James L. Watson Glass Fishing Float Collection

Photo courtesy of Chris Hager, Board of Directors, February 17, 2024.

Jim Watson (1944-2002) was one of the world’s leading collectors of Japanese glass fishing floats. He found his first float walking on the beach near his home in Hawaii, a marvelous lavender float the size of a basketball. Jim’s life was changed, and he found his calling: to seek out the rarest glass fishing floats he could find, and share their beauty and history with the world. He dreamed of one day having his vast collection displayed in a museum.

These glass treasures have been a part of North Lincoln County history for nearly as long as white people have lived in the area. Beachcombing for floats was a huge draw for tourists throughout the 20th century. The way that the Pacific ocean currents carry objects meant the oldest and rarest floats made their way to Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, while more common floats ended up in Alaska and Canada. Jim moved to Neskowin, and began working with NLCHM in the 90s. He gave many presentations on the history of glass float production, use, and collecting. Here is a presentation he gave at NLCHM in May 2000:

After Jim’s passing in 2002, his family established the James L. Watson Fishing Float Foundation to hold his collection. NLCHM is proud to become a permanent home for the most significant pieces from Jim’s collection, to share these one-of-a-kind glass fishing floats, and to continue Jim’s educational work!

This exhibit was made possible by a generous donation from the James L. Watson Fishing Float Foundation, and the support of Mrs. Diana Watson and Georgia Watson. This exhibit was curated in partnership with Dr. Nicklis Simpson, DMD. This exhibit is open from February 2024 – February 2025, in the main exhibit hall on the ground floor.