four fishLast week’s fish made me think of. . . more fish! Here we have four pieces of what is probably a homemade “fishing” game or toy. Each fish (ranging from 5.5″ to 7″ long) is cut from a flat piece of wood and decorated with a hand-drawn face and fins, plus a number. Large metal screw-eyes are attached to their heads (not that it seems to bother them; they’re pretty jaunty little fish). On the back of each fish is written some variation of the label, “Custom Built by Hershey’s Toy Products, Poolesville, Md.”label

The Historical Society bought these fish on eBay several years ago, because of the Poolesville connection. The seller – an antiques/collectibles dealer – was unable to provide any further information on their history, and I couldn’t find any records of a toy company by that name in the county. However, a quick look through the basic records (i.e., The History of Poolesville by Dona Cuttler and Dorothy Elgin, and several years of census records) seems to have confirmed my feeling that these were homemade toys made for one family, with the “Toy Products” name a nice little joke.

David R. Hershey appears in the Montgomery County census records in the 11th, or Barnesville, District in the early 20th century. Although Poolesville is in a nearby election district, Hershey is associated with Poolesville by virtue of the fact that he helped found the Poolesville Telephone Company in 1909. In the 1910 census, Hershey (described by the census taker as a farmer) is living with his wife, his mother, and his four young children. Ten years later Hershey and his wife have eight children, age 14 to “infant.” (His mother, now in her 80s, is still living with them.) It seems likely that Mr. Hershey (or Mrs. Hershey, or even one of their older daughters) made this little fishing game to entertain the children of the household.

Thanks to the little “joke” product information label, we were able to trace our eBay purchase back to the individuals who owned it. We’ve found a few gems (figurative, not literal, gems) on eBay over the years, but we don’t often buy collection items this way. Personally I feel we have accumulated enough vaguely-provenanced artifacts over our 65 years without seeking out more. Simply being “from” Montgomery County is not enough; we need a story, too.

number 3

Hi there!