ANTIQUE REELS

Kentucky, Fly, Collectible & Big Game Fishing Reels 

 Lighthouse Point, Florida

Tom Greene

 Phone: (954) 415-2670

E-MAIL TOM GREENE

A short history of some of the reel makers in this collection

 

Kentucky Reels:

George Snyder was a 19th-century reel maker from Paris, Kentucky. He is credited for inventing the very first American-made fishing reel in 1820. Snyder's reel was designed for fly fishing, and named the Kentucky Reel. Without patent or trademark protection, the Kentucky reel was quickly copied by many others, including Meek, Milam, Sage, Hardman and Gayle. These artisans were trained in jewelry fabrication and were experienced in cutting gears, constructing small parts, and doing precision work. (Wikipedia)
George Snyder, a silversmith and watchmaker, is recognized as the originator of the first Kentucky reel and has been called "the father of reelmaking in America." He was arguable the first maker of the multiplying reel in the United States.  George moved from Pennsylvania to Paris, Kentucky, in the early 1800's and became president of an angling club in 1810. He created his reels for friends and fellow anglers around 1815. Some were made of brass, but all were of the finest craftsmanship. His reels are considered historically the Holy Grail of fishing collectibles. To date the are five marked Snyder reels and a few unmarked ones that are similar in design. ( Ray Carver)
 

In 1835, Jonathan began making reels with his brother Benjamin as his apprentice. They made reels marked "J.F. & B.F. Meek" from about 1839 to 1850. The earliest reels are simply marked with the name and city. Later reels were also marked with a reel size like No. 2, No. 3, etc. The reel size indicated the reel's line capacity. The larger the number, the larger the reel. Another apprentice with B.F. Meek named Benjamin C. Milam was hired in 1837. Milam later went on to make his own line of reels. (R. Gast)

Prior to 1882 the Meek & Milam Reel made in Frankfort by B. C. Milam, had become generally known in Kentucky as The Frankfort Reel and outside of the state as the Kentucky Reel or the Frankfort, Kentucky Reel, and was so advertised by Milam in 1882 and was so stamped by him in 1896. The descriptive term or phrase 'Frankfort, Kentucky Reel; was first used by Milam.

George William Gayle was born in Kentucky and worked as an apprentice in his early years in the J.F. and B.F. Meek shop and later with B.C. Milam. The first Gayle reel was crafted in 1882. The earliest known and dated reel is a brass No.3 size that was made for a relative Lent Tanner dated 1884. In the mid 1890's, son Clarence Gayle was making two styles of casting reels. One was the traditional Kentucky style or Frankfort reel. Clarence made reels from brass, German silver and hard rubber. He would later make some out of aluminum.  Reels were made in sizes ranging from the No.1 size for women and children to the larger No. 10 designed for tarpon and other large saltwater fish. (Gayle website)

The Blue Grass Reel Works Co. was founded in 1899 and was affiliated with B.F. Meek & Sons of Louisville, Kentucky.  The Blue Grass line of reels was eventually incorporated into the B.F. Meek & Sons line of Meek reels.  See No. 330 for a tournament version. (R. Gast)

B. F. Meek, No. 44 and ‘Ben Hur’ fly reel

Built entirely of German silver, the renowned raised-rim No. 44 was the company's only single action fly reel which was introduced in late 1899 and continued in limited production until 1916, when the company was sold to Horton Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island. Described in "Classic & Antique Fly Fishing Tackle," by A.J. Campbell, page 185, "The Meek No. 44 was one of the most appealing fly reels ever built... it has sold for higher prices than either the Talbot Ben Hur or the Gayle Aluminum Trout Reel and remains one of the most coveted reels of the classic era.

