The Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company

The Shakespeare Family History Site






A Brief History of

The Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company


(See The Companies Official Website)

Shakespeare Fishing Tackle - Over 100 Years of Excellence in Fishing Tackle

"Because of their contributions and longevity in the tackle industry, the Shakespeare name remains one of the most recognizable to the public. As such, it has a fascinating history within the tackle industry. . ." — Fishing Tackle Trade News, Dec. 92

Date Line: Kalamazoo, Michigan


  • 1896 – William Shakespeare, Jr., an avid fisherman of 27 years, wanted to improve on existing fishing reels so he came up with a device for winding fishing line evenly back on the spool. William patents the level-wind reel and his new design was superior to anything on the market. As a result, this feature is now common on most fishing reels.

  • 1897 – With his experience in advertising, camera manufacturing, medicine and his love for fishing he founded The William Shakespeare, Jr. Company growing to a dozen employees by 1902.


  • 1908 – Shakespeare Company slogan was created– "Built Like a Watch"


  • 1915 – Name changed to The Shakespeare Company


  • 1918 – During World War I The Shakespeare Company factory was converted to manufacture mortar fuses and automobile carburetors.


  • 1920 – More than 5000 dealers specialized in Shakespeare products.


  • 1939 – Anglers needed a way to apply a light action reel brake to prevent spools from back-lashing so William Shakespeare Jr. invented one, the "Backlash" Brake. The new Wondereel® was one of the most popular reels to ever hit the fishing tackle market. At the same time William patented a new two-gear direct drive reel.


  • 1941 – World War II: The company had contracts to build controls for aircraft, tanks, and jeeps.

  • 1946 – Line production moved to Esterville, Iowa and incorporated as the Soo Valley Company. In addition to braided and fly line, Shakespeare was one of the firsts to manufacture monofilament line from raw materials.


  • 1947 – The company is in it's 50th year of operation. Henry Shakespeare (William's son) is in charge. He introduces the President Reel and the newest innovation in fishing rods – the glass fiber Wonderod®. Invented by Dr. Arthur M. Howald, this rod revolutionized the fishing rod market and made bamboo and steel virtually obsolete.


  • 1947 – Rod production moved to Columbia, South Carolina and was incorporated as the Columbia Products Company. This new factory was the center of research and development for fiberglass construction.


  • 1950 – William Shakespeare, Jr. passed away on June 25th


  • Circa 1953 – Development of the push-button Wondercast® spinning reel.


  • 1954 – Shakespeare manufactured the first fiberglass radio antennas, golf club shafts, pool cues, archery equipment, and numerous industrial materials.


  • 1956 – Line production moved to Columbia, SC


  • 1959 – William Shakespeare, Jr. is elected to the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame.


  • 1965 – Shakespeare moves reel production from Kalamazoo, Michigan to a new plant in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Interesting note: The plant was one of the first in the country to treat polluted factory waste water and return it pure and filtered for reuse.)


  • 1965 – With production growing, Columbia Products expands rod operations to a new plant in Newberry, South Carolina. This became the production center for fiberglass products.


  • 1965 – Noris Shakespeare, LTD. Was established in Great Britain.


  • 1966 – Shakespeare acquires the Pflueger® Company (formerly known as The Enterprise Company).


  • 1968 – Shakespeare Company opened a subsidiary in Ontario, Canada called Shakespeare Company (Canada) Ltd. in Rexdale.


  • 1970 – Shakespeare corporate headquarters moved from Kalamazoo to Columbia, SC.


  • 1972 – Shakespeare buys Southern Tackle Distributors.


  • 1972 – March – Shakespeare Company listed 2,479,680 shares of stock on the New York Exchange under the ticker name SKP.


  • 1979 – Anthony Industries of Los Angeles, CA purchased 35% of Shakespeare Company stock.


  • 1982 – Operations in Arkansas closed and moved to Columbia. All Shakespeare facilities are now located in South Carolina.


  • 1996 – Shakespeare gets a new corporate identity: Anthony Industries changes to K2, Inc.



See also the History of the Company in the UK


Thanks to the worldwide success of the Fishing Tackle Company it is difficult to walk past a fishing tackle shop or along a river bank without seeing the famous surname.

The town of Redditch, Worcs., was the centre of the needle making history, which also included the manufacture of fishing hooks - hence the establishment of a number of leading fishing tackle firms in the town.

For those in England it might be presumed that the company, being based in Redditch, very near to the Warwickshire border, has its' roots in that county. However, reading the story of the companies origins in the USA before its' acquisition of an English company, it might be thought that the origin of the companies name lies strictly in the USA - there is a strange twist to this! William Shakespeare, the companies founder, was the son of William Henry Shakespeare, who was the son of John Lindsay Shakespeare. This is where the Warwickshire connection comes in, for John Lindsay Shakespeare was a descendant of one of the two brothers, children of John Shakespeare and Jane Whitehead of Coventry, who were transported to the USA for an, as yet, undetermined crime.

Henry Shakespeare was the last family owner of this company, and he died in 1993. Prior to that he had sold the company to Anthony Industries.

May 2004

Information reproduced from the website of the Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company, with kind permission of Roxanne Coleman, Marketing Services Manager