Leonard Atwood, born 1845, proved to be mechanically gifted at an early age, building a working model locomotive when he was only 13 years old. After a stint in the Navy during the Civil War Atwood bounced around from Boston, to New York and to Philadelphia. In the 1880s Atwood received patents for combustion engines for submarines, air planes and locomotives.
Atwood filed for his first fishing reel patent in 1902 and in 1905 he designed and applied for a patent for the "Variable Tension Reel" which made its first appearance at a trade show in Madison Square Garden in 1908. With this new reel the angler could adjust the drag with a knurled knob in the center of the reel. When the knob was tightened, a threaded rod would pull a drag disc up against the right spool plate. The reel sold for $5.00 or $36.00 a dozen, however, less than 500 Atwood reels were made over the course of a year. Atwood made both single action and multiplying reels in both trout and salmon sizes. In 1930 Atwood died of a stroke and although his reels were never truly commercial successes his ideas were quite innovative for his time.
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