Fine Points About Tackle

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Fine Points About Tackle

Post by leland99 »

I have been very fortunate to meet many outstanding collectors with amazing knowledge that have been willing to share information and passion for Shakespeare bait casting reels. Over the last few years, I have been thrilled to add four very early Shakespeare bait casting reels to my collection: The Rubber Standard, the Style C, the Style B and the Style A.

Below is my 2020 ORCA Virtual National Display.

Fine Points About Tackle
'Being A Catalog of Fine Fishing Tackle, suited to the needs of anglers who follow the “art of bait-casting” '(Introductory heading of the of the Wm Shakespeare Jr. 1902 Catalog)

The name Shakespeare has been at the forefront of fishing reels since the end of the 19th century. It seems to have all started when a young William Shakespeare Jr. was frustrated with the modern fishing equipment of the late 1800's and sought a better way to wind the line back on the reel than with the use of one’s thumb. From his personal notes of June 24, 1934, he stated, “While seated on the edge of my bed, I was engaged in pulling off a sock. It was then that I visualized the principle of a reel that would rewind the line evenly that I later developed”. He also added that “It seems senseless to mention the sock but very likely men who call themselves psychologists would say that it was important.” One can almost imagine the young man tracing a spiral pattern with his finger across his Argyle sock, and creating a mental picture of his idea. This was the reasoning behind his first production reel.

Around 1890, a young William Shakespeare was employed at the Garrett & Lowe Kalamazoo Shutter Co. His ability in design and mechanical knowledge was immediately apparent, but after a few years the company folded. Now unemployed, Shakespeare acquired a jeweler’s lathe and started experimenting with his new reel design. His first successful level wind reel was built in 1896 and on Oct. 5, 1897 he was granted patent #591,086. With this patent in hand he started “The William Shakespeare Jr. Company”. The first reel was the handmade Style C. The Style C used two parallel grooved worm gears working in tandem to control lateral strain when winding against the weight of a large fish. The Style C was also artistically built having turned and knurled pillars and a nicely shaped counterbalanced crank handle and knob.

A second reel design was submitted for patent on April 27th, 1901 for a non-level winding "Vom Hoff" style reel and the patent was issued on November 12th. This reel was made of jet-black hard rubber with decoratively turned pillars and handsome silver-plated end plates. Like the "Style C", this "Quadruple" reel featured a thumb-controlled slide click. And like the "Style C", it was also marked "Handmade".

The Style B level winding reel was introduced in 1903. The Style B was intended to be an improvement in basic design, without changing the level-wind mechanism. The Style B featured the recently patented Harmonic Click and Graduated Drag wheels rather than sliders as found on the Style C. The Head and tail plate design pattern also changed resembling the new patented laminated end plates.

In 1904 the Style A was introduced, which was identical to the Style B except made with solid nickel silver rather than nickel plated. The Style A is also nicely hand engraved, in fact, the catalogs at the time state it is the personal handiwork of Mr. Shakespeare himself.

The Rubber Standard:

The Style C:

The Style B:

The Style A:


1902 Wm Shakespeare Jr Catalog - Harvey Garrison Library -

Shakespeare - ORCA Library at with noted contributions from Harvey Garrison. Other info “Kalamazoo, The Place Behind the Products”, “Kalamazoo Gazette” 1925 various catalogues, Kalamazoo public library scrapbooks “Shakespeare Fishing Tackle, 100 years of Excellence in Fishing Tackle” author unknown; “History of Shakespeare” Doug Steward.

"Honor Built- Honor Sold" by Eric Foster Jeska, Copyrighted 1997 at Shakehistory.htm

“Shakespeare Style: A Closer Look at the Changes” by Eric Jeska, The Reel News, November 2018

I hope you have enjoyed the display. Have a great week!
Last edited by kyreels on Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: fix link
Bryce Tawney
The Reel Packrat

Packing these reels into my nest hole: Talbot, Milam, Meek, Horton, Heddon, Wm Shakespeare Jr, and small diameter skeleton fly reels!
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Re: Fine Points About Tackle

Post by Paul M »

Fascinating reels and summary description, Bryce. Than you for posting!
Paul Manuel

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Re: Fine Points About Tackle

Post by kyreels »

Stunning collection, had not seen those versions all in one place. Thanks for sharing this display.
Matt Wickham
Collector of Casting Weights, KY Reels and KY Tackle
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Re: Fine Points About Tackle

Post by Steve »

Bryce, it's truly a rare pleasure to see these historic reels together. Many thanks!

Steve Vernon
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Website: Antique Fishing Reels

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Re: Fine Points About Tackle

Post by Teal »

Love this Ron! Great job!

-- Dr. Todd
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