James “Jim” L. Donaly, from Newark, New Jersey, applied for a patent for his “Redfin” Minnow on January 7, 1911, and patent number 1,093,980 was granted to him for the “Redfin” on April 21, 1914. Although the patent was not granted until 1914, Donaly made and sold them as early as 1912, and most probably even before.
The “Redfin” Minnows were adorned with three small rounded triangular-shaped metal flasher blades, usually made from aluminum and sometimes brass, that were strategically placed on the front (as a weedless feature), and on the rear and the underside of the lure to mimic tail and anal fins. The 3-1/4”, ¾ ounce “Redfin” Minnow could be ordered with treble hooks or with a “Jersey style” three-point hook configuration. Sporting beautiful round glass eyes that were set inside the dished out face, the wooden bodied “Redfin” Minnows were available in three brushed-on-by-hand paint colors; No. 27, white body with red band; No. 37, green back with white belly; and No. 47, white body with red stripes. The two piece cardboard boxes that the “Redfin” Minnows were packaged in show a beautiful drawing of the lure, depicting a pointier fish-shaped body more closely resembling the original patent drawing than the rounder faced lures that Donaly actually produced.
From ingenuity, to the drawing board, to the end product, the “Redfin” Minnows are true hand-made folk art lures that were designed and produced by Jim, then hand painted by his wife and daughter, and then each assembled by Jim inside their family home. It is really cool to think that the lure in this photo, as well as every other “Redfin” Minnow, was actually hand-made by the inventor, James L. Donaly. Now that’s quality control at its finest!
If you have any questions/comments, Elissa Ruddick can be reached at elissaruddick AT aol DOT com.
-- Elissa Ruddick