Ernie Root began his bow making career working at Indian Archery in Chicago in the late 1940s. Ernie, a gifted bowyer, left Indian and started his own company Root Archery in the early 1950s as a family business in suburban Chicago. Root Archery became quite successful and he need a larger facility in order to meet demand and continue to grow. So he moved his operation to Big Rapids, MI. Ernie was also a good tournament archer and set a tournament record that lasted for 12 years. His success as a tournament archer helped build and promote his Root brand.
William Shakespeare, Jr. had patented his fishing reel, and began producing fishing equipment in the late 1800's. In the 20th century, Shakespeare expanded to become a major producer of sporting equipment. In 1959 Shakespeare Cooperation acquired Parabow, an Ohio-based maker of archery equipment that was incorporated into Shakespeare's Archery subsidiary. Parabow was one of the main producers of solid fiberglass bows in the 1950. In 1959, along with the Parabow line, Shakespeare introduced the 100 through 400 series of recurves. In the early 1960s Shakespeare began a collaboration with Ernie Root. The Shakespeare company was looking to enter the rapidly expanding hunting bow market. A deal was struck and Root’s operation was sold to Shakespeare in the early-mid 1960’s. Initially the bows were labeled with variations of “Root by Shakespeare”, then the familiar Shakespeare “Wonderbow” line appeared. Because Shakespeare had a wide network of fishing tackle dealers, they had a sales and distribution edge allowing Shakespeare bows to be widely sold in significant numbers, and rapidly became an attractive alternative to Bear. Shakespeare bows performed well or better than other quality dbrands. (Editor's note: After having owned and shot more than 700 vintage recurve bows of most makes and models, i have come to the conclusion that Root/Shakespeare was the best overall bow brand in terms of performance). in 1968 Ernie was asked to design a short hunting bow to compete with the Bear Super Magnum 48 and other short bows coming on the market. He was not fond of short hunting bows, so he designed the 50" Cascade with wide 2.5" limbs so that they could be thinner and allow for better weight distribution and result in a smoother draw. It was claimed the Cascade could handle 25% more stress and deliver 33% more speed than other short bows. It also featured a phenolic riser to give it a heavier weight and more shock absorption. The Cascade X-29 debuted in 1969 and to this day remains one of the best short bows ever designed.
Root Archery had been a supplier to Shakespeare for a number of years. Ernie had sold a number of his bow designs to Shakespeare. Some of the designs were modified and renamed. The Root Warrior became the Necedah, the Brush Master became the Kaibab, the Field Master became the Ocala, the Predator became the Super Necedah. The first bows of this type bore the name "Root, by Shakespeare". Shortly after Root sold his company to Shakespeare and went to work full time for them as a production manager and consultant (as part of the Root sales agreement). However, the Root name was dropped completely. Notwithstanding his full time job as Shakespeare’s production manager, Ernie also continued producing his own line of bows on the side under his "ROOT" name even though the business had been previously sold to Shakespeare. It was reported that Ernie's transition as Shakespeare employee wasn't a smooth one as Ernie came to believe that Shakespeare had taken advantage of him in the purchase and sale agreement.
Owen Jeffery, an inventive and talented bowyer was hired as President of Shakespeare Archery with a directive to “revitalize” the brand. Before He came to Shakespeare he was Master Bowyer and a Vice-President for Bear Archery. He moved the Shakespeare's Archery operation to Columbia South Carolina. Ernie was not interested in moving to South Carolina, and his contract had a clause that could not make him leave Michigan. Thereafter Ernie turned his attention to developing the metal riser take-down (Golden Eagle) with a bowyer named Phil Grable. It appears the move from Big Rapids, MI to Columbia, SC in 1971 was not very successful. Whereas the factory in Big Rapids was efficiently run and employed many skilled craftsmen, Shakespeare tried to run the plant in SC with cheaper and lesser skilled workers, and without Ernie Root to oversee production. It didn’t work well, and the quality of the Shakespeare line suffered somewhat. While the 1970's Shakespeare bows were still good, most of the best ones are pre-1971 vintage.
Compounding the problem, Shakespeare was slow to clue into the compound bow revolution that occurred in the early 1970s. Shakespeare clung to the recurve bow while other manufacturers entered the compound market for fear of being left behind. Shakespeare never produced compound bows for market, but did create a few prototypes, which today would be a rare find. Shakespeare closed their line of archery equipment in 1976, and many of the Shakespeare bow designs were sold to Proline. including the Shakespeare Osprey, Condor, Eaglet, and Golden Eagle.
As mentioned, Shakespeare closed its archery equipment division in 1976 and did not pursue the transition to compound bows. To a degree, ProLine is a descendant of Shakespeare and later Darton archery. Proline was a Michigan archery company that had built some bows for Shakespeare. Proline built recurves for Shakespeare during the 1960’s through the mid 1970’s, and later compounds and accessories though the 1990s. Proline was acquired by Darton Archery in the late 1990s. They have since tried to re-establish themselves once or twice since Darton owned the brand, and the last incarnation was in 2002. Shakespeare made some modifications to the Proline, and it is unknown how much influence Ernie Root had on the designs. Proline continued while Shakespeare Archery division closed down. At first both the Shakespeare and the Proline company logos appeared on the bows. Eventually an "S" appeared before "Proline". Most of the Shakespeare Proline Birds of Prey models still around today are of the S-Proline vintage. Proline stopped making recurves in the late 1970’s and turned its interest to the compound bow market.
For more indepth information about Root and Shakespeare bows, visit https://shakespearearchery.blogspot.com/
Root and Shakespeare History
Root Bow Models (From most to least expensive by category)
Shakespeare Bow Model History (A work in progress)
Note: A higher or lower model number doesn’t necessarily mean higher/lower quality (price)
1960: Model 100 (most expensive), Model 200, Model 300, Model 400, Model 500
1961: X-15 Target; X-17 Target; X-18 All Purpose; X-14 All Purpose; X-20 All Purpose; Fiberglass “Parabows” (from high to low end – these were the original Shakespeare bows prior to Shakespeare buying out Root: Bushmaster; Comet; Marksman; Sharpshooter; Rocket; Green; Robin; Scarlet
1962: Added Parabow Model Bell
1964: Added X-22 Entry Level; X-24 Entry Level; X-25 Trident All Purpose ($45); X-26 Necedah Hunting ($55)
1966: X-10 remodeled as the Professional ($145); X-15 remodeled as Titan Target ($100); Added X-16 Supreme Target ($67.50); X-27 Kaibab Hunting ($67.50); X-17 Ocala Hunting ($67.50); X-22 Custer All Purpose ($35); X-24 Yukon Hunting ($27.50)
1968: Added X-30 Super Necedah hunting ($69.50); Added X-21 Added Tioga hunting ($50); Added X-30 Added Manitou hunting ($48)
1970: Added X-23 Pecos hunting bow
1972: All target bows dropped; line included only 5 hunting bows: New X-29 Cascade (phenolic) at $105 Shakespeare’s most expensive hunting bow ever; X-17 Ocala; X-26 Necedah; X-30 Super Necedah; X-22 Custer Hunting/All Purpose;
1973: Q.T. Takedown added to line; Sierra added to the line; Reintroduced X1/X2 Shim-Bo
1974: X-4 Purist added to the line (entry-level target bow)
1975: Added the Wambaw X-12 all-purpose recurve.
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Trivia Tidbit courtesy Joe Barbieur: "The Necedah bow model was named after the Wisconsin Bow Hunters annual Necedah archery shoot. Back in the late 60s it was one of the largest broadhead shoots anywhere. There were hundreds if not thousands of shooters every year for that annual gathering. "