Antique Fishing Lures by

Fred C. Keeling Company, Rockford, Illinois

Fred Keeling lures are easily recognized by their often-wild paint jobs. There seems to be no end to the unusual color combinations his early lures tend to show up in. Keeling began making lures sometime around 1902, with the wonderful Expert Wooden Minnow lures, and remained in business until the early 1930s. His lures often had the typical Keeling belly plate and diving lip, usually stamped with the July 6, 1920 patent date. Like many of the other pre-1920 companies, Keeling often made special boxes for each lure in his line. It would be nearly impossible to find them all.

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This is the earliest box for the Expert Wooden Minnow, or Keeling Expert. The box isxa maroon carton with white paper label that features the 1903 patent date and a wonderful picture of the lure. The bait inside is a gold-finish Baby Expert.  This is perhaps the finest known example of this handsome and rare box, which turned up in Oklahoma.

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Here is a beautiful little Tom, or "Tom Thumb" lure in a typical later Keeling box dating to the mid 1920s. Look at all the verbage on the cover! Lots of reading to be done there. This bait has the 1920 date on the belly keel. Tom Thumbs are the most common Keelings, and came in an unbelievable number of colors. new finishes are still turning up today!

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This is a rare box for the Keeling Expert Minnow, one of the most desirable lures of all time. Experts were made by other makers including F.C. Woods, Clark  and Holzwarth.  The beautiful maroon papers here have all the intricacy of an Oriental rug!  The papers describe the various other Keeling lures of the era.

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The Keeling Scout is an odd lure that doesn't appear often. One reference describes the Scout as having a diving lip and two line ties. This example is bulbous and has two line ties, but no diving lip aside from the standard Keeling belly keel. Note the yellow box with the Scout label is likely a Kee-Wig box over-labeled. The paperwork mentions the Scout but offers no illustration, which is a pity, as it would certainly resolve any questions over this lure.

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This rather long "Kee-Wig" Keeling lure has no eyes, three trebles and is finished in a wonderful electric red and yellow blend. The green box is a variation of the more common red-lettered box shown above, but all keeling boxes are hard to find and desirable.  The papers inside describe the growing array of Keeling lures and products available in this lure maker's heyday in the early 1920s.

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This is one of the rarer Keeling lures that has glass eyes. Finished in vivid rainbow, and with the patent date on belly, this mint lure dates to around 1920.  There is no number on the box endflap, which is typical for keeling lures.  Virtually all  Keeling yellow boxes are hard to find, and the glass eyed lures are among the most beautiful around.

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 Here is another Keeling with beautiful glass eyes. Note the artistic illusion in the vertical stripes, which thicken at the top and bottom to give the rounded body more of a vertical illusion. The paperwork calls the Pike-Kee Wig "new," which would date this unit to the early 1920s.

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This is the earliest Tom Thumb box and lure. Unlike the examples above, the lure appears more crudely painted, and has no patent date on the belly keep. The box and paperwork, however, mentjon that a patent has been applied for, and also assert that the lure is "new." That info places this piece around 1919.

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This is a slightly later Tom Thumb and box. It differs from the one pictured above in that it claims to be "Patented 1920" and uses a different typeface. The beautiful paper inside shows young anglers with their catch, presumably landed on Fred Keeling's wonderful wooden minnows!  This piece once belonged to a dear friend of mine who died of cancer in autumn of 2002.

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This is a rare Keeling Flapper lure, circa 1922. Note the fat, pointed nose and absence of eyes. The black scale finsih is exquisite. This lure barely fits into the 5 1/2 inch yellow box with red lettering and a picture of the Tom Thumb lure on the left panel.    

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This is a rare Keeling Surface Lure, which has no eyes, simple Keeling screw eye hook hangers and a wonderful "Christmas Tree" paint pattern whihc is similar to the "strawberry" paint finish on popular Heddon lures of the day. This lure is quite minty, and the worn yellow box is much larger than most Keeling boxes. This piece dates to around 1925.  

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This is a Keeling three-inch "Big Tom" lure in the long, white box that was marked on the front right panel for five different Keeling lures that could be found inside. The papers describe a seemingly endless combination of sizes and paint finishes that were offered during this classic era in the 1920s.

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 Here is a wonderful trio of new-in-box Keeling Tom Thumb lures that were all found together. Note the wonderful paint jobs and the paper flyers inside the box bottoms.  These lures sat unused for almost 75 years before they were re-discovered in an old house, and acquired from a visitor to this website.

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