Friday, March 29, 2013

the Short History of Shakespeare / Root Archery 1959-1976 (with help by George D Stout, Rick Rappe, Lawrence Root and Bob Hargreaves))

The Short History of Root and Shakespeare Archery, 1959- 1976

The history of Shakespeare Archery has been neglected. Shakespeare stopped archery production in 1976 and the company lost their records over the years. Recently Ernie Roots son, Lawrence Root, has stepped forward and added valuable information.
William Shakespeare, Jr. invented a patent for his fishing reel, and began producing fishing equipment in the late 1800's. In the 20th century Shakespeare became a major producer of sporting equipment. In 1959 Shakespeare Cooperation acquiring Parabow the Ohio-based Parallel Products Company, a maker of archery equipment that was organized into Shakespeare's Archery subsidiary. Parabow was one of the main producers of solid fiberglass bows in the 1950. Shakespeare was an early pioneer of the application of fiberglass to fishing rods. The merger of these two companies was a match made in heaven. During the sixties and seventies Shakespeare produce fiberglass and wood laminate bow but it did not forsake its Parabow line of solid fiberglass archery equipment.

RH and LH Model 100-600 1959 and 1960

 The style of these bow were simple and they were often the first bow of a youngster. In 1959, along with the Parabow line, Shakespeare introduced the 100 through 400 series of recurves. In the early 1960 Shakespeare began collaboration with a gifted bow maker Ernie Root. 

Ernie Root
Shakespeare partnered with Mr. Root and together they created outstanding and affordable bows. Ernie Root began his bow making career working at Indian Archery in Chicago in the late 1940s. He quit Indian and started Root Archery in the early 1950s  as a family business in suburban Chicago. After outgrowing a couple of small  spaces it move out of the city, eventually settling in Big Rapids, MI. Ernie Root was a great tournament archer and set a record for individual score of 836 in 1947 which was not broken until 1959.

One of the few online photos of Ernie Root (second from right)
Most people assumed that Shakespeare acquired Root Archery in the late 1960’s. Ernie root’s Son Lawernce Root has been adding to the knowledge and now it seems that it was a mutual beneficial merger rather than an acquisition.  Root Archery had been a supplier to Shakespeare for a number of years. Ernie Root made his bows, from the early 50's to the late 60's or early 70's in Big Rapids, MI. Around the late 60's he sold a number of his designs to Shakespeare, who slimmed them down and renamed them. For example: The Root Warrior became the Necedah in 1964 as a 55”bow, and The Brush Master became the Kaibab, the Field Master became the Ocala. The first bows of this type bore the name "Root, by Shakespeare". Shortly afterwards Ernie Root went to work for Shakespeare, and the Root name was dropped completely but his design influence would continue. After the merger to Shakespeare, Mr. Root was became consultant and manager production. Ernie was also continued producing his own line of bows under the "ROOT" name even though the business was sold to Shakespeare in 1969. Shakespeare moved to  Columbia, SC  approximately three years later, a move Mr. Root opposed. 
after leaving Shakespeare Ernie dedicate his time to the Golden Eagle with Phil Grable
Golden Eagle was an extension of Root's Archery Research Division

Owen Jeffery in 1974 Shakespeare Catalog
Shakespeare continued without Ernie Root which adversely effected quality and production. Ernie devoted his time to developing the metal riser take-down (Golden Eagle) with Phil Grable (Owen Jeffery later took over the design of the bow with Jeffery Archery).

old Root / Shakespeare bow scale
used in Jeffery Archery Factory
 Owen Jeffery, an inventive and talented bowyer was hire as President of Shakespeare Archery to revitalize the brand. Before He came to Shakespeare he was Master Bowyer and a Vice-President at Bear Archery. He brought Shakespeare's Archery operation in Columbia South Carolina. Later he began Jeffery Archery around 1975. Owen bought all of the equipment when Shakespeare shut down. Jeffery archery is the last vestige of Shakespeare / Root archery. Here are some photos Bob Hargreaves sent of the Root/ Shakespeare equipment still being used by Jeffery Archery Bob worked for both Root and Shakespeare.
Owen Jeffery with his son Tom
old Root bow press
Shakespeare, Bear, and Pearson were the three most widely sold brands in the country. They built and sold a lot of bows throughout the sixties and specialized in solid performers for reasonable prices. Shakespeare never totally grasped the changing landscape of 1970's bow production, Shakespeare clung to the recurve bow while other manufacturers embraced the compound. Shakespeare closed the line of archery equipment in 1976. Shakespeare's Archery division was only part of the Shakespeare Corporation and they decided to get out of the archery field when it became apparent that the market was headed to the development of the compound bow. They never produced compounds but did create prototypes. If you run across a Shakespeare compound bow it is one of a kind, a true collector. 

