Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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Founded at Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1949, Zebco is a major manufacturer of fishing equipment. It began with the invention of backlash-free fishing reel by a Rotan, Texas, watchmaker and itinerant inventor named Jasper R. Dell Hull, who was better known as R. D. Hull. After struggling to find a company to manufacture and to market his invention, Hull finally approached the Zero Hour Bomb Company of Tulsa for assistance. The Zero Hour Bomb Company, which had been in business since 1932 manufacturing electric time bombs used in fracturing oil-well formations, was experiencing the difficulties common to a single-product company in a shrinking market. They partnered with Hull and produced their first reel, called the Standard, in May 1949. Soon afterward, through regional marketing under the name Zebco the product became so popular that in January 1956 the company changed its name to Zebco and ceased to produce oil-field related materials. Through the introduction of a series of new models featuring high quality at reasonable prices the company continued to expand until 1961, when they merged with the Brunswick Corporation. Afterward, they acquired several smaller firms, expanded their national presence, and became involved in international marketing of their growing line of fishing equipment. Hull remained with the firm's production department, where he designed twenty-six reels and received thirty-five patents prior to his May 1977 retirement soon followed by his death in December of that same year. In 2001 the W. C. Bradley Company bought Zebco from Brunswick, but in the early years of the twenty-first century the headquarters of the nation's best-known fishing gear manufacturer remained in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Karl T. White, Zebco: The Family Reel (N.p.: Privately published, ca. 2000). Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 27, 28, and 29 June 2000. Zebco Public Relations Department Files, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bobby D. Weaver

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