tone. While on vacation, he would tell me where they had been, the foods, wines and beers they had tasted, and their adventures and finds.

When Per was solo on float-finding expeditions, along with the day's stories, he would always include photos of wonderous Norwegian scenery, the inside of fishermen's boat houses, old fishermen, their gear and special floats that had been found that day. I wanted to be there on expedition with him so badly, but responsibilities and timing would not allow that. So, I lived vicariously and excitedly with Per during those times. Then Per changed direction.

He needed a rest from the intense years of searching, researching, writing and answering emails. His love for photography took him in another direction, and suddenly, our worlds changed a bit.

Of course, we continued to keep in touch. Once in a while, I would write an email with some float memories thrown in for old time's sake. There was always the hope in me, that one day Per would send me an email with new floats that he had found, that he would get back into the game in even a small way.

In December, Per wrote to say that he was thinking of making an expedition again. He had an idea for a book, and we began collaborating on ideas for his book. Suddenly, Per wanted to get back on the road to look for floats, only this time he had a new direction to compliment the hunt for glass balls. He also spoke of his desire to research the old fishing days again, and to search out the companies that supplied the fishermen with gear back in the old days.

Last summer, I found the names of two Norwegian companies that were suppliers of gear to that country's fishermen in the 1870's, and asked him to research them if he had time.

Fagerheims mek.Not&Garfabrik-Bergen: who were manufacturers of seines and nets, and who sold cod gill net of hemp with glass floats, not tanned, 30 meters long and 40 meshes deep.

Fineide L. Johannesne Hemnaes, Fishes at the Lofoten and In Marken Fisheries who made Cod Gill Nets with newly invented glass floats, and with pieces of chain for sinkers.

Per reasoned that companies similar to Christiania Magasin (formerly Kristiania Magasin), must have existed, and maybe, they had their own float cachets as did Christiania (CM). On Monday of this week, I received this email from Per:

Hi Tom

I think I have solved the mystery about the Rare Norwegian HD float. I found 6 floats in Vesteraalen and Troms last year, remember?
This huge shipping company (Hindø
Dampskibsselskab "with seat in Sigerfjord in Vesterålen."
The shipping company owned at the end of the 1800s and a
couple decades into the 1900s, several steam-powered boats
driving bank fishing and herring fishing. The company
was a pioneer in the development of boats and gear technology)
Hindø Dampskibsselskab = HD floats look at pictures:


My good friend is back into the float game. A new expedition is planned, and there is a flow of excitement coursing through me. I wonder what the future will bring?

Have fun Bud, and best of good fortune in all of your endeavors. You know that I will be there with you in spirit, and looking forward to your emails.

Post Script: I looked at my HD this morning, and have a question...The color and texture of the glass beg me to wonder if the float was made at the Flesland Glasverks? While two criteria are there, the normal bold Flesland cachet is not. Instead, the letters HD are small, thin-scripted, and one has to look closely to discern the beautiful delicacy of the mark.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I keep files of emails, research, cut-out addresses written on boxes that floats have come in-with the date, and type of float on the back, photos, etc. Once in a while I spend some time going through the files. Since the start of this blog, many evenings will find me face-down in those files, then grabbing a handful of paperwork looking to see what might be found that would add substance to a thread for a new post.
Recently, the following was found:

Fischnetzglaskugeln (Glass Fishing Floats)
by Werner D. Godehart

Many decennia glass floats were made in the "Wilhelmshutte" glass factory. They were used to work in the nets of sea fishermen and had as a function to float the upper side of these nets.

This floats have been made in eight different sizes:

3" 150gr.
4" 300gr.
5" 435gr.
6" 675gr.
7" 900gr.
8" 1225gr.
10" 2000gr.

Next to these floats a oval float was made of 31 volumes, with neck applies seal. Plus or minus 7", weight 1100gr.

The floats were mouth blown with a glass makers blow pipe. In the closed entry, the seal showing the huts mark was impressed.

The transport of the floats was normally in standard train containers, but for the export overseas the floats were stitched into straw filled sacks. They were send all over the world but the main customers were from Denmark and Portugal.

Today you only can buy them in antique shops, but you also can still find them in the rose gardens of former fishermen of steam fishing ships.

Till WWII herring fishermen used to catch the break drifted floats from the sea level to bring them with them for their wives. The women used to decorate their front gardens with the floats. When the sun felt into the glass it gave the garden an extra beauty. But also they showed in this way to be proud to their husbands being a member of a logger crew.

(written information dated 8 Jan 1991 from the "Heimat-und Herinsfangermuseum"= the "Homeland and Herring Catchers Museum)".

