By Betty Bar
On Thursday December 10, 2015, six ORCA members met in Frankfort at the Kentucky History Center to view some of the most historic antique reels in American angling history. Manufactured from the mid 1800s and known broadly as “Kentucky Reels”, these reels were arguably the most finely crafted fishing implements ever made and some of the most sought after collectibles in the fishing tackle collecting hobby.
The ORCA group was treated to a tour of the Kentucky Historical Society’s extensive archives, with emphasis on the reel parts, equipment and tools used by the Meeks, Milam and Gayles. Every part has been separated, counted and placed in bags with an item number.
Kentucky reels from L to R: #00 BC Milam, #0 BC Milam, #1 BC Milam, #1 Meek & Meek, #1 Meek & Milam
A famous photograph of BC Milam in the shop on Main Street shows tools in the background. A very high resolution image was used to identify and display every tool on and above the workbench.
The collection also includes a number of reels, lures and rods. After the 90 minute tour we convened on the first level in a large classroom for lunch and a discussion. Members brought some of their reels for us to admire. There were some super nice examples on the table! We all had fun. We plan to meet at least once a year.
Unidentified reels from donors in the museum’s collection.
You may not have the likes of a Kentucky History Center where you are but you will find it’s a lot of fun to get together with reel collectors in your area!