Many of Shakespeares bow designs were sold to Proline such as the Shakespeare Osprey, Condor and Golden Eagle. Often both logos appeared on the bows. Eventually an "S" appeared before "Proline". Proline stopped making recurves and adopted the compound trend. Proline went out of business in the early 1990s.

Bob Hargreaves knew Ernie Root and worked at both the Root and Shakespeare Archery factories. He went to Columbia SC When Shakespeare move there. He left the company in 1973. He sent photos of the building which once housed the Root factory. He says the front of the building has changed over the years but the rest is very similar to the old days.

Big Rapids MI.  It was very plain looking back then and there were parking spaces all
across the front. The spaces on each side of the front door were reserved for
Ernie and Dave.

East side of building.

Rear view. The Quonset hut on the left is where all wood was stored.

Rear of building. This was the finishing area.

Marcy Root's string factory was on this alley in downtown Big Rapids.

This was the Shakespeare plant in Columbia, SC. It was home to the Root Archery
Division from October 1971 until Owen Jeffery bought the archery operation from

try to imagine Bear Archery without Fred Bear!!

So why did Shakespeare Archery 
fail and Bear Archery prosper? One obvious reason was Fred Bear. With his distinctive hat, Fred Bear was a celebrity, an archery innovator and icon. He had the perfect name too. Image if his name had NOT not been "Bear"? Imagine a Fred Lamb, a Fred Dangerfield, or a Fred Smith Bow? It just doesn't sound the same. Bear archery succeeded because of Fred Bear. He was the guiding force behind the company. Bear Archery is one of the oldest archery companies so Shakespeare had to play catch-up to Bear. This was a friendly competition however. Fred Bear and Ernie Root were good friends. They often shared materials and equipment and help each other out. By the Mid to late 1960s Shakespeare was producing bows that equaled Bear in quality and speed. The compound bow was the "beginning of the end" for Shakespeare. Around the time of it's appearance Mr. Root was leaving Shakespeare and  their  Archery Division was in turmoil. However Bear Archery began investing in the new technology and reinvented itself and Bear never dropped the recurve bow from it's line. So, nearly forty years later, Shakespeare Archery is a memory while Bear still produces quality bows.  There are many more Bear bows than Shakespeare / Root Bows available to a vintage collector today. Real vintage collectors acknowledge Ernie Root as a brilliant bowyer equal in skill to Fred Bear. Even the most ardent Bear fan grudging respects the Shakespeare / Root bows. I own Hoyt, Bear, York, Groves, Pearson, and Shakespeare Bows. Personally I love the look and feel of the Shakespeare Bow. I know from experience that they are equal in beauty to the Bear bow and in a speed test, they are more than equal to a Bear as well.
article from September 1970 BOW AND ARROW
 thanks to: George D Stout, Rick Rappe, Lawrence Root and Bob Hargreaves


  1. Actually, the Root Warrior became the Necedah, in 1964, as a 55" bow....the first year of the Necedah. The Brush Master became the Kaibab, the Field Master became the Ocala. Prior to that in 1959, along with the Parabow line, Shakespeare introduced the 100 through 300 series of recurves. They had leather wrapped grips, and if right handed, had the name of RH-100, 200, 300, etc. If left handed, they of course were LH-100 and so on.

    I have owned several of the RH models and they are great shooting bows. In 1961, the leather grip was dropped, and the bows took on a more sleek design...but assuredly had an Ernie Root influence. When Root Archery was sold to Shakespeare in 1967, the "Ernie Influence" had been going on for many years.

    After the sale of the company to Shakespeare, Ernie devoted his time to developing the metal riser takedown (Golden Eagle) with Phil Grable.

