If there is one area
regarding Shakespeare that is shrouded in darkness and the unknown, it is the
sequence of Rhodes and Shakespeare lure boxes from the early part of this
century. Sources such as Kimball, Luckey, Streater, and others have written
about the companies, but none have tackled the tricky subject of the boxes and
which lures were placed in what box.
I'll attempt to put into
perspective what I do know at this point, but again you must understand this is
a work in progress. There is no final answer here. No living person knows all
the answers. Much of this information is conjecture or the summation of bits and
pieces of the puzzle by several experienced collectors. This article is not meant to be the final answer.
We know William
Shakespeare, Jr. started seriously making tackle about 1900. The first published
catalog for his company was in 1902. In that catalog only four lures were
offered. The Revolution, Worden Bucktail, Evolution, and a rubber Tournament
Bait-casting Frog. Used for these lures were the black and silver introductory
cardboard boxes. In later years, some of these same baits were placed in the box
then in current use by the company if the bait was still in production. An
example would be the Evolution, which was later sold in the gray box during the
twenties. This sequencing of baits through various boxes is typical of the
history of Shakespeare and contributes much of the confusion.
First, let's examine the
early years. Rhodes and Shakespeare were competitors. The Kalamazoo Fishing
Tackle Company was owned by Jay Rhodes prior to 1905 when the patent for his gem
clip hook hangers and other Rhodes lure designs were sold to the William
Shakespeare Co. Among those designs, which were sold to Shakespeare, are the
Rhodes Perfect Casting Minnow and the Rhodes Mechanical Frog. The boxes used by
Rhodes were buff colored cardboard with a paper label on top.
(Note: The actual color
of many early boxes is hard to determine because of limited examples and the
changes produced by sunlight and the age of the paper. So, buff could be a
weathered white box or a faded yellow. Using the word "buff" is a way to avoid
making an absolute statement.)
Rhodes and the Kalamazoo
Fishing Tackle Co. produced underwater minnows, which were later incorporated
into the Shakespeare line after the sale of the company to Shakespeare.
Shakespeare made the
Rhodes minnows part of their lower priced line and saved money by continuing to
use a round body for the Rhodes minnows and a shaped (oval or elliptical) body
for the higher priced Shakespeare minnows. Different boxes were used for the
different quality lures.
The interaction of the
two company products during the time frame from 1905 to 1907 is where most of
the confusion occurs regarding boxes. An extensive Shakespeare catalog occured
in 1907 and shows in colored drawings the various Shakespeare and Rhodes lures
available at the time, but tells us nothing about the boxes they used.
Unlike the Heddon Company
of the same time period, which owned its own printing company, the boxes and
labels used by Shakespeare were apparently provided by outside providers and
varied with supplier. Shakespeare must have used what it had on hand,
over-labeled when convenient, and had more than one supplier for the boxes. All
of this combined to produce confusion today and a great variety of examples from
the early years.
A word of common sense is
in order here: just because one finds a lure in a given box today has
nothing to do with the lure which originally was placed in that box during 1905.
You have to coordinate the body shape, the hardware, type of paint, and various
other factors to correctly date a given lure or box combination.
To differentiate lures
and boxes, you need technical details and to understand two topics: hook hanger
hardware and propellers. These topics are essential to understanding what lure
should be in which box.
Hook hanger hardware, the
The Shakespeare hook
hangers are divided into two camps and split at the 1910 date. Prior to 1910,
Shakespeare used a gem-clip wire hanger to make the hooks removable. The word
gem-clip comes from the similarity of the wire to a Gem brand round wire paper
clip. It is constructed from a round wire which is held in place by a long
line-tie screw from the nose or tail of the lure. Viewed from the side, you can
see daylight through the center of the underwater minnow and thus the term
"see-through hardware." When viewed from the side, the width of the wire holder
is vertical. You can detect the type of see-through hardware used in the
Shakespeare catalogs by noting that gem clip hardware is vertical and flat plate
hardware is horizontal when viewed from the side.
After 1910, the hardware
was changed from wire to a flat stamped or cut piece of metal with square edges
as viewed from the outside of the lure. Daylight still shows through the center
of the lure on side hooked lures. When viewed from the side, the width of the
flat plate is horizontal.
Additional information on
Shakespeare hardware with photos.
Shakespeare 1910 gem clip
compared to Pflueger and how they
Propellers, the basics:
Beginning in 1905, the
Shakespeare prop design progressed from the "A" prop (shaped like an letter A
with one hump) to the "B" prop (shaped like a letter B with two humps), then to
a plain prop with smooth sides and pointed end, and finally to the Shakespeare marked pointed props.
The "A" props, which were
used from 1905 to approximately 1910 are also referred to as "Long Horn" props
due to their length. The "B" style prop began in the 1907 period and existed
until approximately the early teens. During the early period, there was a very
distinctive more rounded prop used on the Slim Jim which resembled the width of
the Rhodes prop, but with a pointed tip.
