On Loan: Glass Fishing Float

 This very rare early 1900s Japanese “squish” shaped glass fishing float was found in North Lincoln County by Nick Simpson. Nick has donated much of his wonderful collection to the museum and this is one of the floats that started it all.  

It was a spring afternoon in 1965 and Nick was on a college field trip studying Marine Ecology at Boiler Bay. He stumbled upon this beautiful glass float up in the logs above the tide-line and the rest is history. His diverse float collection spans the regions from America to the Pacific Rim. Finding this float sparked a life-long collection which was displayed at his dental practice for many years. Now you can find the Japanese, American and Pacific Rim glass fishing floats on display here at the museum.

This photo of Nick standing next to his recently curated Japanese Glass Float exhibit was published by the Newport News Times in February 2018. Click the link if you are a News Times member to see the online article:

Click the floats photo below to see all about our wonderful float collection here at the museum:

For centuries the Japanese have had individual families own and operate the fishing industry along the coasts of the Japanese islands. Fishermen initially made their own floats from whatever glass was available to them. This consisted of recycled glass from mostly bottles. That is why we see a wide variation of shades of green glass used to make these floats.  Over the years fairly large glass blowing companies were developed to supply the fishermen with hand blown floats.  This process involved hundreds of glass blowers, as each float was handmade. Float makers often use makers marks, or Kanjis, to identify the float maker. Floats were lost by fisherman at sea, and some still had their nets.  They were caught up in the pacific currents and eventually, after long periods of time (usually a decade or more), were deposited by the tide on the west coast beaches of North America starting around 1920.  Beachcombing became a hobby for some individuals that lived along the Pacific shores, and large and small collections have evolved from these collectors.

This float represents not only a spark that created a lifelong passion, but also the generosity of Nick Simpson in his willingness to share his collection at NLCHM. North Lincoln County is a place where floats have a true history, from fishing to washing up on our shores, we are a community that loves floats.