    I've owned myriad Shakespeare bows over the decades, and I don't think there is one that I haven't shot at one time or another. I used the X-10 Professional which had formerly been the Root Pendulus Supreme in tournaments in the late 1960's, and it was a great shooting bow. At that time, they had the X-10 listed above, along with the X-15 (Shedua/Maple riser) same design as the X-10. The other X model in the target line was the X-16...a more slender riser, and 64" AMO length.

    My favorites are the Necedah for a pure hunting bow, and the QT-takedown. The first QT's were made by Phil Grable (1973/74)..the Owen Jeffery took over the design of the bow.

    1. March 1.

      I am having e-mail conversations with Larry Root, son of Ernie. He is providing new and different information than we have previously thought. Specifically, he states emphatically that Ernie didn't sell to Shakespeare until 1969 and that prior to that time besides building bows for Shakespeare he also built bows for Bear, Hoyt AND Colt. (He has provided no specifics on that last statement, but promises to dig up what he can. And I suspect if this is true, he may be referring to low end solid fiberglass bows.)

      Some of his comments are so different than what we've thought, I remain slightly skeptical. IE. Root by Shakespeare should have read Shakespeare by Root.

      He says Ernie was not pleased that Shakespeare chose to move production to S. Carolina, and while he had some sort of management agreement with Shakespeare he was disgruntled at the design changes made to the bows after that move.

      Rick Rappe'

    2. Rick thanks. I would like to add a post about Ernie Root. I contacted the Archery hall of Fame and they will help. Do you think Larry Root would be able to add his knowledge?

    3. Rick, Larry is correct, it should be "Shakespeare by Root." As far as the sale date I don't know the exact date but I do know Shakespeare began making minor changes at the plant around late November/early December 1968.

    4. Now that I think about it some more it could have been late 1969, whatever Larry says is probably correct. He's about as straight up as anyone I've ever known.

  2. Wow thanks so much. I will add this to the history.

  3. I'm so glad to have found this site with all the incredible information. I've recently acquired my grandpa's bows from the 50's and 60's. One is a 1954 Kodiak II, compass model, Bear bow. Another is a Shakespeare Wonderbow. It's got a 400 under the name but the the whole label is almost worn off. It says it's a 30#, 64" P140 on the riser. If anyone can help me fill in the blanks on the entire identity I would be so grateful. A local shop owner inspected it and found it in great shape. He strung it and then showed me how to handle it safely myself. I'm excited to get started. Thanx, Jeannine

    1. Hi Jeannine and congratulations on the great bows..very jealous!!!

      Your Shakespeare is from 1959-60 it is a RH/LH (right or left hand)400
      and it is a 64" Bow. I have a LH 300 82". the weight of your bow is perfect for target shooting. Mine is #50 and I was surprised how well this old bow shot, I tested the arrow speed and it was faster then most of my newer bows. I posted about these early models:
      Let me know if you have any questions, send me a photo of the bow, maybe I can add it to the Early Wonderbow Post.

  4. I'll get a picture on here pretty soon. The arrows I have are just as old so I'm going to get some new ones since I'm sure they'll disintegrate on contact with anything. My grandpa also did the fletching himself, so I'd hate to ruin them. I'm fascinated with the history and will keep you posted on my progress. Thanx again for all the help and information. Jeannine

  5. When I was a kid I dug a 60" x24 Shakespeare Yukon out of my neighbors trash can. It is light brown in color and in very good condition. I was wondering if you had any information on the history and possible value of this bow.

      I wrote about theYukon, I used a couple bows which a friend owns, I have been trying to find a lefty. They are rugged bows and good shooters. Values vary according to condition, better the condition the high price, top price is $175-$200
      for mint, $50 for a well used bow

  6. The Root Archery move from Big Rapids, MI to Columbia, SC in October of 1971 was a total disaster. The factory in Big Rapids was efficiently run and loaded with skilled craftsmen. Shakespeare tried to duplicate that in SC with unskilled minimum wage workers, and without Ernie Root. There was no way that was going to work. The Shakespeare brass seemed to think they were smarter than Ernie. They weren't.