The Wilhelmshutte Glass Factory was first established in 1891, and continued until 1991. Large tracts of deep forest were located along the river Weser, and because of that excellent source of fuel to keep the furnaces going, the glass works was built there. It was officially located in Nienburg on the river Weser.

When I looked at the word "Wilhelmshutte," the thought to separate the word revealed two words: Wilhelms hutte. If you care to Google or use another search engine, you will find the works listed as: Wilhelm Hut, together with the larger company Himly, Holscher & Co.

From the description provided by Mr. Godehart, together with the statement from my friend Olaf, the W in the House mark is from Wilhelmshutte Glass Factory. The time period of it's existence puts the company in operation through the most intense time of glass float usage.

Certainly hope that one day I can find the 3", 4" and 10" examples of the Wilhelmshutte glass floats! The photos above show a Wilhelmshutte Dog Float with the Hutte mark. David, a collector who lives in Sweden, has found at least two of these in Sweden, and has allowed me to post photos of his terrific Swedish finds.

The amber 8" Hutte marked float was from the collection of my friend Olaf, who, knowing my love for Euros, gave me the opportunity to add it to the collection. The glass is unlike other Hutte marked floats, in that it is full of whittle marks, bubbles and swirls of darker amber in the glass.
The rich green colored float is typical of the Hutte floats, and the mark is almost always a good strong strike that was done with care.


While researching through my files, I discovered a preface, and thought that others might enjoy reading some history-a history that gives me the strong desire to have been there then, knowing what I know now.

From the article, Fishing Floats by Peter Vermeulen & Juergen Bohrens, comes this preface.

In the second half of the fifties, I (Peter) used, as a boy,to camp in the summer holidays in a very small village at the North-Sea beach called Groote Keeten. It is situated nearby Callantsoog, in the Province of Noord-Holland.
Sometimes-when you were lucky-you could find, after a storm, a glass ball. Mainly they were green, but sometimes, clear or violet. They had a certain spell I must admit.
Local fisherman told me that these balls were used to keep the upper side of their nets floating.
Only "old fashioned" boats were still using these glass floats. Modern boats were using plastic variants.
Some habitants of the village had surrounded parts of their gardens with a line of glass floats, instead of a fence.
Each year I took some floats home, but they always vanished during the traditional spring cleaning of the house.
So, discovering some fishing floats in our annual, club bottle auction, this was really a "aha" experience!
As Juergen was born in Plon, near the Baltic Sea coast, he knew the floats since he was a little boy, but of course seeing them so often, he had no special feelings on them.

It's little pieces of history like this writing, that help to get me a little closer to that time now past, and which also give meaning to why I am collecting and writing about glass fishing floats.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Friend and a Revelation

Call it fate. Call it luck. No matter what you want to call it, unexpectedly, good things happen. Peter Vermeulen is not only a good thing that happened to me, he is also a friend.

It started with an Ebay auction for three small netted Norwegian floats. When I saw the auction, I was amazed at the beautiful netting on the floats-netted in styles that I had not seen. The description said that all were marked, and all were small 2.5" to 3" diameter Euros. Those small Euros were something new and unknown to me back then.

The price was fair, and with the cost of postage from Europe, if no one else overbid the starting price, they were affordable. So, I bid, and as luck or fate would have it, no one bid against me.

As soon as I won the auction, I emailed Peter, and introduced myself, and my passion for glass floats, particularly European floats. Peter not only quickly responded, but also told me about himself, and attached a terrific piece of writing he had done, titled, "Some dates on European Fishing Floats."

Peter is one of the foremost collectors of Case Gin bottles in the world. His writings about historical glass are wonderfully researched, and full of hard-to-find historical facts. The glass float article that he had written was just such an article. One fact that jumped out at me, was the information about the German "Kleeblatt," or Clover Leaf float that was made by the Glasfabrik Hermann Heye.

Eureka! At last! There was a company behind a marking.

The very first European glass float that I found was a 5" beautiful light green ball with the cachet, "Made in Germany," over a clover with a rectangular base. It was first seen as my wife and I were driving on a sunny Sunday afternoon down the Blackwood Clementon Road in Southern New Jersey.

We had just finished an enjoyable afternoon searching through the offerings at a local auction and flea market. As we drove somewhat slowly in the afternoon traffic, I spied that ball shining in the sun atop a lawn table in someone's yardsale. Quickly, I found a parking place, walked over, slowly advanced to the ball, picked it up and the owner and I got down to business:

"What is this thing?"
"Oh it's a crystal ball."
Laughter, followed by,
"Come on, this is no crystal ball."
"What do you think it is?"
"I don't know."
"Where did you get it?"
"It was in a box of stuff I picked up at an auction."

