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Cavalero "Champion" Catalogue 1946 and the first of the Arbalete's

popgun pete

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This is the 1946 "Champion" catalog of the company founded by Rene Cavalero in France where modern spearfishing gained its first impetus post-World War II.

The Cavalero "Champion" eurogun was sold around the world, but although devised in 1943 the war had to end before volume production of the gun and other dive equipment could proceed.





and here is a translation of the Arbalete pages.

In those early days the guys knew more than we have often given them credit for if you closely read the above double page spread.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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The "Champion Arbalete" was sold under a number of different names in the USA by both Voit and US Divers and was produced in different barrel lengths, but the jumbo sized "Requin Flottante" was only produced in France.

I have the remains of a "Requin Flottante", but the rear barrel tube and mid-handle mechanism that controls a disappearing rest tab have long since disappeared when someone tried to convert the long gun to a standard Arbalete with two grip handles.

Here are the original instructions for loading this nearly 2 meter long cannon.
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
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Pete: It's brilliant having the opportunity to view this 1946 Champion catalogue.
:)
Thank you so much for posting! Would you be prepared to add any missing French pages from this catalogue? Page 3, perhaps, and the French version of page 8 (I'm particularly anxious to see whether the French term "tuba" is used for "snorkel")? If there is a catalogue page devoted to Champion fins, I'd really love to see it too...

The 1949 flyer below is the earliest Cavalero-Champion I have managed to locate.

The swimming fin is there and the diving mask resembles the model in your catalogue, while the foam-rubber garment modelled bottom left looks like the suit drawing below in Georges Beuchat's 1951 patent (FR979205) for a Vêtement isolant pour séjour dans l'eau sur surface ou en plongée:
53964
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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I had a Champion Arbalete (or maybe two of them) in the Mid 1950s when I was a kid in Florida. Here are a couple of photos. There was no such thing as a spearfishing reel back then so that first photo shows a Penn Senator reel attached to the barrel with hose clamps and filled with steel cable. We were shooting Goliath Grouper and they would wrap around those bridge pilings and break even cable. I think this was about 1953. Based on the girlfriend the second photo was probably around 1956. She is holding the Arbalete and I'm holding a Cressi Cernia with a bent shaft.
 

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Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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I know either me or my dive buddy had one with two sets of bands, but its not in those photos. As I recall that handle in the middle of the barrel was an extra cost option to make it easier to swing.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
3,370
740
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Australia
Pete: It's brilliant having the opportunity to view this 1946 Champion catalogue.
:)
Thank you so much for posting! Would you be prepared to add any missing French pages from this catalogue? Page 3, perhaps, and the French version of page 8 (I'm particularly anxious to see whether the French term "tuba" is used for "snorkel")? If there is a catalogue page devoted to Champion fins, I'd really love to see it too...

The 1949 flyer below is the earliest Cavalero-Champion I have managed to locate.

The swimming fin is there and the diving mask resembles the model in your catalogue, while the foam-rubber garment modelled bottom left looks like the suit drawing below in Georges Beuchat's 1951 patent (FR979205) for a Vêtement isolant pour séjour dans l'eau sur surface ou en plongée:
View attachment 53964
All the pages are there, just ignore the hand written numbers on the pages written by some unknown person in the distant past. The key is the figure numbering from 1 to 13. Swim fins had not entered into production by "Champion" in 1946, as you can tell by the spearfishermen being bare-footed in the illustrations. Snorkel is tuba, I have the original page and will post it when I find it as unfortunately I only named the images after I reformatted them. I can read French, but translated the pages for someone else.
Cavalero Champion 1946 page 8.jpg

In a humorous aside the fish are often exclaiming "OH LA LA" in these drawings of a hit! Note the X for the eyes! Très amusant.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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I know either me or my dive buddy had one with two sets of bands, but its not in those photos. As I recall that handle in the middle of the barrel was an extra cost option to make it easier to swing.
The "Champion" Arbalete originally came with an in-line band pull, twin socket head, but was soon joined by a four socket, two band version on the longer models. My "Requin Flottante" has the four socket head and very long bands which is how I identified it. Too much gun for the average user and it was unfortunate that it was then cut down, including chopping the spear which they never rethreaded and just sharpened the end like a pencil. In this form the gun was never used as they did not figure out how to join the front barrel section to the rear grip handle as the screw holes were in different places.
Champion Requin Flottante remaining parts.jpg


champion arbalete metal heads RR.jpg
 
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Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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My twin socket gun and four socket guns were the same length. The only difference was the head. Now and then a band would pull out of that screw-in thing and pull the wishbone through your hand. It didn't feel good. And then I'd have to go buy another band. I can't recall the price, but it was significant for a teen age kid. It sure is nicer to be able to make my own bands these days.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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This is the 1954 French patent for the "Requin Flottante", the most powerful of the Arbalete's at that time.
Champion Requin speargun patent 1954.jpg
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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So it was patented? I’m glad but why is that important to me now?