Kovalovsky Reels:

Arthur Kovalovsky started making reels and rods in 1928. His Standard Model was made up until 1941. In 1945 he resumed reel making and did so up until his death in 1958 at the age of 77. The Standard Model incorporated his May 15, 1934 patent for a drag mechanism. The drag resembles a car break shoe design and is housed in the crank handle. Standard Model Type I reels are similar to that shown in his first patent. The Type II Standard Model was introduced in 1945 and sold until 1958. (R. Gast)

Fin-Nor Reels:

Fin-Nor of Miami Florida, who made their first Big Game reels in 1933 made a size that they catalogued as a 15/0. They were the only company to make a 15/0 reel and they made them until the mid 1940s when they finally dropped them from their line. (E. Pritchard)

Schauffler Reels:

The Schauffler reel built by Kohlhepp & Kimsey in New Jersey in the mid to late 1930s  made what is considered the Granddaddy of all reels: the 20/0. Due to lack of demand and cost concerns only a hand full of these reels were ever made and even fewer exist today. The measurements of a 20/0 would be between 9 to 10 inches in diameter and between 5-1/2 to 7 inches across the inside of the spool. (E. Pritchard)

Edward vom Hofe big game reels:

Model 721 and 722 are the “Commander Ross”. These reels were made to catch the largest fish that swam in the sea with particular emphasis on Tuna, Broadbill, Marlin and Swordfish. The reel was available in two sizes, the 10/0 and the 12/0. The 721 differed from 722 only in the fact that the 722 had rim mounted free spool control fitted. It was without doubt the most meticulously engineered and constructed reel that the company made. It incorporated the Star Drag system, which in 1929 the company claimed to have invented. In fact this was not an invention but merely an improvement, the drag had the facility to be locked in place. This reel would be put to the severest test and because of this it featured some new features. The ebonite side plates were reinforced with a metal plate on the inside and in the case of the right hand side plate it formed a waterproof seal to protect the gear housing. The reel was fitted with a shoulder harness attachment that was fixed to one of the reel pillars. Spring ball oilers were fitted rather than the circular discs. This ensured positive oil supply at all times.  In 1934 the model 721 had been dropped and two new sizes added the 14/0 and the 16/0 these two new sizes were designated model 732. The 732 did not have a free spool throw off fitted as all control was from the star drag.  All the Commander Ross reels came with a free counter brace to counterbalance the upward pull of the shoulder harness.  (M. Duma)

In 1934, the Edward vom Hofe model 721 was dropped and two new sizes (14/0 and 16/0) were added and designated the 732.  The 732 did not have a free spool throw off as all control was from the star drag.  (M. Duma)

Edward vom Hofe, Model 742, 14-0 Big Game cradle reel, side plate diameter 7 ", spool diameter 5 " ,Side  plates  hard  rubber  and German silver cross bars of the reel  frame was newly developed to allow unusual strength and lightness, very similar to Monel.

Talbot fly reel:

The earliest Wm. H. Talbot reels were made in Nevada, MO from about 1895 to 1913.  In 1913 the company name Wm. H. Talbot Reel Co. was changed to Talbot Reel & Mfg. Co. and was moved to Kansas City, MO.  The most desirable Talbot reel for collectors is the 'Ben Hur' fly reel. It came in two sizes and all are considered very scarce. (R. Gast)

Heddon bait caster reels:

Heddon hired William Carter and Jack Welch to develop a line of reels to compete with the Meek reels. In 1917, they introduced their first Carter-built reels. They were the No's 30, 35, 40 and 45. They were available for only a couple of years. The No. 30 was the most costly and is very rare. (R. Gast)

In 1917, they introduced their first Carter-built reels. The great windshield wiper design reels were sold in 1922 as a No. 4-15 and in 1923 and 1924 as a No. 4-18. (R. Gast)

In 1920, William Carter and Jack Welch introduced the Heddon 3-15, 3-24 an 3-30 were introduced. The top of the line variations were the full jeweled tournament (FJT) models with sapphire jeweled bearings.  (R. Gast)

Edward vom Hofe, smaller fishing reels:

Model 650 was the Islamorada available in size 1/0 but in two widths, 2 and 2 inches. This again was based on the Star reel but unlike the model 560 had three pillars. This reel was intended for fighting larger fish because it had the Pilot Wheel (star drag) Adjustable Tension drag with a rim control free spool. There was no sliding gear rim controller as the gears were constantly engaged. (M. Duma)

Model 800 was the Long Key specially made for Bonefish and available in one size only size two with a width of 15/8 inch and a three to one multiplying capacity. It was fitted with Adjustable Automatic Tension Drag, sliding gear transmission and rim control. It also had a rim control free spool lever. (M. Duma)

The model 800 name was changed from the Long Key to the Matecombe. The Wahoo model 570 had changes made to the sizes, the two 1/0 sizes were dropped and a new size 1 introduced. Model 560 had its name changed from the Matecombe to the “Beach Haven” and the size 1 wide drum was dropped.

