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. His success in the archery business lead his to seek a larger facility, and 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 mid 1960’s. After a short period when bows were labeled with variations of “Root by Shakespeare”, 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 perform on a par with other quality brands.
Root Archery had been a supplier to Shakespeare for a number of years. He 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, and the Field Master became the Ocala. 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 sale 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 to a Shakespeare employee wasn't a smooth one as Ernie began to feel 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 in 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. It appears the move from Big Rapids, MI to Columbia, SC in 1971 was a failure. Whereas the factory in Big Rapids was efficiently run and employed many skilled craftsmen, Shakespeare tried to run the plant in SC with cheaper lesser skilled workers, and without Ernie Root to oversee production. It didn’t work well, and the quality of the Shakespeare line suffered. Ernie, meanwhile, devoted his time to developing the metal riser take-down (Golden Eagle) with a bowyer named Phil Grable.
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 and Golden Eagle.
Ernie Root Root and Shakespeare Archery Bows 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)
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)
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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. "