Typically the "B", or two
hump, prop will be seen on 1910 and later flat plate hardware lures. However it
is also observed on pre-1910 gem clip hardware lures. The transition era was
from 1907 to 1910 and you may expect to find combinations of hardware during
At this time, the approximate sequence of boxes is believed to be:
Shakespeare Black with silver writing introductory cardboard boxes used
1902 to 1905
Rhodes, Kalamazoo Fishing Tackle Co. buff or white colored cardboard boxes
used pre-1906 prior to sale to Shakespeare Co.
Shakespeare Co. produced and labeled Rhodes Minnow in a white colored
cardboard boxes used 1906 to 1908
white, or yellow colored Shakespeare picture labeled cardboard boxes used
1905 - 1906
Shakespeare maroon colored picture labeled cardboard boxes used 1907 -
slide top boxes with paper labels on top used 1907 -1912
slide top boxes with ink imprinted Shakespeare logo used 1910 -1918?
or white colored cardboard boxes with Shakespeare red and green oval used
and blue colored cardboard boxes used 1925 -1950's
Introductory or "intro" box
introductory or special issue cardboard boxes were used the first year of
boxes not shown: Punkinseed, Musky Underwater, Rhodes Mechanical Frog.)
Lure numbers and color
The 1902 era Worden
Bucktail, Revolution, Worden's Bucktail, Evolution, and Sure Lure were provided
in a black box with silver writing and diagrams. In this case, the boxes were
sized for the three sizes of the Revolution: baby, regular, and Musky. Size was
indicated on the end of the box.
There were three versions
of the Rhodes Mechanical Frog box: first, and oldest, is the one produced by
Rhodes' Kalamazoo Fishing Tackle Company which came in the tan or buff colored
cardboard box. See the example shown earlier in the article. Next, following the
sale of the company to Shakespeare came the Rhodes' Mechanical Frog cardboard
tan/buff or off-white colored box sold by Shakespeare (1907-1910). And finally,
the Rhodes' Mechanical Frog wood box sold by Shakespeare (1910-1912).
The early c.1905 white
labels for Shakespeare Wooden Minnows had four digit numbers, while the later
(c.1907 catalog) labels used a combination of two digits and two letters to
designate model, size, and color. The four digit numbers were also used on the
early maroon boxes, but the post 1907 nomenclature is also used on the maroon
The early label on one
particular maroon box with numbers and letters (44RY) was observed to have the
notice " formerly 1623" which would indicate the transition to numbers and
letters was noted on the labels for a while.
An example of the four
digit label: on an 1905 vintage buff/yellow/white colored box: the four digit
designation "1632", size No. 2, is for a 5 hook minnow and lists the color as
white back and white belly. Note the decorative border design on the earlier
Or, as shown below, on an
early maroon box label: "1726", size No. 1, is for a 2 hook minnow and lists the
color as brown back and white belly. Note the decorative border design on this
When the maroon and wood
box came into use (1907?), the nomenclature was changed to a combination of two
digits and two or three letters to identify the type and color. For example: the
label would be 33GY. The number 33 is the model for a 3 hook minnow and GY the
color green and yellow.
The boxes used for the
1905 to 1910 era Shakespeare high forehead longhorn prop, gem clip hardware
minnows were the buff or maroon cardboard box with a picture of either a 3 or 5
hook underwater minnow on the top of the box. There was lure size and color
nomenclature on the top and end of the box.
The maroon Shakespeare
picture label box was in use through the latter part of the high forehead, gem
clip, "A" prop era from 1907 into 1910 when the wood box became the box of
choice for the underwater and floating minnows.
As the hardware changed
in 1910 from gem clip to flatplate, the typical type of boxes used began with
the wood box and gradually progressed into the gray box about 1912. Some wood
boxes were obviously still in use after 1912 as they perhaps used up supplies
they had on hand. It is believed the Shakespeare ink-embossed wood box may have
been around and in use as late as 1918 for some minnows.
It is not unusual to find
wood or other boxes with two labels, one being pasted over another. Nothing was
wasted and this just adds to the confusion. However, wood boxes should have a
paper label on the end of the box to identify the type of lure found in the box.
The earliest wood boxes
are found with both a top and end paper label. The later wood boxes are found
with the typical red ink printing directly embossed into the wood slide top.
Again, embossed wood boxes should have a square paper nomenclature label on the
end of the box.
There are three sizes of
the wood box, ranging from a smaller three hook minnow size, a slightly larger
one used for five hook minnows, to the much larger Musky version. The ink
imprinting or embossing on the slide top varies too, from lightly stamped to
being deeply impressed into the wood.
Metalized minnows were
first introduced in 1910, so you would expect to find them in wood and gray
boxes with a nomenclature label on the end of the box.