I thought for sure that it was a glass ball, but had never seen a mark like that, having only been familiar with Japanese glass floats that I had been beachcombing back at our Washington home. The next inevitable question was:

"Do you want to bargain a bit?"
"Make me an offer."
"I like it, but don't want to spend that much on it(the sticker price was $8.00)."
Well, what do you want to spend?"
"How about $3.00?' 'I'll take a chance on it, just because I'm curious, and kind of like it."
Deal done!

Months later, after returning to our Washington Coast home, we attended the 1st. Ocean Shores Beachcomber's Show, and there I met Amos Wood. He was sitting at a table in front of a pile of his books. We began to talk, and after buying an autographed copy of Beachcombing for Japanese Glass Floats, I returned with that float together with a few of my favorite finds.

Mr. Wood was so kind to this neophyte float collector, and knew exactly what I had found. He told me that particular float was a European float, and that it was the first one that he had seen with both the Kleeblatt and the wording. My first Euro, and now, thanks to Peter, I know which glass company made it.

From the website, www.obernkirchen-infode/gerrverbe.htm

Milestones of history

comes this timeline of the company from it's beginning until the WWII years:

Historical View from the beginnings of the Heye Glass Factory

1799 Establishment of the glass factory in Obernkirchen by Johann Conrad Storm.
1823 Caspar Hermann Heye is a shareholder in the glass factory
1842 Caspar Hermann Heye is the sole owner of the glass factory, which from now bears the name of Hermann Heye.
1847 Establishment of the support fund for needy Heye employees and their relatives
1855 Acquisition of the glass factory in height Wendt Stadthagen (production until 1932)
1859 Acquisition of the glass factory near Hanover Stein (production until 1932)
1871 Construction of the `Heye" between glass factory in Nienburg (aside 1931 as a result of the global economic crisis)
1884 1884 Acquisition of the glass factory Annahütte, Niederlausitz, production of glass up to the turn of 1945-1990 as a socially owned VEB operation in the former GDR)

1888 Heye works Annahütte lignite (brown coal mining until 1945)
1906 The first Owens-automated production machines will be put into operation
1913 Purchase of a glass factory in Flensburg (production until 1939)
1942 Establishment of the Association of Support Activities Association Heye'schen by the company owner Elisabeth Heye. The support association now pays pensions to about 900 retirees and widows from.

In 2001, the name Herman Heye Glasfabrik was changed to Heye Glass International, which is in operation today.

There is also another excellent article titled, "The Dating Game: Herman Heye Glasfabrik," by Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsey
It can be found on the website, Bottles and Extras. This site deals with bottles, but the history of the Herman Heye Glassworks, is excellently done, and definitely worth a read. There is also an excellent photo of the base of a Heye glass bottle showing the clover with the rectangular base.

The two gentlemen in the photo above are, Juergen on the left, and Peter on the right. The photo above Juergen and Peter, is a wonderful piece of visual proof of the company name next to its logo.

Peter has been an excellent email friend, and teacher. Through him, I have learned much about the history of European glass makers. He has pointed me in the right direction more than once, always been there with an answer to my questions if the answer was available, and has put me in touch with some of the most wonderful and knowledgeable European glass collectors and friends that I could ever hope for. My glass float collection has grown in quality because of Peter, Juergen and Olaf's generosity, and this post is dedicated to them and most of all, to our mutual friend, Peter.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Scotland

Darned if I know!

Since my last post concerning the search for the maker or meaning of the SN float's cachet or maker's mark, there have been two very good emails sent to me concerning the mark.
The first is from Richard, who is the "hunting buddy." that Bob mentioned in his email to me concerning the possibility that the SN mark stands for the company, National Sea Products.

Richard said this:

Hi Tom,
I enjoyed reading your blog, and see you're working on the NS mystery.
I actually purchased my NS float in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia where the
sales lady told me it meant "National Sea". I think the lady was just
guessing, since the huge fish cannery there, now defunct, could never
have been supplied by glass float nets. However most of these floats
seem to come from the Northeast, not the UK or Norway.

He also jogged my memory by telling me that, "Nova Scotia," also meant "New Scotland."

Today, I received an email from a good friend, author and great glass float collector, Stu Farnsworth. Stu wrote this:

Funny thing about the NS float is that Charles (Abernethy) was the one that told me the Anchor floats and the Beautiful NS floats were from Scotland as both of his came from a Fisherman that used them in the Shetlands. So that is really all I ever had to go by under the feeling that a guess was better than not knowing at all, and once research was done, the real answer would come up.
I still would have a hard time believing that NS stands for Nova Scotia, but hey what do I know? I think that comes way too easy, and why would they come from Norway {where I got one several years ago}, and why would a Fisherman use them in the Shetlands? I know Nova Scotia was rich in fishing and it seems like the Northwest floats show up there all the time, and yes, I do see Euros from there, but I also have seen ones for sale in Nova Scotia that were from England {Made in Englands} and F1, F2 etc., etc., etc., that are from Norway.

