Pre 1900 Fishing Lure Companies-Inventors


The Shakespeare Company

The Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company has been in the business of building high-quality fishing equipment since 1896. For 27 years, William Shakespeare Jr. was an ardent fisherman who was interested in updating fishing gear. He began with a new design called the level-wind reel, which is still used today.

In 1897, Shakespeare officially started his company and solidified his place in fishing tackle history. Additionally, William was one of several innovators who established artificial lures. The company introduced Shakespeare Revolution Bait in 1900 and continued to construct popular fishing equipment until the 1980s.

Collectible Shakespeare lures include the original Revolution Bait. Vintage lure collectors should look for the black introductory box with the lure description on the cover and can recognize the classic lure by the shiny silver body. Other elements of the lure include two propellers located at the lure's neck along with three treble hooks and a metal eye to attach the fishing line.

First edition Shakespeare Wooden Minnows are still in existence. Moreover, collectors will know that they have located an old version when they see the unique long eye for the line attachment with a spinner connected to the nose and the tail. The lure is also equipped with realistic cloudy glass eyes. Additionally, the vintage wooden lure has a red back and a banana yellow belly along with two hooks.

In 1906, the Slim Jim lure was released, which was named after one of William Shakespeare's close friends. The friend was Jim Heddon who was also a famous early lure designer.

Collectors will be purchasing a piece of history when they add a vintage Shakespeare lure to their bait display.

Cornelius Lie

The Cornelius Lie Bait Fishing Lure was developed on November 17, 1885 by Norway born Cornelius Lie. Later, without explanation, the patent rights were given to Mr. J.J. Eskil who was from Florence, Wisconsin. This particular fishing device was built as a spring-loaded powered metal lure. Unfortunately, there is very little information regarding the creation of the lure. However, collectors may still come across this rare piece of fishing history.

Cornelius Lie Gorge Hook Closed Mechanical Fishing Lure Cornelius Lie Bait Metal Mechanical Fishing Lure 1885 Patent
Cornelius Lie Mechanical Lure w/Gorge Hook.

The vintage lure built by Cornelius Lie is an amazingly detailed piece. The classic minnow is three and a half inches in length. Furthermore, it includes molded details such as fins, gills and scales along with red painted embellishments to enhance the gills and mouth.

The lure features a crude hook, also known as a "gorge hook," on the back along with a fish catching barb. Additionally, the belly section contains a second barb. This part of the lure is the spring-loaded section, and it pops out when a fish takes hold of the bait. The spring powered device was used prior to the invention of wooden lures. Moreover, collectors will notice the patent date clearly marked on the back of the line tie, which is located on the flat slide bar.

Vintage lure collectors who come across a Cornelius Lie lure will have located a piece of fishing tackle that surely inspired other famous lure inventors.

Elmer Hinckley

During the late 1800s, a farmer named Elmer Hinkley, who was an avid outdoorsman, became interested in creating lures. He was from Naples, a small village located in the Finger Lakes area of New York and spent a lot of his time hunting and fishing. He was even a member of the Naples Fish and Game Protective Association. The start of Elmer Hinkley Fishing Tackle was the result of an 1875 hunting injury that caused Elmer to lose one of his eyes.

Hinkley's wife, Adelaide, refused to let him continue hunting and his focus shifted to fishing. Hinkley noticed that fish are attracted to shiny objects and he decided to cut the handles off of his wife's small silver teaspoons. He shared the idea with other anglers, and the teaspoon invention caught on. However, the fishermen's wives were displeased about the loss of their kitchen utensils, and Hinkley went back to work designing a new fishing lure.

Elmer Hinkley began his lure company in 1877 with the clever idea that artificial bait should move the same way that a fish does.

Examples of vintage Hinkley lures include the Fish Phantom, which was introduced in 1897. The lure was produced in an unpainted plug style and features round side fins that are constructed to present a natural fish movement. Additional lure elements, such as three treble hooks, were included to keep a hungry fish attached to the bait.

The Hinkley Phantom Yellow Bird was issued in 1900 and was built in a three inch size. The old lure features a spinning head and has raised spots for a realistic appearance. The lure was constructed with two hooks and side fins to help it swim as it's pulled through the water. This realistic motion surely attracted numerous fish to bite throughout the years.

Hinkley lures are among the first artificial bait sold, and collectors will appreciate the sturdy construction of these vintage devices.

South Bend - Learn interesting facts and the History of South Bend Fishing Lures here.

Pflueger - Learn valuable facts and the History of Pflueger Fishing Lures here.


Henry Loftie


Lure creator Henry Loftie was born on February 28, 1841 in Auburn, NY. He attended school in Auburn along with the Onondaga Academy and later found employment as a clerk. Loftie also worked with his father.

