Skeleton reels are among my favourite reels to look at. Never all that popular in the UK, Allcock's offered one in their 1930's range and Millward's even copied an early Meisselbach design. You can read about these in The Transatlantic Connection. The reels listed here are in no particular order, although I have tried to group them by maker.
Meisselbach "Featherlight" 270
Made between 1895 and 1919, the Featherlight was the fourth offering from the talented brothers Meisselbach. The reel was made in three sizes, the 280, 270 and the 260, which was smaller. This is the raised pillar version of the reel, which was also produced with a pressed metal frame and all were supplied in either nickel-plated brass or a bronzed finish. In many respects, Meisselbach can be credited with the origination of the "skeleton" reel with the is first product, "The Amateur" which was the first truly lightweight reel, sporting the characteristic pear shaped cut-outs. The wooden handle on this particular reel is a modern replacement.
Pflueger "Progress" 80 yd Brass
The Pflueger "Progress" with its instantly recognisable "Bulldog" trademark was introduced by the Enterprise Manufacturing Co. of Akron, Ohio. Richard Lodge in his excellent book on skeleton reels describes the reel as a "high-quality knockoff of the Meisselbach Featherlight"! Comparing the two reels here, it is easy to see the resemblance, even down to the pear-shaped cut-outs on the spool. Having said that, a direct comparison of the two reels shows the Pflueger to be a delicate but well-made alternative to the Featherlight and, while the Featherlight faded away the Progress remained in production until the late 1940's.
Pflueger "Progress" 80 yd Nickel Plated Brass
Pflueger made six versions of the "Progress";
1193 - a 60 yard nickel plated model
1194 - an 80 yard nickel plated reel
1183 - a 60 yard reel finished in gun metal over all
1184 - an 80 yard reel in gun metal
1783 - a 60 yard reel with gun metal frame and nickel plated spool
1784 - an 80 yard reel with gun metal frame and nickel plated spool
As you can see from this analysis, this reel is a model 1194. Both the Pflueger Progress reels illustrated here have wooden handles. Later models were fitted with plastic handle which were prone to deterioration.
Union Hardware "Sunnybrook"
The Union Hardware Co. of Torrington Conn. made it's first contribution to skeleton reels in the form of a lightweight reel some time in the 1920's and it is after this time that the company applied its Sunnybrook brand to the reel. These reels can easily be identified by their simple triangular spool cut-outs and the positioning of the check to the side of the reel back. This particular reel also sports an original bullet-shaped wooden handle.
Bronson 80 yd Flylite
Although this reel carries no marking whatsoever, not even a yardage indicator, it is easily recognised as a Bronson Flylite by the diamond shaped cut-outs and the the way in which the foot is attached to the frame. It's also made of steel rather than brass, as you can see from the distinctive patination! This is the reel imported to the UK by Allcock's as well as being sold through Allcock's Toronto-based retail outlet, where it was marketed as the Litewaite. You can find out more about this relationship in The Transatlantic Connection.
South Bend St. Joe 1170
The first South Bend St. Joe appeared in the catalogue in 1924 in the shape of the Model 1180. Fabricated in brass, the 1180 was the first example of a reel that enjoyed a chequered career. It's many variations were manufactured possibly by South Bend, certainly by Winchester and latterly by Shakespeare, alongside their own equivalent Kazoo model. The all steel 1170 entered the catalogue in 1935 and was made by Shakespeare.