  7. I have a Shakespeare bow that is labeled 60# D3091 64". Can anyone provide me with the name of the bow and the approximate year it was manufactured? Lastly, what was its primary use (I.E Target shooting)? Any assistance would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  8. I have a Shakespeare bow that is labeled 60# D3091 64". Can anyone provide me with the name of the bow and the approximate year it was manufactured? Lastly, what was its primary use (I.E Target shooting)? Any assistance would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Unfortunately the serial numbers are not much good for identifying Shakespeare bows. When Shakespeare dropped the archery division they destroyed or lost that information. The weight of #60 is uncommon and would not a good target weight (usually #25-#40)
      Here is a list 64 inch Shakespeare bows.
      1959-60 Wonderbow model 400 (hunting bow)
      1970 Wonderbow model X10 Professional (target bow)
      1966-71 Wonderbow Model X16 Supreme (target bow)
      1964 Wonderbow X18-64 (hunting bow)
      1969-71 Wonderbow X22 Custer (hunting bow)
      1966 Wonderbow X25 Trident (target bow)
      I think your bow is likely a Model 400, X18-64, or a X22 Custer.
      what color is the fiberglass? what does the riser wood look like?
      The best thing to do would be to send me photo of the bow

  9. I have purchased a Shakespeare bow that belonged to Ann Marston.Miss Michigan & achery champion.It is a model X15-63--Ser # C-2077-A--It is signed by Ann.Would Shakespeare have a documents on this....It is #24 @25" draw....

    1. What a great find!! congratulations.
      I have written to Shakespeare a couple times about any documentation of the old archery division. I did recieve a phone call from a very nice woman who knew some of the people in the division. She said when Shakespeare closed the division, the REALLY closed it. Most of the documentation was boxed and eventually was lost or destroyed over the decades. Your best option is to some of the traditional archery forums and post your question. George Stout, and Rick Rappe are the wise sages of Shakespeare / Root. try these links

  10. I have a bow labeled Root Rangemaster. It doesn't say Shakespeare on it anywhere. It is a 35# 64 inch re-curve. Does anyone know the approximate date of manufacture?

  11. Hi
    Had to estimate the date by your description. Could you send a photo to

  12. I was very happy to find this site. I'm 71, and recently decided to get back into archery. I had a Bear Cub 48# bow as a teen for hunting way back in the late '50s. My parents gave it away a long time ago. A few weeks ago I found a Shakespeare 30# Wonderbow Trident X25 in a antique store and bought it for $112. It is in good condition with little sign of wear, I took it to a archery range/shop near my home for new string, arrows, stringer, and other stuff. They seemed amused that I wanted a handsome traditional recurve bow that did not look like some machine from outer space, and that I wanted to shoot it without sights. I've set up a little 20 yard range in the back yard to shoot a few days a week. Great fun!

    1. Thank you!!! Your story about the archery pro shop is funny. I always get the question "If you don't use sights, how can you aim? I respond "How do you throw a baseball?, (it doesn't have sights)" I know you will enjoy the Trident, it is a very beautiful bow. I shoot lefty and I am still looking for a lefty trident. I wrote a post on the trident- Have fun with your bow!!

    2. Thanks for your reply. Yes, I found your "Trident page" yesterday and made a copy. I had spent time on eBay (for ads) and Google trying to find ANY info on Shakespeare (not much luck). I think the magic word on Google was "history" that led me to this site yesterday. It made my day (especially since my shooting session was'nt all that good). Joe H, Media, PA

  13. great page...I remember the Golden Eagle being a radical design. archery had a lot going on in the 60's...metal risers,releases,and the wheel,all at once. just when the wood risers were at their peak,so many beautiful bows. DB,north Tx

  14. could I have some info on my Shakespeare trident x-25 wonderbow 64" 45# ser#j71113L? I'm guessing circa 1964 with
    value $99.00-$150.00. unfortunate victim of a fire with some bubbling on finish. I like my bow...

    1. Hi
      I have a post on the Trident, a bow I am still looking for in left hand.
      Hard to guess on the value if it was in a fire. I might be concerned about the laminations due to the heat and the bow would need refinishing

  15. Like many of the other comments, I stumbled into your blog while trying to research a bow that my father found for me at an estate sale probably 25 years ago. It's a B-1 Hunter model, the labels are actually in very good condition on it. It gives the location of Shakespeare Archery as Kalamazoo, MI. Is there anyway to make a guess about the years of production on this model or what it might be worth?

