Arthur Kovalovsky was born in 1881 in White Church Hungary where he trained as a metal-smith as a young teen. At the age of 22, Kovalovsky boarded the SS La Touraine departing from Le Havre France on December 26, 1903, and arrived at Ellis Island in early 1904. Kovalovsky moved to St. Louis where he worked in a shop on street-cars and later automobiles and motorcycles. When the owner of the shop was struck and killed by a hey cart Kovalovsky had to seek new employment. A quick study, Kovalovsky designed and built a five-cylinder rotary engine for which he received a patent.
Kovalovsky was also keen on aviation and while in St. Louis he met up with an old friend from France, an avaitor named Louis Bleriot who had flown the English Channel and was performing as a barnstormer throughout the mid-west. With Bleriot encouragement, Kovalovsky set about designing and building his own airplane. First, he built the engine and then the frame while his wife, Anna, sewed canvas for four months to cover the wings and fuselage.
On the day the engine was to be installed into his airplane, Kovalovsky left his shop and headed to the hangar where the airplane's frame was waiting. While passing under DC electrified street-car wires the magneto was demagnetized and the engine would not start and had to be rewound. The delay was an untimely one and by the time the engine had been repaired someone had stolen the body of the plane. A few years later Kovalovsky was informed that the plane had been found in Australia. Somewhere along the plane's route to Australia it had acquired a new engine and it was reported that Harry Houdini had flown in the plane.
In 1918 Kovalovsky moved to Los Angeles California and opened an automobile repair shop in neighboring Hollywood. Kovalovsky was an avid hunter and fisherman and in July of 1927 landed a 400-pound black sea bass off the Port Hueneme Wharf. Being both a fisherman and an inventor it seems only natural that he would build a fishing reel of his own design and, in 1928, that is exactly what he did. Over the next three years, Kovalovsky continued to repair automobiles but his reputation as a reel maker was beginning to gain momentum so in 1931 he decided to go strictly into the reel making business. It was the height of the great depression but the rich still had money and Kovalovsky was making the best reels money could buy so his business thrived. Kovalovsky's reels had the best drag in the business and his attention to detail and style insured there would always be a waiting list to acquire one of his reels. His son, Oscar, joined him in the shop and the output of reels and rods increased.
Zane Grey was one of his best customers and when Kovalovsky came up with his new lever drag reel Grey agreed to endorse it. The reel was Kovalovsky's top of the line reel and was marked and sold as the Kovalovsky "Zane Grey" reel. Ever the tinkerer and inventor, Kovalovsky constantly improved on his own designs and over the years made several different models and many one of a kind reels.
Because of restrictions placed on materials during World War II Kovalovsky had to stop building reels, however, he resumed production again when the war was over. In 1958 at the age of 77, he suffered a heart attack and passed away shortly thereafter. Arguably the finest big game reels ever made, today Kovalovsky's reels are highly sought after by collectors.
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