the late 1800ís and the early 1900ís many inventors attempted to combine
fishing reels into rod handles. There were many applications for these
angling implements to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office during the time
of the United States industrial revolution. Among these efforts was the
patent of William L. Atkinson in 1903. His patent, No. 769,142 was granted
on September 1904. Although the concept was popular in the patent office, it
appears that it never became so with fishermen. Very few examples of these
early built in reels have been found by todayís collectors, and apparently
no examples of Atkinsonís invention exist, if it ever was manufactured
William L. Atkinson was born c1865 in Michigan. Around 1895 Atkinsonís
father died and his mother, Caroline, moved the family to Seattle. The
reasons for the family resettlement are unknown. The family included William
and his brother Frederick. By the time of Williamís fishing reel invention
in 1904 he was living in Fairhaven, Washington, 88 miles north of Seattle.
At that time Fairhaven was a thriving seaport, but the town has now been
swallowed up by Bellingham.
The Atkinson reel was a spring driven, automatic, multiplying reel. The
drive spring was a long coil spring contained in the rod handle. To wind the
spring initially there was a folding crank placed at the end of the handle.
Unlike many automatic reels of the period, Atkinsonís reel was able to be
put into a free spool mode to allow ease of casting. The spool was in the
style of a casting reel, being wide and small in diameter. The line fed
through a guide in the side the handle. Click on the drawing to see a full
It really seems a bit unusual that a freshwater reel design like that of
Aktinsonís would be developed in a Washington seaport. William L. Atkinson
died sometime after 1915. At this time we are unaware of the existence of any Atkinson reels.