1872: The Legend Begins
In 1872, a young man called William Hardy set up shop as a gunsmith in Alnwick, Northumberland, and that might very well have been the end of the story had not the great engineering magnate Lord Armstrong persuaded him to take his brother John James into partnership. The Hardy brothers advertised themselves as ‘gunsmiths, whitesmiths and cutlers’, although the guns they sold were actually made in Birmingham.
There things might have stood, but in 1874 an advert appeared in the Alnwick Mercury announcing that the firm was selling ‘superior River and Sea Fishing tackle’. Broadening the scope of the business worked wonders and by 1882 the brothers were prosperous enough for William to marry Barbara Mary Leighton, the daughter of the head gamekeeper of a local estate. Barbara’s father Robert was a very experienced angler and one of his legacies was a list of flies that appeared in the Hardy catalogues for many years. As the business grew, William and John James opted to split the workload according to their talents, with William doing the paperwork and JJ handling the people side through his role as general manager – and it has to have been one of angling’s greatest partnerships.
While William kept the firm on a sound financial footing, JJ’s fertile mind never stopped thinking up new ideas and even after retirement he continued to devote his time to products like the Hardy angler’s pipe, much to the annoyance of his sister Emma, who had to put up with him smoking all the experimental versions in the evenings. William and JJ ran the business with an iron hand and although other brothers worked for the company in their time, they were never made partners or directors.
1891: The First Hardy Perfect
To begin with the brothers bought in most of the tackle they sold, their reels, for example, coming from Malloch. However, as the firm expanded, Hardys found themselves with a reputation for superior quality tackle to defend and realised that they could hardly continue to depend on products made by competitors, so in 1891, after three years of patient development, they launched a reel which became their most famous product, the Perfect. It was an instant success and the firm has built it, with occasional interruptions, right up to the present day, a feat that no other tackle manufacturer can even begin to challenge.
Read the rest of the story here: http://www.hardyfishing.co.uk/Hardy-history.html.
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