George Leonard Herter

Minnesota entrepreneur, outdoorsman and author. In 1939 Herter (d. 1994) began running his family business dry-goods store in Waseca, MN. Opened an additional store in Mitchell, SD and by the 1950s he began a mail-order supply business, eventually producing the world-famous Herter’s catalog of outdoors equipment and sporting goods supplies — from duck calls and fishing lures, knives and ammo, rifle dies, cleaning supplies and clothing to snowmobiles and fiberglass boats — an eclectic catalogue that soon included Herter’s self-published wildly eccentric (and basically insane) books, from a famous cookbook to books on winemaking, guns, and other survivalist topics. [wiki] [google]

The Herter’s Catalog

The motto of Herter’s, Inc. showed up on every printed page of their annual catalogs: Where wildlife cannot live, humans cannot survive. Back in the day, the company’s products were used and cherished by hunters, fishermen, trappers, boaters and outdoorsmen of all persuasions. If you spend enough time on fishing forums today, you’ll run into the older folks reminiscing on their youthful days perusing through a Herter’s, such as these nostalgic thoughts and memories of the 1974 Herter’s catalog. The catalogs liberally included Herter’s essays and advice, which were heeded by them all — such as his informative and quixotic “How to Buy an Outdoor Knife.” [full text, scroll down]

Pages from the Herter’s Catalog

While no entire catalogs have been digitized and put online, you can catch tantalizing glimpses of some of the catalogs online if you know where to look. Try here for images of some pages: a page from the 1955 Gun Accessory Catalog,
a full-page scan of the Herter’s minibike (the “Herter’s Hudson Bay Hunter, Fisherman, Beach, Tundra, Trapper and Camper Bikes”), a box for the “world-famous tiger tail” (scroll down), and
a color cover.

The various goods and products themselves were of generally high quality, and are sought-after collectibles today. [search]

Herter’s, Inc. was nominated as part of the MN150 exhibit, (150 people, places and things that shape the state of Minnesota): Whether you were 10 or 100, a pilgrimage to Herter’s captured every young sportsman’s imagination through the latter half of the 20th century.’s%2C_Inc.

While the Herter’s showroom is gone, vestiges remain; GLH made arrangements so that Cabela’s would now handle distribution of their products and to this day Cabela’s continues to handle the world famous Internet domain. You can browse the remaining inventory, which at this wrigin includes outdoor camouflage clothing and world-famous life-size duck decoys.

Herter’s books today

Some books were written and published in conjunction with his wife, Berthe E. Herter. George Herter enjoyed talking about his associations with Ernest Hemingway, and in fact he made thousands of original claims. He claimed to have the true knowledge of the Martini cocktail and its originator, who (claimed Herter) also invented another “world-class” cocktail, the Martini Verboten, whose second ingredient is apple cider vinegar.

While Herter produced large quantities of his books, some titles can be difficult to obtain. Collectors hoard and cherish their copies. Many remain in the possesion of individuals who first purchased them, or passed on to their families, but some are finally beginning to become available. Check eBay [search] and Amazon, where many of the important Herter titles can still be obtained at reasonable prices:


Reminisces and articles

The greatest cook book writer in history” — so begins Mark Gelbart’s 2005 article on The Bull Cook.

Also that year, Stephen Bodio posted a GLH reminiscence that discusses some of the books. Bodio points out a few Herterisms, including this gem, from 1963’s The Truth About Hunting in Today’s Africa: “Most people don’t realize that being eaten by a hyena doesn’t hurt very much.”

Bob Zimmerman wrote an essay on his memories of the Herter’s catalog back in the 1960s.

The article “Classic Cookbooks Create Some Wild Conjecturing” contains a recipe for Steak Aflame.

Don’t miss Out Your Backdoor’s memories of Bull Cook and the Herter’s catalog — he talks about how it contained silk, gems, cured salmon and maple syrup (!) and postulates that Herter’s began to decline once the ban on selling guns through mail-order went in place.

From Guns Magazine, April 2005: “… in my youth their catalog was the wish book for all things outdoors.”

George Campbell’s 2007 reminiscence of a boyhood poring over the Herter’s catalog, “Remembering Herter’s — An Iconoclast’s History” (scroll down) reminds us that George Herter was a master marketer.

In 2008, Herter was profiles in the New York Times (Dec 7 2008).">More reminisces and memories of the Herter's store

For further reference

First published on March 9th, 2009 at 10:25 am (EST) and last modified on March 9th, 2009 at 8:34 pm (EST).