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Frank "Frenchy" Chevalier
St. Petersburg , Florida

Frank Chevalier was born in Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada in 1861 and immigrated to Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1880. He worked in several northeastern textile mills before running off and joining the circus. It was during his carnival days that Chevalier picked up the nickname "Frenchy" that most people came to know him by.

Frenchy retired from the circus in 1919 and settled in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was around that time that a new wooden bridge was built connecting the town of Pass-A-Grille on the north end of St. Petersburg Beach to the Pasadena area of St. Petersburg. In the early 1920's Frenchy opened a fishing operation at the beach end of the bridge. His place was known as Frenchy's and he sold refreshments and bait, rented boats, and offered the services of fishing guides.

He also began carving and testing his own fishing lures. One design proved to be very successful and Frenchy's Standard Trout Plug soon became a favorite among local fishermen. Other designs followed and did well also. Frenchy was the first wooden lure maker in St. Petersburg and he could not make them fast enough to keep up with demand.

In 1931 Frenchy gave up his fish camp and he moved across Boca Ciega Bay into the town of St. Petersburg. He took residence only a couple of blocks from the waterfront along Vinoy Basin. The move was partly due to hard economic times brought on by the depression, and partly due to Frenchy's desire to make fishing lures full time. He also wanted to teach people how to fish. His small storefront on Central Avenue was described by the local newspaper as the first fishing school in the city or in the country as far as is known….The walls of the old Frenchman’s establishment are lined with fishing plugs of every description and type.  A long tank reaches almost the length of the store.  This tank is filled with water for casting purposes.  All the brilliantly painted minnows that adorn the walls were made by Chevalier.

It was tough to earn a living running a fishing school and making lures in the early 1930's. After a year or so, Frenchy closed his school and moved in with friends across the street. His friends were Clarence and Ralph Dally and they ran a business that sold and serviced outboard motors, along with fishing tackle, and tools. Frenchy lived in the loft of their store and worked as watchman by night. By day he worked as lure maker and resident fishing expert for the Dally Brothers. Dally Brothers
Frenchy Chevalier made fishing lures throughout the 1930's. He sold them at Dally's and a couple of local shops. He also sold lures by mail to customers who had used them and wanted more. A chart at Dally's store illustrated dozens of designs of Frenchy trout and bass baits.
Frenchy Chevalier concave lure body Some Frenchy lures were made with concave shaped sides, as shown on the left. This type of body was used for both fresh and salt water baits.

Some Frenchy baits had angled sides. Lures have been found with sides angled up with a rounded belly, as shown on the right. Lures have also been found with sides angled down with a rounded top.
Frenchy Chevalier diagonal body lure
Frenchy was one of the first Florida lure makers to use glass eyes on his baits. Some of his eyes were like those used by Heddon, Creek Chub, and other lure makers. He also used a lot of larger, teddy bear eyes, in several different colors. Notice the variety of glass eyes in the pictures below. It must be said that the quality of Frenchy's lures varied widely. Some were very high quality and would rival those made by almost anyone. Others were just plain sloppy. It is not at all uncommon to find a Frenchy lure with a poor paint job or eyes that are aimed anywhere but forward. Keep in mind that Frenchy did everything by hand and he did not have the hands of a young man when he was making fishing lures. He was already seventy years old when he opened his fishing school and started making lures in earnest.

Frank "Frenchy" Chevalier suffered a stroke in the summer of 1939 and his lure making came to an end. He died in St. Petersburg in 1940. Frenchy's story was largely one of rags to riches to rags. His only wealth when he died was a group of very close friends whom he had known on the St. Petersburg waterfront for years. Some of those friends came together to pay for Frenchy's funeral. Writer Rube Allyn recalled years later the wonderful care and thoughtfulness of Frenchy’s friends in the last days of his life constitute one of the most inspiring stories of the waterfront.  When the history of St. Petersburg fishing is written, Frenchy’s friends will occupy one of the outstanding chapters.

I will add that the fishing lures made by Frank “Frenchy” Chevalier occupy one the outstanding chapters in the history of Florida’s lure makers!

The lures shown here are part of our collection. Click on the thumbnail pictures to see a larger image

Frenchy Trout Lures
Frenchy's Standard Trout Lure Frenchy's Special Trout Lure Frenchys Special Trout Lure Frenchy's Special Trout Lure
Frenchy began making trout lures in the 1920's. They were weighted for salt water casting and made in Standard or Special models. Frenchy's Standard lures were made with painted eyes. Frenchy's Special lures had glass eyes.

Frenchy Concave Sided Lures
Frenchy Chevalier concave sided lure Frenchy Chevalier concave sided lure Frenchy Chevalier concave sided lure Frenchy Chevalier concave sided lure
Frenchy used a concave wooden body on several models of his salt water and fresh water lures.

Frenchy Bass Lures
Frenchy Chevalier bass lure Frenchy Chevalier bass lure Frenchy Chevalier bass lure Frenchy Chevalier bass lure
These are only a few examples of the many styles and colors of bass lures made by Frenchy.

We are always interested in adding to this collection. Please send an email if you have any old Frenchy baits for sale or trade.
Visit my page about Antique Florida Lures to see other lure makers from Florida.

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