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The History of Penn Reels

Rockfish, striper, linesider.
More than 300 pages dedicated to your favorite fish, the striped bass

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penn reel building

Patent

In 1922, Otto Henze left Germany at age 25 and came to the United States. Otto Henze left Ocean City Reels and started his own fishing reel company in 1932, called Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company. He established his new company in a 3rd. floor loft at 492 North Third Street in Philadelphia, renting space from William Schmitz & Co., General Machinists.


penn ocean city

The Mod F and the MOD K were Mr. Henze's first reels in 1932. The Mod F was a 12-ounce surf casting reel with genuine bakelite side plates. The Mod K had many of the same parts as the Mod F but with a lever type free spool and metal reinforced side plates. Two types of MOD K's were developed - one with a star drag, and one without.
In 1933, Otto Henze began selling his reels to the general public. The Mod F was renamed Sea Hawk; the Mod K without a star drag was renamed Bayside; the MOD K with a star drag was renamed Long Beach.
The company doubled the number of reels it offered from 1933 to 1934. Mr. Henze named his reels after the seaside communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This branding strategy helped establish PENN as a tackle company focused on "saltwater fishing." Most of PENN Reels earliest models were built for the beach or bay fisherman.
By the end of 1934, Penn sales were almost $48,000 annually, and the company made its first profit - $1,500. The largest customer for Penn in 1934 was the Edw. K. Tryon Company of Philadelphia, the same company that built the legendary PENNEL fishing tackle brand in the late 1800's. Tryon accounted for 41% of all Penn sales during 1934. Another large customer (6% of sales) was the W. H. Hoegee Company of Los Angeles, which helped build Penn sales in California.
Penn's growth in the early thirties was dramatic, especially considering that America was at the height of the depression. Tough times proved to be an advantage for the start-up company, since many people fished for their food. Penn's affordable reels were just what the beach and bay fisherman needed to put food on the table, day after day
PENN sales grew 38% in 1935, as the company expanded distribution up and down the east coast and west coast. The company also reduced its dependence on Edw. K. Tryon which dropped to Penn's #2 customer with 13% of total sales. Union Hardware & Metal Company became Penn's #1 customer with 21% of company sales.

PENN SALES
1933 $7,526
1934 $47,834
1935 $66,161
1936 $70,576


In 1936, PENN introduced its most famous reel, the "Senator."

penn senator

It was a revolutionary new reel capable of challenging the biggest, most powerful game fish. The PENN Senator quickly became a popular reel used for world record catches. While legendary fishermen like Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway and Michael Lerner were traveling the world setting records, the "Senator" gave every fisherman and woman a chance to set a record with its very affordable $25 price.
In 1938, Otto Henze introduced the PENN Squidder, a surf reel known for its superior casting capabilities.

penn squidder

The company became the leading manufacturer of quality saltwater fishing reels. Pictures of record size fish were sent to PENN from all over the world. PENN Reels became the mainstay of charter boat captains and serious anglers for their performance and reliability.
In 1948, Otto Henze suddenly died. His wife, Martha, did something few women of the time would even consider. At age 39, she took responsibility for running the company as its President, and PENN Reels continued to prosper under her surprising management skills. Martha was an avid angler, once catching a 613-pound Bluefin tuna, and this first hand knowledge of fishing helped guide her decisions at PENN.

netty mom 

 


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