I guess I don’t have as much reverence for the minutia of speargun history as you do. I used these guns and shot fish with them. Did you? I only post about guns I’ve used.

In a thread on another forum I mentioned the fact that I had owned a Sampson gun but sold it. It was a SoCal gun popular in the 60s and some people regard it with reverence and thought I must be a heretic to get rid of it. But there are dozens of guns today that are far better than that Sampson. My car today is far better than the ones I owned in the 60s too.

The Champion Arbalete was great for it’s time but the fact that I shot so many fish with it says more about how many more fish there were back then than the quality of the gun. Today I would never even consider using a gun so small in Southern California.

I hope my favorite guns are patented but that’s a problem for the gun maker rather than of interest to me. In fact if they aren’t patented it may let someone improve in the design and I’ll be better off even if the poor guy who made them isn’t.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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So it was patented? I’m glad but why is that important to me now?

I guess I don’t have as much reverence for the minutia of speargun history as you do. I used these guns and shot fish with them. Did you? I only post about guns I’ve used.

In a thread on another forum I mentioned the fact that I had owned a Sampson gun but sold it. It was a SoCal gun popular in the 60s and some people regard it with reverence and thought I must be a heretic to get rid of it. But there are dozens of guns today that are far better than that Sampson. My car today is far better than the ones I owned in the 60s too.

The Champion Arbalete was great for it’s time but the fact that I shot so many fish with it says more about how many more fish there were back then than the quality of the gun. Today I would never even consider using a gun so small in Southern California.

I hope my favorite guns are patented but that’s a problem for the gun maker rather than of interest to me. In fact if they aren’t patented it may let someone improve in the design and I’ll be better off even if the poor guy who made them isn’t.
Don't worry, I have used plenty of guns, plus the info is here for others, not just for you and me. I have seen those photos of your Arbalete a few times now, so I know you and maybe half the divers in the old days had them, as well as the US companies making their own versions, including Healthways, US Divers and Voit.

These forums are not about competition or setting some pecking order amongst the participants, they are about sharing information. Egos are best left out of the picture, so we can learn something useful.
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
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Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
In a humorous aside the fish are often exclaiming "OH LA LA" in these drawings of a hit! Note the X for the eyes! Très amusant.
Rigolo indeed. :) Pierre-André Martineau's Hurricane spearfishing equipment company was fortunate enough to have the services of graphic artist and humorist Albert Dubout when creating publicity for the French firm, including its 1947 catalogue:
7-8_1.png
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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From the "Compleat Goggler". Guy Gilpatric may have set the trend to humor as his iconic book is full of colorful incidents, such as the grouper that regained consciousness in a kitchen, demolished the place and then had to be calmed with an axe.
Compleat Goggler  how to spear (640x489).jpg

Diving technique without swim fins as many early spearfishermen had a mask, a belt, a knife and a spear. Early masks were monoplane googles with no nose-piece, being invented by Charles Henry Wilen and Alexandre Kramarenko specifically for underwater hunting with Kramarenko's spring gun which was introduced in 1937.
Wilen and Kramarenko dive mask.jpg

Mary Belewsky Cap d'Antibes May 1941.jpg
 
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DRW

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Alexandre Kramarenko pictured above in Gilpatric's Compleat Goggler (I have a copy of the 1950s edition published by Skin Diver Magazine). And Charles Henry Wilen pictured below:

The two formed a business partnership that became the United Service Agency, based in Nice and manufacturing spearfishing equipment in the aftermath of World War II. Kramarenko may be better known nowadays, but I've recently researched Charles H. Wilen who had several fin, mask and snorkel patents to his name and by all accounts, not just in the history of diving technology, he is an intriguing figure who was in the society news for very different reasons in the mid-1920s. If you're interested, read the blog at Daddy Browning and his Peaches, then the ninth of the ten comments underneath.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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I researched Charles Wilen some years ago and have read all his patents. He and Kramarenko are joint holders of the dive mask patent, but while Kramarenko developed the first spring gun himself it was Wilen who took out the patent for the version they were selling as the original was a rather ramshackle device prone to misfiring being of a timber and folded metal handle construction. This US patent is shown here and the dates explain everything as the application date is December 10, 1940 with World War II in progress and Wilen now in Brooklyn, New York. Wilen is mentioned a number of times in the "Compleat Goggler" as Major Wilen and at one time was not much of a swimmer as he shot fish from a rubber floating mattress of some sort!
Wilen and Kramarenko spring gun.jpg

As a comparison this is the original 1937 spring gun patent.
Kramarenko spring gun 1937.jpg