In 1887, he initiated a bamboo business and merged his love of fishing with his company calling it the Syracuse Split Bamboo Fish Rod Company. Additionally, the inspired angler found his passion for fishing at a time when artificial lure manufacturing was just beginning with innovators such as Pflueger, Chapman and Haskell.

Loftie began constructing his own fishing lures, and the first one he introduced was called the Gang Spoon. It was a fishing device that included a variety of uniquely shaped spinners. Interestingly, the creator gave his spinner design a new name, which was flier, when he filled out the patent paperwork. Also, the lure was sold in seven different sizes that were graded from one through seven, and Loftie attached a fish attracting tail to his lures.

The lure designer also sold a patented Interchangeable Lure, which collectors can find in numerous sizes. The lure features a net design and is painted bright gold.

Loftie lures can be challenging for collectors to locate. Furthermore, the lures designed by the bait creator are often mistaken for other innovators. Therefore, when a confirmed vintage Loftie lure comes along, a collector would be wise to snap it up.

W. D. Chapman

William Chapman began designing lures in the mid-1800s and continued his work until after the turn of the century. Chapman lures are highly desirable, and collectors will be pleased with the number of vintage lures that are still in existence from this classic innovator.

The Allure fishing apparatus is built in the traditional spoon design and features a fish attracting tail along with a treble hook. Furthermore, vintage lure collectors will find the Allure design in numerous sizes. The Chapman Ball Bait lure is a simple round gold spinner that was constructed to flip through the water and attract the attention of big lake fish.

W.D. Chapman Fishing Lure Bait Rochester, New York 1000 Island
Rare W.D. Chapman Lure.

Other Chapman fishing enticements that will interest collectors include the Daisy lure with its shiny gold finish. The lure also has a treble hook and a feather tail for added fish temptation. Collectors will also want to keep an eye out for the W.D. Chapman lure labeled the Electric. This intriguing lure was built in an oval shape with a hand punched metal design. It also features a feather tail, which hides the treble hook. The Electric was surely responsible for a large number of fish dinners.

The Minnow Propeller lure was sold in several different sizes and allows collectors to see how Chapman began to experiment with new styles. Additionally, the lure was constructed with two metal pieces fused together and each side was molded into a flip position for water disturbance. The backside of each metal piece was painted a bright red for greater attraction, and a feather tail was added to complete the lure.

Chapman lures have endured for over a 100 years and collectors will find that a number of the vintage lures have survived in good condition. Furthermore, a Chapman lure will add history and interest to a collector's display of classic bait.


J. T. Buel Lures

Julio Buel was a fisherman living in Vermont more than 140 years ago when he accidentally dropped a kitchen spoon in a nearby river. To Bue's surprise, a big spotted trout ate it and darted away through the stream. This incident encouraged the angler to begin researching artificial lures. His vast interest and patience gave him an understanding of the sizes, colors and shapes that attract fish.

Buel's research led him to request a patent for the first fishing lure in 1852. Later, the lure creator owned a tackle equipment factory, which was located in Whitehall, New York.

J T Buel Vintage Fishing Lure Canton, NY
Very collectible J.T Buel Lure.

The Arrowhead fishing lure is one of the innovator's initial creations. It features a triangle shape that dips in the middle where the two pronged hook is attached. The lure's base is about three inches long, and the company name is marked on the painted side.

Another Buel lure for collectors to add to their fishing tackle is the Daredevle Muskie Pike spinner. The six inch lure is painted an eye catching red and white stripes. Also, the designer included a feather fish attracting tail.

The Buel Company introduced a variety of spoons in multiple sizes and color combinations. Collectors can still find Buel spinners that are black and yellow stripped, yellow and red swirled, red with black spots in addition to black and white stripes along with yellow and red diamonds.

Determined vintage lure collectors will certainly be interested in owning a piece built by the first lure patent holder.

Riley Haskell

On March 3rd, 1827, Riley Haskell was born in Geauga Country, Ohio. It is important to consider that during these early years of lure innovation, most fishing equipment was built out of a necessity for survival instead of sport. Furthermore, Riley's specialty was as a gunsmith who built and serviced weaponry.

Riley Haskell requested a patent for a lure design and his rights were officially granted on September 20th, 1859. Haskell's lure was formed in the shape of a minnow or small fish. Additionally, the creator took extra time and effort in building his lure as it is highly detailed for its typical use, which is trolling.

The Haskell minnow was built with eyes, fins and a tail along with an intricate scale design on the fish's body. The lure was constructed in four sizes and collectors may be able to locate each one. However, three of the sizes are easier to find, so it would appear that the manufacturer produced more of these particular editions. Vintage lure collectors should look for minnows that are three and a half, four and a half and six inches long. Also, each lure is stamped with the label R. Haskell Painesville.

Vintage lure collectors with an original Haskell minnow will own a physical piece of the past and an exceptionally designed classic lure.