Photo gallery: Shakespeare Products Company
The Shakespeare Company has been a leading manufacturer and supplier of fishing equipment and other sporting goods since it was founded in Kalamazoo in 1897 by William Shakespeare Jr. This followed his original patent in 1896 of the level winding reel, which enabled fishing enthusiasts to rewind their line evenly on a spool, rather than having to guide it with their thumb. While the reel was the first product to be manufactured by the company, rods, lines, and bait were added. One of the most popular baits was the rubber frog.
The company was incorporated in 1905. Originally located on Water Street, it moved to 419 Pitcher in 1913. In 1939, operations moved to the old multi-story Kalamazoo Paper Box factory at 241 E. Kalamazoo Avenue. A one-story Art Deco style building was added just to the west of the factory and used as an office building.
Beyond Fishing Reels
Shakespeare Products was created in 1921 as a subsidiary to The Shakespeare Company and focused primarily on the production of auto and aircraft parts, as well as war parts when necessary.
The Shakespeare Company made the first fiberglass fishing rods, which had been developed by Dr. A. M. Howald, a famous chemical engineer. He contacted the company with his design and production began in 1945. Along with the actual equipment, Shakespeare created booklets that provided fishing tips and instruction. The company also sold items under the Shakespeare name that were not actually manufactured there. These included hunting clothes, boat oars, and dog leads. Golf and archery equipment also became part of the Shakespeare line.