Friday, February 04, 2011

One of a Kind Floats

I enjoy good stories. Collecting glassfloats, has led me into reading the history of the fishermen who used them, and learning about the people and industries ashore-those who bought, sold and worked in the fishing industry once the catch was landed. I have also been researching the makers of the floats. The reading and research stimulate me.

Nonfiction written in the 1800's about fishermen who sailed the seas to find the shoals of Cod, Herring, Halibut and other edible fish, are tales that have moved me in unexpected ways. I find myself empathizing with the fishermen caught in their sailing craft on rough seas in bad weather, often days and hundreds of miles from the nearest land.

When the cold winter winds blow, when the ocean water temperatures are close to freezing, when it's foggy, or tropical storms and hurricanes surge over the ocean waters, I think about the stories of those fishermen who lived to tell them, and feel some of what they experienced long ago. I find myself thinking about the kind of person who would put themselves in those conditions, and wonder, "would I have done that had I lived in those times, in those places?" I don't commercial fish today, so doubt I would have done it then, but who knows? I once had a Boston Whaler "Squall" sailboat, and will never forget the feeling when the breeze filled the sail, and off my boat and I went. Perhaps another sailboat will come into my life?

Stories of Vikings, and other boat people exploring new seas full of fishes, and strange coastlines where virgin forests grew down the sides of mountains to the sea, allow me a glimpse of the Garden of Eden that was North America. Streams and rivers flowed out of the mountains and valleys into the tidal bays where their waters, teeming with fish-traded with the ocean's water. From those discoveries emerged future settlement along the North American coastline. From those settlements came enterprise, and eventually the introduction of glass fishing floats from Norway and other countries.

Studying glassfloat history brings me to stories remembered and passed on by word of mouth or written down on paper. The passion for "all things floats," has brought me to a place in my life where I have realized a desire.

For most of my life, I've wanted to write something that other people would enjoy reading. As a young boy, I throughly enjoyed reading Treasure Island, ghost stories, Jim Corbett's books about hunting and being hunted by maneating Tigers and Leopards in India, together with all the books about fishing, that I could find in Pennsauken Junior High school's library.

On numerous winter Saturday afternoons during the mid-1950's, I could be found reading the fishing and hunting magazines in the drug store next to the Walt Whitman Movie Theater. They were Saturday afternoons when nasty weather kept most everyone but the druggist and myself at home. His store was very quiet on those days.

The druggist and I kept eachother silent company. Not one word was ever exchanged between us during the many times he allowed me to read the magazines for free. I never saw him look up at me. I peeked over at him from time to time. He was always bent over intently working to fill prescriptions, or talking on the telephone. I worried that he would tell me to scram, tell me that if I wasn't going to buy a magazine, then don't touch them, but he never did.

There were so many fishing spots that I was "seeing" for the first time as I read the authors' descriptions, and looked at the photograpers' pictures in the magazines. As time passed, the desire to be a writer came into my psyche. I could be a fisherman who wrote magazine articles-just like all of the writers who's stories I loved reading. Those afternoons spent in front of the magazine rack are vivid memories for me, and were the catalyst for the wanderlust that eventually led me to glassfloats.

In the spring of 1971, two shipmates and I were safely home from a tour of duty in Vietnam, and living in a party house in San Francisco. One of the guys was a lead guitarist. He played together with two local guys-a bass player and a drummer. The house was always rocking. Friends of my shipmates drove up from Southern California to jam almost weekly. There was a party going on at our house or another group of sailors' house every night. On the weekends there was always a great concert at Winterland. Tickets to see Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes, Traffic and other great bands were only three bucks a show.

Our duty station was the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ranger, CVA-61, which was in drydock for 13 months. Living in California and having the opportunity to travel during weekends or during leave-but not having any wheels, I decided to purchase a '71 Volkswagen SuperBeetle. The rear seat back folded down onto the bottom cushion making a large flat base to load all of my fishing and camping gear for trips to the Trinity River, Eagle Lake, King's River...anywhere I wanted to go to in northern, central or southern California.

During weeknights, with my road map of California opened onto the floor, hunched over the map, I would search for a great place to try. As long as the destination was within 250 miles, I could drive to it after Friday duty ended, and be home before midnight on Sunday night. Every Friday afternoon prior to an off duty weekend, the Superbeetle called "Freedom," was packed and ready for two days of discovery. I named that car because she gave me her name and adventure.

After being discharged, I continued living and working in San Francisco. I met my future wife Nancy 8 months after my release. The lust in me to camp and explore, was shared with Nancy as soon as we met. Together, we tried to get lost on the backroads of Northern California during our vacations.

