The History of the F.C. Woods "Expert" Minnow in Ads
Ads can often be misleading, especially when older pictures are used from years prior. The most famous example of this is the use of illustrations from the 1920s in Heddon catalogs from the 1950s. However this is not the case with the advertisements used by F.C. Woods during the few years that they produced baits. These baits though carrying the name F.C. Woods & Co were the product of Charles Shaffer. In an earlier column we showed this 1901 ad from Field & Stream for the Holzwarth Expert. This was Mr Shaffer's first commercial effort and was marketed by the Holzwarth Hardware of Alliance, Ohio.
Toward the end of 1901, Mr Shaffer (a silent partner) turned the manufacture and sales of the "Expert" over to F.C. Woods, owner of the Woods Engineering Co., located also in Alliance. In 1902 Mr. Holzwarth still sold a bait under his own name but had to call it the "Holzwarth Minnow." The name "Expert" was now reserved for the F.C. Woods & Co product. F.C. Woods made not only the Woods "Expert" but also the Holzwarth Minnow, the only difference being that one was now stamped "Holzwarth" on the side and the other stamped "Expert." F.C. Woods & Co introduced the new Wood's Expert to the trade in the following ad from the January 1902 issue of the Sporting Goods Dealer. Take note that there are no holes in the Spinners and the hooks are not removable.
Mr. Shaffer applied for a patent in November of 1902 which included the idea of perforated spinners. As the following ad from the June 1903 issue of Field & Stream shows that the patent was granted. The ad prominently features the claims for perforated spinners and removable hooks.
The 1904 ad shown next is from the May 1904 issue of National Sportsman. It shows few changes if any to the Expert. It was, by all accounts, the best selling minnow in the United States at this point; however things were starting to stir in Dowagiac, Michigan in the form of the Heddon #100
After a long search by many people a 1905 ad for the Woods Expert was finally located by our good friend Joe Stagnetti. This ad appeared in the May 1905 issue of Field & Stream and shows the Expert as having a larger spinner in front and a smaller spinner on the rear. It also claims that they have been making them for "Ten Years." Hmmmm….thought they just claimed it was new in 1902? Well, Mr. Shaffer had been fooling around with the bait for some time for his own personal use.
The February 1906 Sporting Goods Dealer carried the following ad for the Woods Expert which now sported new spinners that, with the exception of the holes, look very much like those on that pesky competitor out in Dowagiac. It is obvious that they were feeling the competition and the ad contained the warning "Look out for imitations." After seeing the "new spinners" it appears that F.C. Woods & Co was doing a little imitating themselves.
The last ads to appear for the Wood's Expert appeared in 1907. As shown in this May 1907 ad from National Sportsman, the big change for the 1907 season was the new "Double Hook." Heddon was now dominating the underwater minnow business with superior paint jobs and hardware that did not allow the hook to scratch the paint. This appears to be an attempt to stay competitive, but changes were coming very fast from other lure companies, My guess is that Charles Shaffer (who worked for the Post Office) and F.C. Woods (who ran a large and very successful machine company) simply decided to sell the rights to the Expert (in this case to the C.A. Clark Manufacturing Co) and move on.
-- Bill Sonnett