So, here we go again. The conundrum we glass float collectors' encounter in our desire to find answers to the history, which is often solved by guesswork, speculation, deduction and extrapolation. It is so very hard to get a straight historical confirmation about these darn float embossings.

I want to go back to Richard writing, "Nova Scotia means New Scotland."

"Nova Scotia," is Latin for "New Scotland." In the late 1700's through the 1800's, many Highland Scots emigrated to Nova Scotia. Today, people of Scottish descent make up the highest percentage of the Nova Scotian population. The people of Nova Scotia are nicknamed, "Bluenoses". If you research the symbols of the country you will see a definite Scottish influence including the tartan print. This country was fished by all of the European fishing nations, as well as Canadian, American and possibly the Japanese fishermen too.

Fishing started very early in the history, definitely by the native Indian people, then later by the Vikings, followed by the French and so on. The shoal waters all along the Nova Scotian coastline were extremely rich in coldwater fish. The commercial fishing took place over a period of hundreds of years, until the coming of huge factory trawlers which supplied the ever increasing need for fish to feed the world's masses of people, animals and for commercial products, destroyed the fish populations. Finally, those waters and the fish were protected by international laws, and the days of heavy commercial fishing on all of the banks ended.

During the commercial fishing years all methods of fishing were applied in the Nova Scotian waters. My research shows that most of the glass floats used there were used on trawling nets. Cod, Herring and Shad were caught using gillnets with glass floats attached, but the terrific change between high and low tides, and the strong currents on the shoals made it much more difficult to use gillnets. The use of glass floats on the nets started in the late 1800's, and continued until possibly the 1960's, with most of the use between 1900 and 1950.

Those trawl nets were snagged on ship wrecks and reefs. Sable Island is famous for the great number of shipwrecks under its surrounding waters. It is on the reefs that the cod, halibut, hake, and other fish came to feed.

Nets were lost, and their glass floats were set free to eventually break upon beaching in the rocks, or to land safely. Many thousands were lost, and thousands were picked up by people living and fishing there. All of the countries who's fishermen netted those waters lost gear. That to me is part of the explanation for Stu's question of why such an array of floats are found in Nova Scotia.

Floats were most likely found and reused by fishermen. All gear cost money, and if you can find something and reuse it for free, why not! Floats may have been traded as well. Why are SN floats found in other countries? One thing that comes to mind when I speculate on that question, has to do with a bit of history concerning floats that were at one time on the properties of people in Scotland.

In one of Charles Abernethy's glass float booklets, He wrote about being told that there were piles of glass fishing floats just laying on people's properties for decoration. He hoped that one day his acquaintance in Scotland would send him a box filled with European floats. Sadly, that day never came. His contact told him that before he had a chance to get him some floats, antique buyers from Ireland suddenly decended on Scotland, and bought up all of the piles of floats. There are many possible reasons why floats find there way around the world. It does appear though that there have been a larger number of SN floats found in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Northeastern Atlantic States than elsewhere.

Until that definitive answer to the question of cachet "SN," appears, my guess will be that cachet SN means "New Scotland." I like the way the S is the larger letter, which may have appealed to the heart of the engraver for his homeland, Scotland. And I like the way the S intertwines with the N sensuously, the way two lovers do.

The photo of the fishing and racing vessel, "Bluenose," is from the Wikipedia site on Bluenose.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Flesland Glass F1-F8

Why all the numbers? Have you ever wondered why the Flesland Glass floats numbered F1 through F8 have those numbers? I have.

Since first getting an F1, then an F3, then an F2 until finally having all of the numbered floats to F8, the reason for some being so hard to find, while others were common, stayed a question in my mind. It was apparent that the F1 and F3 were somewhat easy to find, but the F4, F6 and F7 for me, were much harder to come by. The F2 and F5 and F8 were just slightly easier to find on the Ebay auctions. It took about three years to finally have an example of all the numbered floats. Those were pre-Pereinar123 years.

Once Per started finding and selling European floats, especially Norwegian floats found and offered for sale on Ebay float auctions (almost weekly), it did not take very long before Per offered collectors all of the F-numbered floats in quick succession.

Then, thanks again to Per, I became acquainted with the larger 8" diameter F1, then an F5, and missed getting his large F2. Between the times of those larger Fleslands appearing, Per also acquainted me with the very small 2.5" diameter F1 through F3 Herring floats.

