A Clampffer Family Fish Tale

by Debbie on May 12, 2015

Bill Clampffer on a fishing boat off the New Jersey coast.

My grandfather, Bill Clampffer, on the Lenny. 

I knew my Clampffer ancestors passed their love of fishing down from generation to generation, and that fishing was a tradition that goes back quite far in our family tree. In the 1780’s, my 4x great grandfather Adam Clampffer was a member of the Schuylkill Fishing Company, a social club of sorts that formed to celebrate the shad run on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. My grandfather, William Clampffer, was a fisherman as well, and enjoyed fishing trips on the Lenny, which sailed out of the Belmar Marina in the 1950’s. So I wasn’t all that surprised to stumble on an 1895 newspaper clipping about my great great grandfather Clampffer’s success at reeling in a black bass. That is, until I read the account…


When the Water Was Turned on a Splendid Fellow of the Black Species Shot Out Into the Street.


A little band of Italian street cleaners in making their daily tour along Walnut street yesterday afternoon turned on the nozzle of the fire plug on the north side, midway between Third and Fourth streets, and found that the water instead of gushing out at once came in a small stream for several minutes, and then, suddenly, with a violent spurt, carrying with it a black bass, half a foot long, and flinging it half way across the street. It lay in the middle of the car track directly in front of a rapidly moving trolley, doubtless not appreciating its danger, but indicating by a careworn expression of the eyes and a spasmodic flap of the tail a fear of having from frying pan into the fire.

William K. Clampffer, senior member of the firm of Clampffer & Darlington, 325 Walnut street, who had been watching the novel scene with the eye of a devoted angler, came to the little fellow’s rescue, and, after securing a hold on him with professional skill, at once prescribed a bucketful of Delaware river water as the best restorative after a bath of Philadelphia dust.

Under this treatment the fish soon regained its spirits and made several frantic efforts to escape from the gaze of an admiring crowd of several hundred persons. Finally it was carried into the office of its captor, where it was given a reception by the friends of Mr. Clampffer, who was complimented upon the skill he had exhibited in catching a fish out of water.

The incident furnished a lengthy topic of conversation for the many amateur fishermen who collected, and several suggested that it furnished an answer to the question as to what has become of the black bass with which the Wissahickon river was stocked a couple of years ago.

— The Times (Philadelphia), Sunday, April 21, 1895.

Now that’s a good fish tale.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom (Sallie Clampffer Hadley) May 12, 2015 at 6:38 pm

That was funny! I wasn’t expecting that at all………a trip on a boat and a big catch, but not that at all! HOW did you find that one?


Debbie May 12, 2015 at 6:48 pm

I found it quite a while ago and have been meaning to post it. This is why I love searching historic newspapers. You’d never get a story like that from just looking at death certificates or census records!


Sallie Clampffer hadley August 3, 2016 at 1:00 am

I’d love to see the letters from Lottie……(I know this is the wrong article) Maybe I could try to help decipher them.


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