Model 650 was the Islamorada available in size 1/0 but in two widths, 2 and 2 inches. This again was based on the Star reel but unlike the model 560 had three pillars. This reel was intended for fighting larger fish because it had the Pilot Wheel (star drag) Adjustable Tension drag with a rim control free spool. There was no sliding gear rim controller as the gears were constantly engaged. (M. Duma)

Model 570 was the Wahoo available in one size 1/0 but in two widths, 2 inch and 2. This was a completely new type of reel for the Vom Hofe company and this time they were copying other manufacturers. This was a “Take Apart” reel. The reels were in ebonite and German Silver. It also had the same features as the Long Key but additionally it had an oversized straight handle. (M. Duma)

The first of the trout reels, the #355, a reel with a two-tone clicker mechanism system, that can be activated as additional drag force, with a patent date of 1883, was joined around 1896 by the model  #360, equipped with an "adjustable, automatic silent tension drag" system. To distinguish the two different models, later versions of the #355 were designated as the "Peerless" and #360 became the "Perfection."  (Wikipedia)

Edward vom Hofe, fly reels”

Rare first model Edward Vom Hofe Model 423 fly reel (before it was called the Restigouche model beginning circa 1911). In the late 1800s this size was designated as 5/0 (became 6/0 circa 1911). This reel has the Sep 2, 1879 patent on the drag adjustment knob under the handle, as well as the Jan 23, 1883 patent mark on the oil cap. This reel does not have the screw on counter balance. (Vintage Fly Tackle)

The first of these Edward vom Hofe trout reels, the #355, a reel with a two-tone clicker mechanism system, that can be activated as additional drag force, with a patent date of 1883, was joined around 1896 by the model  #360, equipped with an "adjustable, automatic silent tension drag" system. To distinguish the two different models, later versions of the #355 were designated as the "Peerless" and #360 became the "Perfection."  (Wikipedia)

Hardy Alma big game reel

Produced in very limited numbers from 1925 to 1936, the Hardy Alma reel is the first two speed Big Game reel ever offered commercially, the brainchild of Charles Alma Baker. The first production model, offered in 1925 through the Hardy Catalogs, was made using ebonite side plates, as this rare 4 3/4" diameter reel has, later changing over to an all aluminum framed reel in the late 1920's. Numbers of these ebonite sided, 4 3/4" diameter reels, as reported in John Drewett's definitive book on early Hardy reels, Hardy Brothers were limited to just 17 reels, 11 produced in 1926 and only 6 made in 1927.  Features: "Capstan Star" drag, free spool, 1:1 or 2 1/2:1 retrieve ratios attained via the gear change lever mounted on the face plate, leather thumb brake and two optional click checks of differing strengths, operated by turn buttons on the tail plate providing a total of three variations of check. With two pinned crescent shaped plaques affixed to the tail plate, one with "The Alma Reel - Made by Hardy Bros Ltd - Alnwick, England"

ZWARG OTTO reels

Zwarg, (St. Petersburg, FL) 1899-1958 - A German dentist who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s. He took a temporary job as a machinist for the Edward vom Hofe Company in Brooklyn NY.  After the sale of the Edward vom Hofe Company in the 1940s, he purchased much of the vom Hofe machinery and tooling and started building reels with his own label in Brooklyn in 1946. At this time he also repaired Edward vom Hofe reels. In 1947 he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, establishing the Otto Zwarg Co, where he continued in the machining business. The reels produced by Otto Zwarg are very similar to those of his old employer, Edward vom Hofe. They are very high quality, and due to the limited number produced, they are certainly rare.
 

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Last updated: Thursday, November 07, 2019 04:55 PM

 

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