Following an article about glass fishing floats, written for Angela Bowey's "Glass Museum website," which was followed by an excellent observation by Nic-who calls himself, "Pinkspoons," the question of the meaning of the numbers which had taken a back seat in my musings, was revisited. The posts are as follows:

"Just a thought, but might the 'F' numbers on the Flesland floats refer to the glass plant/furnace they were made in? I know Holmegaard used to refer to theirs as such (Kastrup og Holmegaards Glasværker 1825-1975 refers to the F5 plant opening at the factory in 1972), so possibly it was common in Scandinavia."

Followed by my response:
"Pinkspoons that was a very interesting question that you've posed, and is an angle which had never crossed my mind concerning markings. Thank you for that insight. Who knows where it might lead in the search for the meanings of glass bottle, float, etc. markings?A bit of extra information that I have encountered about those Norwegian F-numbered floats. The F1 through F3 have been the most common marked floats to appear on the auctions and in collections. I have examples of 2.5", 4.5", 5.0" and 8" diameter floats with the F-numbered markings. The larger 8" floats have been the hardest to come by, and the numbers F4-F8 are harder to come by in any size. I have yet to see those numbers on the smallest diameter floats."
Followed by Nic's last post:

"That might tie in with the furnace theory - if furnaces 4 through 8 were added as the factory expanded they would have produced less glass than the others before the factory closed. Also, I assume, different furnaces would have had different tasks, so the lower, older furnaces might have been assigned only the smaller floats after the construction of the newer ones.At Kastrup and Holmegaard, whenever new plants and factories were built or acquired a reorganisiation of what was produced, and where, always followed.In relation to Flesland it's all pure conjecture, obviously, and based only on my knowledge of Danish factory glass - the same logic might not transfer to other factories."

I have taken Nic's theory to heart, and feel that it is highly worthy, and needs to be added to the mix of ideas that we collectors of glass fishing floats continually theorize on, and try to prove.

Thanks Nic.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Three Crossed Fish Mark

It was a difficult choice. Looking back on it, I made the right choice.
Among a wonderful list of floats offered to me for purchase, were two Crossed Fish Floats. One had the three fish embossed onto the seal button, the other float's mark was embossed onto the top of the float. Which one to choose?

The glass on the seal button marked float looked to be in better shape-almost perfect, and I liked the way the mark looked. My difficulty in making a decision stemmed from the thought that a marking on the body of the float might mean that the float was an older variety. I chose the seal marked float.

My happiness and excitement at the prospect of having an example of the Three Crossed Fish float in my collection was tempered by the thought that something could happen to the float on its way across the Atlantic. Would the seller pack the four floats: a GW; an amber and a clear Dog Float and the Three Crossed Fish well enough to take the inevitable rough handling of someone, "just moving the mail along as quickly as possible"?

Waiting two weeks for their arrival was a killer. Sure, I was excited. Sure, I was worried.
Then the day of the arrival came. As I pulled up onto the driveway, there on the porch was a large box. After waiting for a few hours for the temperature of the box to acclimate itself to the temperature inside of our home, I opened it.

What ecstasy! After all of the waiting, I opened the box, and one by one, pulled out each float, and carefully unwrapped them. But first, inside, on top of the packing was a beautiful letter from my new friend, and an 8"x 11" photo of a beautiful 18th. Century bottle. Inside each carefully wrapped package was a beautiful undamaged float. The last one opened was the Three Crossed Fish.

Looking at it, I could not help but admire the beautiful workmanship of the embossing. The engraver who designed the stamp was a true artist. The heads of the fish are cleanly lined, with well-defined and indented eyes, mouth and raised gill plates. The bodies have depth. They are not "flat fish," and beautifully overlap one another, with scales leading to sharp and separated tailfins. Each side of the tail has four segments, defined by fin lines.

The seal has a very nice rim around the fish, and the person who pressed the seal tool into the gather of molten glass was careful, and centered the mark perfectly.

The float was blown into a 2-part mold, the glass slightly amber/green with a good thickness and heft, and just a couple of wear marks. There are a few nice bubbles in the glass. The float rests perfectly by holding its seal up. The color of the glass, leads me to believe that this is a German-made float.

During the next three years, I saw a number of Three Crossed Fish floats offered for sale on Ebay auctions, on Ken and Cindy Busses' Gems of the Ocean Website, and both Vebjorn Fidsdal and Per Einar Gunnarsen offered a few they had found in Norway. I think all of them were top of the float embossing, except for one very interesting example that is for sale on Ken and Cindy's site.

Recently, Bob Buffington brought up the subject of the two different markings. He wondered if the raised seal mark was the older of the two? Having only seen the body embossed marking in photos, it was hard to know how to answer his query. All I could talk about was the quality of the marking on my float, and how the body embossed marking that I had only seen in photos, did not seem as well defined. Then in December, my friend once again offered me the chance to purchase one of the type not in my collection.

