Meet Fred Kimble

Fred Kimble was born in 1846 in Knoxville, Ill. He was very musically inclined and by age six he could play both the violin and accordion. In 1852, his father was taken by "gold fever," and the family moved to San Francisco. A theater owner there learned of young Kimble's cleverness with the accordion and offered him a chance to play at $50 a week. The majority of the audiences were gold miners, 25 cents was the smallest piece of change they had. After Fred’s performance, they tossed handfuls of coins on the stage. He made $550 in tips in the first week he played. At age eight, he was playing violin in the best bordello in San Francisco.


The family moved back to Illinois when he was nine, and young Freddy started to attend school. His father bought him his first shotgun at thirteen. By eighteen he was considered one of the best duck shots in that section of the country.

In 1868 he invented the choke-bore shotgun barrel that would revolutionize the art of wing shooting and later, in 1884, he invented the Peoria Blackbird clay target and then the Mallard Duck call. He also invented the process for keeping eggs fresh by cold storage.

In his later years, he became a fine amateur painter and a great checker player. He defeated the world’s champion checker player, a fellow named Turner, at Chicago for a side bet of $1,000. They played 100 games—Kimble winning three and Turner one. The rest were ties. He played checkers for 23 years without losing a game.

Fred Kimble died in 1941 at the age of 95. Every Sunday up to the time he died, he visited the old Union Pacific Gun Club in Los Angeles. And he always brought a bag of oranges for the trapboys. When he was 91, he broke 98x100 from 16 yards the "old way," with the gun down. He was inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1969.

1930 Oil by Trapshooting Hall of Fame Inductee Fred Kimble
Owned by John Davis, Vienna, GA

Measuring 10" x 16" without the gold frame, Fred Kimble's "San Francisco Bay Afternoon" looks westward toward the mouth of the Bay where the Golden Gate Bridge now joins the San Francisco Peninsula, land on the left, and the Marin Headlands, on the right (construction of the bridge did not begin until 1933). It looks like a typical San Francisco afternoon with patches of blue sky peaking through the lingering fog.

Shown are four sailboats, including one in the distance near the mouth of the Bay, along with a steamship with goods aboard steaming north. Not much wind on this day as there are no white caps on the water and the smoke from the steamer is drifting leisurely upward. Golden hues of the afternoon sun are predominant in the reflection off the water and backlighting of the fog on the horizon.

The gold-painted frame (15-5/8" x 21-1/2") is made from wood and as you can see in the photo, the painting itself is mounted on a separate frame that is held in place with two metal spring clips. The original label, beautifully hand-scripted in fountain pen by Kimble, is still in place and in excellent condition. It reads:

San Francisco Bay Afternoon
"Fred Kimble" 1930

A note to this web site by painting owner John Davis:

     The original label, beautifully hand scripted in fountain pen by Kimble, is still in place and in excellent condition.  As an interesting note, during my research I acquired copies of the administration proceedings on the estate of Charles F. Stock. You may recall that Stock was a close friend of Fred’s.  They were also business associates in the Peoria Target Company, which manufactured the Peoria Blackbird target and trap.  Stock died at a rather early age in 1884.  His estate was administered in 1885 and Kimble was appointed an appraiser and stood for the administrator’s bond.  As such, his signature appeared on a number of documents.  Now, I am no hand writing expert but having compared the 1885 signatures with that which appears on the back of the 1930 oil painting, there is no doubt in my mind that they were signed by the same person.

Back view of score sheet.
Photo credit: Laura Fokes

Front view of score sheet.
Photo credit: Laura Fokes

On February 13, 1883, Fred Kimble and J. Frank Kleintz of Philadelphia met in a pigeon match at the Shooting Park in Peoria, Illinois. Kimble defeated Kleintz 88-84 out of the 100 pigeons they shot that day. A thank you to reader John Davis who provided the web site with a photograph of an actual score sheet (front and back) used in the match and the two media accounts of the match. The first account was from the Peoria Daily Transcript of February 13, 1883 and the second account from the American Field of February 24, 1883.

The score sheet (s) were distributed by Isaac Walker Hardware Store of Peoria. Most likely many in attendance kept their own score sheet much the same way we keep a score sheet when we attend a major league baseball game. The card shown above is probably one of those score cards kept by someone in attendance and has survived over 120 years. 

February 13, 1883 , Peoria Daily Transcript

The much talked of Kimble-Kleintz shooting contest took place at the Shooting Park, several hundred sportsmen from all parts of the state being present. The match was for $500, the Peoria club backing Kimble against the noted Philadelphian, at 100 birds, thirty yards rise, ground trap, each contestant handling and trapping  for his opponent and only one barrel to be used.

A great deal of interest was manifested in the match and there was considerable betting on the result. Kleintz killed six straight birds from the opening, while Kimble missed his fourth, and it was soon evident that Kleintz was Kimble’s superior in handling and trapping, but that Kimble was the best shot. Kleintz tailed his opponent’s birds and resorted to every device known to the pigeon shooter to cause the birds Kimble was to shoot at to fly uncertain.

Kleintz missed but three out of the first twenty, while Kimble missed four, and the pools consequently were quite fluctuating. In the second twenty Kleintz missed seven, however, and Kimble but two, which made him the favorite at 10 to 8.  From that time out the Peoria man held the lead and won the match by a score of 88 to Kleintz’s 84 out of 100, making it one of the most closely contested and the best on record under the rules governing it. Kimble out shot Kleintz all the way through, his birds generally being harder to hit by reason of Kleintz tailing, etc. Kimble killed at one time 26 straight birds and finished the last 22 without a break, while Kleintz’ best runs were two straight runs of twenty.

February 24, 1883 , The American Field

In the Kimble-Kleintz match, shot at Peoria, Ill., Monday, February 12, the conditions were: 100 tame pigeons each, from one ground trap, thirty yards rise, use of one barrel, 1¼ ounce shot, powder unlimited, birds to be furnished by Kleintz, each to trap against the other from one coop.

The birds were brought from Philadelphia by Mr. Kleintz, and were supposed to be first-class, but turned out to be only an average lot. After a few birds had been shot in the match, it was evident that Kleintz was out-trapping Kimble two to one; but it was also plain that Kimble was out-shooting him at the same rate.  Kleintz shot a Daly gun, furnished by Kuhn, of Philadelphia , ten-gauge, 32-inch barrels, weighing ten and one-half pounds.

Kimble shot a Parker gun, ten-gauge, 32-inch barrels, weighing ten and one-half pounds; it was furnished him by the Gun Department of the Isaac Walker Hardware Company, was of the $85 grade, and taken from stock just as it came from the maker’s hands. The score speaks well for the gun, for as far as I know it is the best that was ever made under the same conditions. Mr. N. Doxey, of Geneseo , IL , officiated as referee to the satisfaction of all parties. Considerable betting was done on the match, Mr. Kleintz being the favorite at the commencement.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 May 2010 15:20