Saturday, May 15, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett:
The Earliest Shakespeare Ad?

Some time ago one of the truly great researchers in our hobby, Jerry Martin, came up with with what is believed to be the earliest ad found to date for the Shakespeare Company. It is from the June 1898 issue of Recreation Magazine.

First, let me say that if anyone out there has an earlier ad, we'd love to see it. Rumors abound but proof is in the hand. This advertisement is for the Shakespeare Style C reel which is generally considered to be William Shakespeare's first levelwind reel and his first commercial effort. He had patented the reel in October of 1897. We have also presented here a write-up on this same reel that appeared in the May 1900 issue of The American Sportsman. Close observation will show that several changes to the reel had taken place between the time the two illustrations were made. I have also included a photo (courtesy: Jim Schottenham) of an actual Style C which appears to more closely resemble the 1900 ad. The reel in the photo has  #492 as its serial number.

If you ever have an opportunity to disassemble one of these reels you will find one of the most clever arrangements I've ever encountered to facilitate the line guide's movement back and forth on the two separate worm gears. Close observation will show that  the spiral worm gears are rotating in opposite directions and therefore each drives the line guide in only one direction. When the line guide reaches the end of a worm gear a sliding pawl is pushed over to engage the other worm gear while disengaging from the first. As clever as this is, a far better arrangement was being invented in Kalamazoo by Walter Marhoff. One of William Shakespeare's strong points as a business man was the ability to recognize a better idea and acquire it for his company. (Witness the purchase of the Kalamazoo Tackle Company by William Shakespeare in the fall of 1905 from Jay Rhodes in order to acquire the patent for what we know today as “see-thru” hook hardware). By May of 1908, William Shakespeare had already acquired the Marhoff reel Company and used the Marhoff levelwind mechanism for the next 70 years!

-- Bill Sonnett

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