I jumped at the chance, and a couple of weeks later it arrived. I can finally come to a conclusion or two about the differences and the similarities of the floats.

This new one is also blown into a two-part mold with a separate seal button. The color, heft and thickness of the glass look and feel the same to my hands. And once again, I feel that the color and look of the glass are German. The markings are very different.

I find that the new float's three fish are smaller in length. The heads and bodies are raised and fairly well-defined. There are the impressions of scales on the top fish's body, but the tails are simpler, much less artistically carved, without the sharp delineation between the segments and halves of each tail. The fish heads do not stand out as cleanly, the mouths and gill plates are hardly evident. My impression is that this mark does not exhibit the artistic ability of the engraver of the seal marked tool.

I am very happy to have both varieties in the collection to enjoy, and recommend that collectors who do not have one or both varieties, endeavor to be patient, and eventually add one of each to your collection. I hope that the photos above help to illustrate the descriptions that I've written.
Before I finish this post, I want to relate something a great bottle and float collector who lives in Sweden emailed me.

"Hello Tom,
Your question for the 3 crossed fishes I can answer. It is the coat of arms of the Danish town of Apenrade, South Jutland, little north of German Flensburg, showing the 3 herrings.

I've researched the town, which is also spelled, Aabenraa or Abenra. Apenrade is the German spelling of the town's name. It is situated at the head of the Aabenraa Fjord in Denmark. Its name originally meant, "open beach." From 1750-1864, the town was known for its fishing industry, especially for the boat yards. In those boat yards, some of the world's fastest and most seaworthy sailing ships were built. During the last half of the 1800's, Aabenraa was the second largest maritime center in Denmark. In 1421, the town's coat of arms and official seal was the depiction of three mackeral set within a decorative wreath of hop leaves.

Could the float's engravers have designed the mark to celebrate that wonderful Danish town and it's history?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

At the end of last night's blog entry, I wrote about how frustrating researching float history can be, but that sometimes, something good happens. This morning while Googling a book's title, I chanced upon the site above. If you would like to read some wonderful and rare personal fishing history, go there, and enjoy a remarkable historical read which took place in the time of glass fishing float use.

The photos used for this blog were all found on Ebay fishing postcard auctions. I've been going there for years while studying fishing history, and want to thank the sellers who took the time and effort to post their auctions with such wonderful photos.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Researching the NS-Marked Floats

The following information was sent to me by another passionate glass float collector-one who I will be doing a profile on in the near future. His name is Bob Buffington. Many thanks to Stu Farnsworth for being such a friend-he put the two of us together.

In one of our first email conversations Bob wrote this:

"Meanwhile, you have an overlapping SN on the pages you sent me. My hunting buddy went to Newfoundland two years ago, and when he asked about the origins of the SN he had picked up there, he was told that it was made by a fishing company there whose initials fit the SN lettering. He is out of town now, but I will ask him when he gets back next week, and send the name off to you. He saw several of these floats while visiting there, and was told the same thing everytime he asked the question about the manufacturer."

Now, that was some interesting stuff to come out of the blue! I've tried researching those floats more than a few times, but have never found one scrap of historical evidence about the mark or a maker. Following Stu Farnsworth and Alan Rammer's lead, I have scoured the history of Scottish glass houses, and have come up empty.

Bob's reference to Newfoundland sparked a thought in my head-could the letters, "NS,' stand for Nova Scotia?

The other day, Bob sent the following, and asked me to post his findings to the blog.

Tom, I thought you would get a kick out of the results of my efforts to date regarding the NS floats. Here are some of the individuals I have contacted about the NS.
I still believe there is a Nova Scotia connection of some sort.

Dear Robert,I did receive your first e-mail but have not had an opportunity to reply. I do not have a great deal of information on glass fishing floats to share. I know they were used mainly by inshore fishermen for herring and mackerel net floats. Most of the ones in this area were made in England. I have never heard of any glass floats used by National Sea Products. The National Sea Products firm began in 1945 and was an offshore fishing company. They towed huge nets that used aluminum floats. I can't imagine glass floats standing the buffeting they would receive onboard a trawler.I found a website by googling glass fishing floats and they have quite a bit of information on glass companies that specialized in fishing floats. the site is They also have an e-book which I attempted to download without success. Regards,RalphRalph D. GetsonCurator of EducationFisheries Museum of the AtlanticPO Box 1363Lunenburg, NSBOJ 2COTel.:902-634-4794FAX:902-634-8990e-mail:

