Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories” became a best seller among anglers after it first appeared in 1892 and went through nine printings by 1896. The 32 prints in this unique book are done in stunning chromolithography, as achieved by M. Bradley Co. Lith.
Mary Orvis Marbury was daughter to Charles Orvis, founder of Orvis, the fishing, hunting, and sporting good store dynasty based in Manchester, Vermont. Mary ran the company’s fly fishing department and was inspired to write the book when she realized how little standardization there was among fly patterns. For each fly illustrated in the book, there is a description or story regarding the creation, design, or naming of the particular fly. In many cases, these descriptions are just as colorful and engaging as the illustrations. They were compiled by Maybury from conversations with regional anglers, letters amassed over time with far away fishermen, and from customers that frequented her family’s famous fishing shop.
One example, from “Bass Flies, Plate X” (pictured below):
“No.240. The Cleveland. There was once a jolly club of three, who styled themselves the “Texas Club,” saying that “their membership consisted of President, Secretary, and Treasurer.” The club was a fishing-club, and met summers to rejoice in being together and in fishing “galore.” The Secretary and Treasurer were rivals always; their joys would have been incomplete without the never-ceasing spirit of contest. What one had the other had, too, if money or skill could procure it, be it a big fish or a new hat. The Cheney fly was made and named in honor of the Secretary. A little later, the maker of the Cheney fly mas a fly with a gallina wing and red and black body, somewhat similar to Dr. Henshall’s Polka, and to it was given the title Cleveland after the Treasurer. But alas for human hopes! One day the maker of these flies met the Treasurer, and this conversation ensued:
Treasurer: I have wanted to meet you for a long time. I have a questions to ask you. Now, honestly, don’t you think you put just a little more color into the Cheney fly than you did the Cleveland? Now answer me frankly.
Maker: I did not intend to do so, I assure you.
Treasurer: Well, but I think you did. Couldn’t it be dressed up a trifle, some way?
Maker: I am glad you spoke to me about it. I shall be pleased to try again, and to make a fly more worthy of the name.
Treasurer: Yes, do; and mind you put a little more gilt on it than is on Cheney’s.
This new Cleveland fly is an earnest endeavor to construct a fly in the embodiment of strength, modesty, brilliancy, and other sterling merits, traits that win and hold the friends of Mr. William D. Cleveland outside as well as within the Texas Club.”
We hope you enjoy these new additions to our sporting and fishing section. As always, the prints can be viewed online as well as in our Georgetown DC gallery.