Antique Lures


Shakespeare and Rhodes Fishing Lure Box Sequences

Early History:

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 basics:

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 hardware compared to Pflueger and how they differ.

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 this era.


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

Buff, white, or yellow colored Shakespeare picture labeled cardboard boxes used 1905 - 1906

Shakespeare maroon colored picture labeled cardboard boxes used 1907 - 1909

Wood slide top boxes with paper labels on top used 1907 -1912

Wood slide top boxes with ink imprinted Shakespeare logo used 1910 -1918?

Gray or white colored cardboard boxes with Shakespeare red and green oval used 1912 -1924

Orange and blue colored cardboard boxes used 1925 -1950's


Rhodes'   Perfect Casting Minnnow. (c.1905).  Photo courtsey of Dennis Wolfe. Rhodesbxtp.JPG (34032 bytes)
Rhodes' Kalamazoo Fishing Tackle Co. Mechanical Frog in tan/buff colored cardboard box (c.1905?) rhodesfrogbx.JPG (76941 bytes)
Rhodes' Kalamazoo Fishing Tackle Co. Marked 75 and contained a three hook minnow. (Most likely c. 1904, just before selling to Shakespeare.  Photo courtsey of Dan Milewski. rhodeskala.JPG (26513 bytes)
Black "introductory" cardboard box with silver imprinted top for Revolutions, Worden bucktail, Shur-Lure (1902-1905) bxshrlr.jpg (13328 bytes)
Black "introductory" cardboard box with silver writing, marked for the Musky Revolution (R3) on the end of the box (1902-1905) shakmubx.jpg (34710 bytes)
Shakespeare Rhodes Wooden Minnow maroon cardboard box (1906) bxrhodes.jpg (27991 bytes)
Early Shakespeare buff or white cardboard picture box with a printed "picture" label of a 3 or 5 hooker underwater minnow on top (1905-1906) bxpix1.jpg (19933 bytes)
Early Shakespeare White cardboard picture box for a Musky lure.  Picture label (1905-1906) Photo courtesy of Paul Meneguzzi shkmusky.jpg (55634 bytes)
Shakespeare Wooden Minnow in a maroon cardboard box with paper label attached to top and end (1907-1909) bxpix2.jpg (16342 bytes)
Shakepseare Wooden Minnow in a maroon cardboard box with paper label attached to top and end (1907-1909 note the variation from photo above) Photo courtesy of Paul Meneguzzi shkpm5.jpg (53585 bytes)

Early Shakespeare wood box with paper label on top (1907-1910)

bxwbpl.jpg (19265 bytes)

Shakespeare Musky wood box with imprinted top (1910) Photo courtesy of Fred Rigdon skmuskybx.JPG (44675 bytes)
Shakespeare's version of the Rhodes Frog in the wood box.  (1910)  Photo courtesy of Paul Meneguzzi and Mike Ripley.  (Two variations) shakefrog.jpg (52317 bytes)rhodesfrogbx2.JPG (42785 bytes)

Later most common wood box with red ink imprinted logo on top of box and paper label on the end (1910-1918?)

bxwood.jpg (30629 bytes)
Gray box with green and red logo with various end labels (1912-1924 and maybe into 1930's) bxgray.jpg (10321 bytes)
Orange and blue box (1925-1950's) bxorang.jpg (27607 bytes)

Introductory or "intro" box examples:

Various Shakespeare introductory or special issue cardboard boxes were used the first year of production:

Slim Jim introductory white cardboard box with printed label on top (1907) bxwslmjm.jpg (19004 bytes)
Kazoo Wooden Minnow introductory white/buff cardboard box (1909) bxkazo.jpg (22010 bytes)

Whirlwind introductory maroon box with white paper label on top (1909)

bxwhrlwn.jpg (14151 bytes)

(Intro boxes not shown: Punkinseed, Musky Underwater, Rhodes Mechanical Frog.)

Lure numbers and color nomenclature:

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 boxes.

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 box.

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 later box.

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.

At least two examples of aluminum revolutions are known to be in wood boxes with the correct nomenclature label on the end of the box.

Gray boxes tend to be fairly consistent, but there are known examples of white boxes impressed with the gray type box red and green Shakespeare logo with labels on the end of the box.

End labels:

At least three variations of the post maroon box end label exist. The oldest being the square type used on wood boxes with the 1901 patent date (Figure 1). Next, usually seen on gray boxes, was the label which indicated a 1904 patent date (Figure 2), and progressing to the Shakespeare oval logo on the end label (Figure 3).

Figure 1: Wood box end label bxn04.jpg (6075 bytes)
Figure 2: Gray box end label bxnevol.jpg (6479 bytes)
Figure 3: Gray box end label bxnoval.jpg (6869 bytes)

Effective 9/18/97 this article and photos are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.  Personal educational use is permitted without written permission.


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