Hi,I am not sure I will be of much help to you. Like you, I have several green and clear coloured floats from 'early' days of fishing. However, you might discover more information by contacting the following person:Ralph D. GetsonCurator of EducationFisheries Museum of the AtlanticPO Box 1363Lunenburg, NSBOJ 2COTel.:902-634-4794FAX:902-634-8990e-mail: getsonrd@gov.ns.caI hope this is of help to you,Peggy Falkenham-BoutilierHigh Liner Foods Inc. 12/10/2008 09:05 cc Subject Research petaining to National Sea Fishing Floats

Mr Buffington,After I sent my e-mail (repeated below), I wondered whether you have contacted the present company. Try this: High Liner Foods Inc100 Battery Point, P.O. Box 910Lunenburg, Nova ScotiaB0J 2C0 CanadaTel : 1-902-634-8811Fax : Scott RobsonCurator, History CollectionNova Scotia Museum

Scott Robson 08-Dec-2008 11:32 AM >>>Mr Buffington,Your message was forward to me for consideration. However, I do not know the answer. You wrote: "I am attempting to establish the possible dates of manufacture, what company made them, and where the company was based." Those aspects may have shifted during the company's history, with different suppliers, etc. Have you tried to contact older staff who might know? When you next visit Nova Scotia, you could enquire in the Lunenburg area about former workers who might know such details. I doubt that you will find much record outside of company files. You may be interested in this book about the company:KIMBER, Stephen"Net Profits: The Story of National Sea"Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Ltd., 1989ISBN 0921054084 "The story of National Sea Products Ltd. is the story of how one company evolved from a fishermen's grocery store in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, to one of the world's largest fishing enterprises." - from the dj. Scott RobsonCurator, History CollectionNova Scotia Museum

Tom, As you can see - I have failed miserably so far. But will continue to pursue the research.


This is so typical of trying to research glass companies, and business leads in an effort to establish historical proof of the origins of glass fishing floats. It is a somewhat frustrating, but always an exciting effort, even when one comes up empty. Once in a while there is a breakthrough, and as time goes by, those breakthroughs will appear on this blog. I only wish that I could do nothing but write, but day-to-day responsibilities help keep this fever in me manageable.

Early in the morning before I have to get started, or for a few minutes during lunch, there is a chance to go "float hunting." At the end of the day, I cannot wait until there is an hour or more of unobstructed time on the computer, or time to read a historical commercial fishing book, or to open a display case to hold and admire a particular float for a moment or two. When the light is right, there is nothing like trying to take a perfect photograph of a float's beauty or it's mark, then download it onto a photo site to see what I've got. Ah! This passionate excitement that fills my days and nights is wonderful!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Tragic Story of Torvald Stranne

Before I forget, here is a bit of additional information. To date, I know of three sizes that the Torvald Stranne floats are found in: 3.5" diameter; 4.5" diameter and 5.0"diameter.

And there is also the Tragic Story of Torvald Stranne, originally conceived by fellow glass float collector, Greg aka Gregsboat1.

Dear Tom,

Here is the most current Torvald Stranne research to date.

I think I mentioned to you before that I bought a "Torvald Stranne".

This float is almost "lime" green in color and about 4 and 1/2 inches across. It is also strikingly "lightweight."

I wonder if this lack of "ruggedness" is what makes these floats so scarce?

In fact, they are so fragile that I can actually picture Torvald Stranne himself; proudly standing at the helm of his fishing boat heading out to sea having just taken delivery of his new shipment of "personalized" fishing floats.

Unfortunately, Torvald's newly found pride quickly evaporates into mind numbing disappointment as his brand-new glass fishing floats immediately begin "popping" like lightbulbs every time one of them hits the deck of his boat.

In fact, he becomes so pissed off with his shipment of "vanity" floats that he never orders custom fishing floats again; Hence their rarity.

Driven insane and bankrupt by these personalized but, highly fragile fish floats, Torvald immediately quits his life at sea and spends the remainder of his years as a foul-tempered hermit raising sheep in the Swedish highlands.

To make matters even worse; Immediately after Torvald's financial and mental collapse, Oresten Stranne, Torvald's cousin, was caught, red-handed, stealing Torvald's now all but floatless fishing nets, Through out the trial, Oresten viemmently denied the accusations against him claiming that he was merely "borrowing" all of Torvald's nets.

According to the original court transcripts, Oresten Stranne's sole defense was..."Just because Oresten Stranne floats are stronger than those "girly-man" Torvald Stranne floats doesn't mean I "stold" his stupid fishing nets"

Apparently, in an effort to cover up the crime and learning from Torvald's flimsy float mistake, Oresten secretly ordered his own batch of much sturdier "personalized" floats and attached them to Torvald's nets in an effort to pass them off as his own.

Since Torvald bitterly refused to leave the solitude of sheep farming to testify against his cousin, Oresten was acquitted of the accusations against him.

Oresten Stranne eventually died a very rich man. but, to this day, everyone in the village knows it was certainly not because he had sturdy fishing floats.