Like Wilen, Kramarenko has a string of patents to his name and one of the odd-ball ideas is this double shot speargun which is both a spring gun and a sort of band gun, however I doubt any were built as my guess is it was just to claim that niche before someone else thought of it. Despite the patents everything they made was copied, including their spring gun right down to the dual purpose sliding safety button which can lock the trigger mechanism out as well as lock it on. The latter setting enables you to pull the long compression spring out for maintenance without the sear tooth serving as a delaying pawl or ratchet rubbing on the spring.
Kramarenko double shot speargun.jpg

The actual title is for a submarine gun with double effect, basically a gun with two shots. The patent application was on 28 October, 1941 and although France had been invaded, the Germans left the South of France to its own devices for a number of years.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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The reason why the United Service Agency "Fusil Americain" spring gun was copied is that Wilen had done such a good job with the patent that he virtually handed companies like Nemrod a blueprint on how to make every element of their design, and they did so with alacrity.
Wilen 1.jpg

Wilen 2.jpg
Nemrod spring gun handgrip LHS.jpg

This is a Nemrod, spot the difference!
 
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DRW

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There must have been some United Service Agency/Nemrod copying here too:

1. United Service Agency "Super Aquascope" (circa 1954):

2. Nemrod "Haiti PS/2069", made in Spain around the same time:
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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The copying probably was tolerated while rival companies served only their own national markets as the patents taken out were only effective in the country they were lodged in. If a manufacturer wanted to export then it was smart to lodge patents more widely, however enforcement was difficult and there was a flagrant disregard for observing intellectual property rights even in those days. Maxime Forjot invented the modern face mask and the tension spring gun amongst a bunch of other devices and was ripped off so extensively that it eventually cost him his business and his famous "Douglas" spring speargun ended up with “Hurricane” whom he sold out to when he left the business in disgust. "Nemrod" soon registered their patents in the USA as they aspired to and succeeded in that market where others had failed and the "Seamless Rubber Company" was set up to sell all of their complete line of "Nemrod" dive equipment.
 
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popgun pete

popgun pete

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There must have been some United Service Agency/Nemrod copying here too:

1. United Service Agency "Super Aquascope" (circa 1954):

2. Nemrod "Haiti PS/2069", made in Spain around the same time:
Of course the adverts leave out one salient feature, dive with maximum hydrodynamic drag and resistance through the water!
 

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
209
83
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I researched Charles Wilen some years ago and have read all his patents. He and Kramarenko are joint holders of the dive mask patent, but while Kramarenko developed the first spring gun himself it was Wilen who took out the patent for the version they were selling as the original was a rather ramshackle device prone to misfiring being of a timber and folded metal handle construction. This US patent is shown here and the dates explain everything as the application date is December 10, 1940 with World War II in progress and Wilen now in Brooklyn, New York. Wilen is mentioned a number of times in the "Compleat Goggler" as Major Wilen and at one time was not much of a swimmer as he shot fish from a rubber floating mattress of some sort!
Wilen certainly seems to have been a multifaceted individual if the various sources I have read about him are anything to go by. I wonder sometimes whether there are really two Charles Henry Wilens, one resembling Dr Jekyll and the other Mr Hyde. As for the pen portrait of "Major Wilen" painted by The Compleat Goggler, I must thank you, Pete, for pointing me in the direction of the chapter entitled "Guns" in Gilpatric's oeuvre. I had no idea he received a mention there playing the role of "Mr Kramarenko's associate in the gun business" and that he could not swim despite designing and patenting fins, masks and snorkels. I was intrigued by your description of him shooting fish from a "mattress of some sort". I see that what Gilpatric called Major Wilen's "flagship" was actually an inner tube, which reminded me of my Saturday morning sessions at my school's indoor swimming pool sixty years ago, floating on large tyre inner tubes such as the one in use here:

I was also amused by the story of the huge fish that couldn't be landed because Kramarenko had run out of arrows and needed to drive many miles home to Nice and back to fetch a spare while his "associate" Wilen was required to remain in position on his tube to ensure that their prey could not escape from its lair.

When researching Wilen and using his military rank as a search term I came across the following cutting in the Santa Ana Register of Monday, May 19, 1941:
53985

So his rank dates from his World War I service and the article suggests that he settled in France when that war ended. That doesn't seem to square at all with a Charles Henry Wilen I chanced upon during my searches who worked as a dentist in New York's Greenwich Village during the 1920s and who spectacularly eloped with a millionaire property tycoon's daughter to the French Riviera, took her money and promptly abandoned her. You see what I mean about the "Dr Jekyll" Major Charles Henry Wilen and the "Mr Hyde" dentist Charles Henry Wilen nicknamed the "Dental Sheikh" by reporters in an allusion, I suppose, to his Rudolph Valentino reputation (Daily News of Wednesday, 25 July 1923):
53986

The plot thickens... :confused:
 
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