As many of you have read previously, we left San Francisco in our fully packed Volks, with our 6 month old daughter and two tomcats, comfortable in the folded down backseat, on March 12, 1977. We traveled for four adventure-filled months. We camped our way across 23,000 miles starting with a 1-month trip touring the Baja from east to west and north to south to Cabo San Lucas. After that month in the south, we regrouped in San Francisco. From there, we headed north-sojourning our way up the West Coast into British Colombia, across Canada on the Trans Canadian Highway, with a 10-day side trip south into upper Minnesota, then back north into Canada and east until we again drove south through the mountains of Quebec into Maine.

After visiting Nancy's mother's family in Maine, we drove to Southern New Jersey to spend the summer with my family. Two months later, during the major league baseball playoffs, we crossed the United States on the Herbert Hoover Highway, heading for Washington State. Fate landed us in Copalis Beach, Washington. During the previous spring's great adventure, Nancy and I had found our first glass floats while exploring the northwestern tip of Washington State.

We lived in Copalis Beach for eight wonderful years. There I found many glassfloats on the local beaches, and began to seriously collect the floats with great shapes, bubbles, colors and maker's markings. 35 years later, a theme to write about, a theme I had been searching for, happened. I began writing about glassfloats. Prior to glassfloat writing, I had a problem finding the niche that felt good to write within.

Everyday, I write emails to float collecting pals around the world. I'm writing this glassfloat blog, and the occasional glassfloat article. I'm filled with personal happiness thanks to glassfloats and all of the good people who have been part of this odyssey with me. We are sharing something wonderful.

All of us who are keeping the beautiful glass fishing floats safe in our collections, and who are researching and sharing historical knowledge, are also saving and contributing to future history. I believe that the history of floats and their producers was almost lost prior to the first collectors. Amos Wood was the first to enlighten his readers with photos and stories of beachcombers and their floats, history about the makers, the maker's markings and the many locations where floats were used and found. Those first collectors started the process of rescuing the floats and the history which often came to them via word of mouth. Many of today's collectors have been attempting to distill the float's historical fragments into coherence.

The story of the glass fishing float has been unfolding since the first fishermen used and lost them-followed by beachcombers who began to actively hold onto their beachcombed finds. People decorated their European yards and gardens with glassballs. The floats were hung as talismen's in windows to ward off evil spirits' or to beseech the good forces to aid them in the return of their loved ones fishing the seas of Europe or North America. Examples of the early history are being actively dug out of the historical dump by those few of us who are known as "float collectors."

This post's theme is about special floats. As time passes, there will be additions and subtractions to the following hypothesis. Revisions will be necessary.

During the late summer of 2010, Olaf Raab wrote to me about putting together a listing of one-of-a-kind floats. The desire was strong in him to accomplish the listing, and together we began to share our knowledge. In the beginning we included floats that were uniquely marked with the maker's embossing, and also included single floats of unique coloration and/or size. As time has passed we've refined the list to include only those floats with a maker's marking that there is only one known example of.

Emails sent to collectors of European floats have resulted in some excellent photos, as well as input concerning which floats qualified for listing. Perhaps in time we will all get together and produce a list that illustrates one-of-a-kind floats in unique colors and sizes? They too are very worthy of mention and sharing.

Part I of the list we've come up with is as follows:

Norwegian floats

These three are tiny One Knobbed Floats AAV; AV and IN. The first two are from AASNÆS Glasverks, and the IN is thought to be from Namsos Glasverks:

H+M Made aat Berger Glasverks

HV (old type, dark green)

i Float






W backward S


Backward S

These are all of the Norwegian "One of a Kinds" that I have photos of. There are others that Olaf has been told exist in Norway. They are:

Two Teardrop floats also known as Lightbulb floats, or Sea Dogs. One is marked AASNÆS; the other is marked with a Dotted L; together with standard round glassballs with the following cachets-

This is the end of Part I of the listing. As time permits, "one of a kind" floats from other European countries will be shown on the blog. A number of collectors have contributed photos and information about these floats, and have been waiting patiently for me to post to the blog. I thank you for your contributions and patience, and look forward to having the time to post part II.

Also, this article is posted with the full realization that floats may be missing from the list, or that more than one of these may exist as I write. If you have photos or information that adds to or negates any of the floats shown above and in future posts about this subject, kindly get in touch with me, and we will amend the post.

All of us collectors are looking forward to seeing other unknowns, and also hoping that all of our collections will one day have the second, third...of any of the wonderful floats illustrated above.


  1. Anonymous3:27 AM

    Interesting reading and I liked all pictures. If you are interested Tom, I also have plenty pictures from floats and marks, shoot from the very beginning several years ago, I guess you already know.

    I will consider upload a complete list with pictures on my blog later on.

  2. Anonymous8:02 AM

    Hi Per,
    You know that I'm always interested in anything you have to tell me, or wish to share with others. I have kept all of our emails, and have a few "Per E Files" of photos. Perhaps we can put our heads together to see if I'm missing something to share with others? Thank you for the comment. Tom

  3. Anonymous6:23 PM

    The Norsknailpounder wrote today telling me that there is more than one i float in collections. The first revision is in. Thanks Todd.