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Hi! Greg,

Right now there is a lot of controversy concerning whether or not a woman actually caught a world record summer flounder. It is quite a read should you be interested enough to go to one of the blogs like: the Bass Barn. It made me think of the story that you sent me the other day. It's funny how things can get so twisted.

Now, I'm not saying that your story is right or wrong, but this is the way that I heard it:

Oresten and Torvald were not cousins, they were brothers. Torvald was the oldest, and there were 11 other siblings, with Oresten being the 13th. born. I guess one could take that as being born under a bad sign, or if you are a religous-minded person, being born under a good sign, because 13 is a very pure and symbolic number.

Anyway, being the youngest, and the baby, caused Oresten to be very competetive with his siblings, and as he got older, especially with Stranne. Stranne was a commercial fisherman, having started out helping his father on the family boat. Stranne was a go-getter, and soon excelled at all types of fishing for all types of fish. He eventually specialized in catching salmon. He was very adept at driftnetting. He caught enough fish to actually be able to afford having his own custom-embossed glass floats made for him. A wonderful and time-saving acquisition. Trying to keep stoppered bottles afloat was difficult, and sometimes took away from prime fishing time by sinking the net. It could be almost impossible to locate a sinking net after dark, as you drifted.

Well, you know, Torvald was the apple of his father's eye, as well as many of the local girls, who Torvald was glad to give a tour of his boat house to.

It is said that his nets had a fish-catching scent that no one else could duplicate, and was the reason for his success with Salmon--especially those large hookjaws. Everywhere he went, his reputation followed him.

Oresten, also became a fisherman, and he became particularly adept at catching cod with set nets. He worked hard, and learned the migratory patterns and routes that the cod traveled, and set his gillnets to capture those moving fish.

Oresten was always proud of his big balls, and it was a family joke that he had bigger balls then Torvald. Which was a fact. He needed those bigger glass balls to mark his nets, while Torvald only needed small balls to keep his drift nets on the surface. But I digress.

As the years went by, and the fishing populations began to change due to fishing pressure from the Norwegians, British, French and Romance peoples, the codfish began disappearing. Oresten came back with little or nothing to show for most of his efforts, and knew that he needed to make a change. Stranne knew this as well.

Being the big brother that he was, he tried to help his little brother learn to catch Salmon. The populations of Salmon also decreased, but the love of Salmon to the world's diners kept the wholesale prices always on the rise. Small balls or not, Torvald continued to be the "cock of the fishing walk," and his little brother knew it.

Once Torvald learned some of his brother's tricks, he hungered to get his own drift nets. His brother, being the kind of guy he was, helped Torvald out, and for Noel, gave him a brand new handmade drift net fitted with his specially embossed floats for his nets. Well, Torvald, after all of the ridicule about having tiny balls, one-upped Oresten, with that bunch of balls. One can only imagine Oresten's chagrin when he started drifting his nets in his "secret spot" in one of the large feeder creeks that the big hook jaws used for spawning. Those thin-glassed small balls that Torvald lovingly macramed and tied to the drift net that he made for Oresten, broke like crackle glass on all of the rocks that Oresten's nets encountered in his secret spot.

It is truly amazing that one survived, and that you now have it.

[contributed by Tom aka Sea Hermit]

* * * * *

So.........There's bound to be a major revolt in Sweden from this , but I've taken the necessary precautions and have had the herring pens of Norway rushed into relax! I take the honorary position of Stranne float family history very seriously. And will tell the trueth now.... The Stranne family roots come not from Denmark and certainly not from Sweden, although Sweden was the OBVIOUS choice! In olden times, before even Lutefish was invented, The Stranne family sagga was just starting....and Torvald was the first! followed by his brother Olaf. There was no egg, no chicken.... just Torvald and his brother Olaf. Divine intervention or something! And all this happened on sacred Norway. Now I can tell you some things and somethings I can't. And if your Norwegian or even a little bit Norwegian...........I can't tell you nothin........because we know everything! and for the most part are tight lipped on the Stranne family secret. You see the Strannes were setting out to be THE Glassblowers of none! Hell! Bar none? These boys were fullblown alcoholics and the very worst kind....Norwegian! It seems that they drank so much that when the end of the day came, any floats that did survive were quickly traded away for more grog that very night. Needless to say the Norwegian fishermen were loosing lots of nets and had to do something about it. So they kicked the two out of Norway. The two settled in Sweden and split up. Olaf changed his name, and Torvald, being the cheap Norwegian, used half the glass most glassblowers used, and finally with so many broken floats went broke. The two now can be found in Greenland....making curio floats for the Chineese.

[Contributed by Todd aka Norsknailpounder]