Wives yearning to experience all the shopping opportunities in the area without having to drag their husband along can now drop their significant other off at Branson’s Husband Day Care Center; better known to locals as the History of Fishing Museum.
Valued at nearly $6 million and housing more than 40,000 fishing lures, rods, reels, boats, motors and more, the History of Fishing Museum is the largest collection of antique fishing tackle and paraphernalia in the world. Owned by Karl White and his wife Beverly, the contents of the museum have mostly all been collected during their 62 years of marriage.
“I have actually gone out all over the United States to gather this stuff. I went to every major company. I went everywhere. The reason I went places was because what I did for a living was collect pollen…that was for testing and treatment for asthma and hay fever. We’d collect pollen from all different species,” Karl said. “I’m a botanist and we’d go all over the United States to get different species of weeds, trees and grasses. In that we always stopped around and looked for old tackle and stuff like that and this is how we obtained all of this.”
Karl shared when he started out, he was just a really active fisherman, but when their children were born, a change took place.
“I got 13 trophies. I won bass boats and everything else. I was a good fisherman,” Karl said. “But all of a sudden my wife came up and said, ‘You’re gone all the time. You’re going to have to stop that.’ So that’s when I really got into the collecting rather than the fishing.”
Though the museum is in Branson, the Karl and Beverly continue to live in Edmond, Oklahoma, leaving the operation of the attraction to Collection Curator Bill Bramsch and his wife Susan. Bramsch shared the Branson museum isn’t the first time White’s collection was placed on display.
“Their first museum was in Arcadia, Oklahoma and Susan and I worked on the Oklahoma aquarium. Susan ran that for five years. So we had a space in there that we put the museum in. When it wasn’t working, Karl pulled his collection out,” Bramsch said. “Then he called me 10 years later, ‘What are you doing? We’re going to build another museum.’ I said, ‘Who’s we’ and he said, ‘You and me. Where are we going to do it?’ I said ‘Branson,’ because of the three lakes and all the tourists.”
As graduates of College of the Ozarks, the Bramsch’s knew the area and wanted to move back here to retire, which also made it the perfect setting for the new museum. Bramsch assures guests, once they come through the door they’re going to have a good time.
“I give a tour. It takes like an hour and a half or we can bury it anyway you want. We go all the way from prehistoric, up to about 1970. There’s all kinds of stories. I could keep you buried forever, but there’s all kinds of stories. It’s entertainment too,” Bramsch said. “People don’t realize there’s this much about fishing. It’s kind of neat. (Karl and I) both enjoy it. You know we’re both addicts. We’re passionate about it.”
Bramsch added, his tours are very loose and they’re flexible on the route they take through the museum.
“Some people come in and go, ‘Oh motors,’ so I go, ‘Wanna see motors first? It starts over here, but if you wanna see motors first’…If we have a bunch of people, I just keep doing a loop. So you come in the door and you join our group and just keep going,” Bramsch said. “You can also get the rest of the story here. That’s what I enjoy. People don’t know about all these little things. The rest of the story is what’s really neat here.”
Inside the museum, guests are going to find a variety of unique, valuable and one of a kind items that they will not be able to see in person anywhere else.
“We have the first casting reel made. The Snyder, made in 1840. That’s what? One hundred grand now at least. There’s only five of them. We have the first patented fishing lure. The Riley Haskell minnow, which was 1859. The biggest ones worth a hundred grand. We also have the first wooden lure, we have the first wooden lure that was a lawsuit. We have that one from the lawsuit in the case from over a hundred years ago,” Bramsch said. “Also we have the first bass boat. Skeeter No.1 back there. A lot of people like to see that. We also have dinosaur bones. The kids love that. We even have petrified dinosaur poop, coprolite. You’ll find out more about fishing than you ever dreamed of.”
As a collector for more than six decades, Karl explained what it is that draws him, and others, to collect all things fishing.
“There’s three reasons a collector collects. It’s art, mechanics and craft,” White said. “You have craft in rods, you have mechanics in reels and you’ve got art in lures. That’s the reason why people collect this, because fishing will cover it all.”
As the unofficial Husband’s Day Care Center in Branson, Beverly White shared they’re the perfect spot for women to drop off their husbands so they can enjoy their time shopping.
“When women are shopping at Tanger Mall, you go over there through the spring, summer and fall, the benches they have out are full of men sitting and waiting for the women to get through shopping. In the summer and the fall it’s hot and you can see them sitting there wiping the sweat off of their brows,” Beverly said. “All they have to do is come right up here. It’s cool, it’s interesting, they’ll learn so much, they will enjoy what they do see and they’ll get a big kick out of Bill. Bill gives a fantastic tour. I’ve just been scanning over 600 reviews and every one of them mention Bill.”
Though the museum primarily attracts men, Beverly shared there are many women who come and are delighted with their experience.
“There’s a lot of women, who don’t like fishing, they don’t even like for their husbands to go fishing, they’d rather them never heard of fishing, get absolutely enthralled over some of the folk art and some of the things here,” Beverly said. “One of the things women seem to enjoy looking at or seeing for the first time is the Haskell fish hook, because it is made by a jeweler, of course the first multiplying rod and reel was made by a jeweler as well, but it’s made by a jeweler and the handwork is pretty gorgeous.”
Bramsch said the museum is children friendly and families are encouraged to bring their kids along.
“We have a coloring table if they get bored to death and they all get to hold the petrified dinosaur poop and get their picture,” Bramsch said. “The kids love that dinosaur stuff.”
Beverly added, “The little ones love to have their picture taken with that big fish like they caught it,” Beverly said. “Most of the kids coming through get interested in what’s being said and want to take the tour.”
Karl shared his hope is to further the preservation of the history of fishing and the best way to do that is for more guests to come and visit the museum.
“If we don’t get this to run itself, to make at least a little money, we’re going to have to dispense it. It’s the only one like this in the United States or rather the world,” Karl said. “We’ve got to preserve the history of fishing. That’s what I want to do. We can’t continue the way it is. We’ve gotta get out there.”
The museum is open daily from March 15 until Christmas Day. Hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Adult admission into the museum is $17.75, veteran/senior admission is $15.75 and children are $7.75. For groups of $15 or more admission is $11 per person. Bus drivers and tour guides for groups are admitted free of charge. Anyone who mentions this article will also receive a $5 discount on admission.
The History of Fishing Museum is located at 225 N. Wildwood Drive in Branson, right off of the 76 Strip. For additional information visit historyoffishingmuseum.org.
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