    1. Hello K A Stewart
      The B1 was mad from 1960-70. It didn't change much except for the color of leather wraps in 1964 and in 1968 the introduced a camouflage version. The are good rugged bows. I have a post you might like to read:
      As far as value goes, these bows don't go for to much money because they were mass produced and there isn't to much demand for them. Good Condition and higher draw weight add to value. There was a 55 lb. B1 that went for over $80 and a 45 lb that went for over $55 but their condition may not have been as good as your bow. There is a person trying to sell a B2 for $400 on eBay but is having trouble getting a starting bid of $99. The are nice shooting bows but suffer from the association with kids bows, so they don;t go for much money usually.

    2. Thanks so much!
      This one looks like it's probably still very functional, but cosmetically, it's got some dings and worn places. The leather wraps may even be original, and they look like someone loved this bow very much at one time.

      Looks like this one is a 40 lb draw. Says the string length would be 51". I'm having trouble finding that exact length in strings, looks like most strings want to be even numbers, so I'm not sure what to do about that. I've never actually used this bow, but my daughter is getting into archery, so I thought I might dust it off and shoot some more myself, just to see if I still enjoy.

  16. I just found a Super Necedah, +55+ pounds, serial number E01523S in awesome condition. Zebrawood with an I-beam that appears to be mahogany or some other tight grained wood (Shedua?). There is another number inscribed just under the rest area that looks like someone's social security number 527 48 0263. After installing a Bear Weatherrest, some wool puff silencers and a raising the BH to 8.25", it shoots quiet and launches arrows impressively even with an old endless loop string that has been twisted too many times (needs a shorter string).

    Any guess as to what year it was made?.

    1. Sweet find!! Unfortunately the serial numbers are useless for determining age because Shakespeare lost or destroyed those records.
      this might help:
      send a photo to

  17. i have a root rover X-152 and cannot find any information about it. I looked at the list of bows manufactured but it is not listed. does anyone have any information for this bow?

  18. I have a Shakespeare Golden Eagle/Root take down recurve (62’/45+#) CG1364 that I acquired for Ted Brooks Sr. in Kalamazoo back in the early 80’s. While I’ve hunted with it, I never took a deer with this particular bow.
    I’m interested in selling the bow but am not up on the current market for this type of equipment. Any info would be appreciated. Photos are available. I will “follow” this website for any replies. Thank you.

  19. I have a Shakespeare Cascade 50# ,50" recurve in very good condition with 6 Shakespeare rifled shafts original feathers ,with bodkin type broadheads in the original box minus cellophane. I have other Pearson,BEAR,Browning wasp,recurves . My everyday shooters are a Bear T/D Hunter, Wing Gull and a Bob Lee Stickbow. Love to shoot traditional bows . Anyone interested in the Shakespeare Cascade with arrows email at Darrell Horne

  20. I have just purchased a vintage recurve bow with the following information. On the top outside riser it says: "Root by Shakespeare". On the lower inside riser it says: "Root Predator X114 AMO Standard" and also has the inscribed information: 54" BO323 55+ 28". The bow is in excellent shape (no nicks and still great finish) and appears to have the original bow string and rubber silencers. The original owner is a retired Captain from the US Coast Guard who tells me he used the bow to hunt while stationed in Alaska to supply fresh meat (moose/bear) to the encampment. He also sold me his custom aluminum (I think) hunting arrows with removable blades. I suspect this bow given its condition may be valuable to a collector. Any interest, I can be reached at I'm a bow collector (like to shoot what I own) but after shooting a few arrows I realize that the 28" size is too small for me (I'm 6'4" and shoot 30-31" bows). I might be interested in getting this into someones collection that might find it better suited.

  21. I have a Shakespeare Range Master LH 66" 30+28". I purchased it in the early 70's and used it for college archery team for a year (2 at the most). It was only used a couple times since and is in excellent condition. Does anyone know what's it's worth?

    1. here is the post on the range master,
      If you do a search through past auctions on eBay, the price range varies from $50 - $165 depending on condition and poundage.I can't give you an exact value since I have not seen the bow.

  22. I have a Kaibab X-27 45# 58" serial no. J6562A. Any idea of when it was made?

    1. Hi Cindy
      It is hard to tell without a photo
      I guess $150- $200