Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Another Addition to the Collection...

I haven't been shy about telling the world I collect one particular 19th century toolmaker, one named H. E. Mitchell. I have researched his ancestry as well as mine, and while I haven't been able to literally put one of his in bed with one of mine, the fact that they two families trace back to the same town in Ireland leads me to believe we are related. There is also a number of other anecdotal bits of evidence to support this as well. Related or not, though, it is way cool to view a bunch of tools made 130 to 160 years ago that all display the same last name as mine.

Just this week I was able to add another counter-stamped coin to my Mitchell collection, this one advertising Henry Edward Mitchell's Edge Tool Grinding Mills, circa 1885. This one is similar to the previous one I purchased, a 10 centimes French coin, but this one struck in 1853. You can read about the previous counter-stamped coin that I purchased and what they are all about here.

(Image copyrighted by Simmons Gallery)
I bought this counter-stamped coin from Simmons Gallery
through their online auction. This is one of the most
professional companies I have dealt with to date.
While I am itching to get back into blogging, I'm not quite ready yet to start my next project so I decided to elaborate more on ol' Henry today. 

H. E. Mitchell planes were introduced to me by Jim Bode at Jim Bode Tools when he sold me an almost complete set of beading planes made by Henry. The name intrigued me so I started doing a little research and through that, contacted Gary, a very cool and knowledgeable guy who operates Toolemera. Gary didn't have any information on ol' Henry, so he gave me some advice as to where I could find some - he sent me to ancestry.com. Now I'm not sure what I did to Gary that would result in him treating me so badly, but I must have done something. While it is true that I found out more about ol' Henry than even his mother knew, the fact is, Gary fed me to the lion, the one known as genealogy.

Now I'm not sure if you are aware of ancestry, but I am sure you have viewed their many commercials and other promotions. Don't believe them. While it is true that it is quite easy to come up with 1874 census information on Henry Mitchell, what they don't mention is that there were probably 1200 other Henry Mitchells kicking around jolly old England in 1871, half of them related to each other. You have to be a real sleuth to figure out which one is which. It is mind boggling how families recycled given names through the generations back then. What is even more shocking is that, given the sad reality of the high child mortality rates back then, families had a habit of constantly reusing a deceased child's name. I have one ancestor who gave the name William to four consecutive sons. Sad. Maybe I'm blaming Gary for something he wasn't aware of. Maybe he doesn't know that when someone falls into the genealogy abyss, they really get caught up in it, similar to the way a junkie gets caught up with heroine. Maybe Gary just didn't know...or did he?

Anyway, here is what I discovered about ol' Henry...

H. E. Mitchell, Saw maker

December 5th, 1839
Regent Street, Chelsea, Middlesex, England
Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Luke, Chelsea, Register of baptisms, P74/LUK, Item 173

Stephen Mitchell, full-time soldier and part time saw-sharpener
Charlotte (madden name unknown)

December 29th, 1839
Event took place at Chelsea St. Luke, Middlesex, England

1841 Census:
Living at 32 Blenhym Street, Kensington, Middlesex, England
Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece 688; Book: 6; Civil Parish: Chelsea; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 12; Folio: 38; Page: 23; Line: 3; GSU roll: 438804

1851 Census:
Living at 9 Holland Street, Southmark, Surrey, England
Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1557; Folio: 221; Page: 40; GSU roll: 174790

Moved to Brighton:
Stephen was discharged from the army and moved his family to Brighton, England in 1851, approximately. At that time, Henry was 12 years of age.

1861 Census:
Living at 17 Kensington Street, Brighton, England
Father listed as a “Saw Sharpener”
Henry listed as a “Saw Maker”, unmarried and 21 years of age
Two brothers listed; George F. 9 yrs, Charles 6 yrs, both listed as born in Brighton
Source Citation: Class: RG9; Piece: 597; Folio: 165; Page: 17; GSU roll: 542668

1865 First Toolmakers Business:
It is believed that Henry started his first business in 1865, a saw making and tool dealership located in Eastbourne, Sussex
Henry was 26 years of age
Note that "British Planemakers from 1700" by W. L. Goodman, lists Henry E. Mitchell as starting his plane making business in 1855. This would have made Henry 16 years of age when he hung up his shingle, a tad too young even by 19th century British standards. I could find no evidence to support this claim as this, the bankruptcy, is the first true entry regarding his own business.

1868 London Gazette - Bankruptcy:
Filed for bankruptcy on February 20th, 1868
Operating as a Saw Maker and Tool Dealer in Eastbourne, Sussex
Residential address given is No.12 High Street, Brighton, Sussex
Granted an Order of Discharge on March 5th, 1868

1871 Census:
Living at 15 North Road, Brighton, England
Married to Mary Morton Hyland
5 children; Henry 10 yrs, Elizabeth 4 yrs, Mary 2 yrs, Percy F. 1 yr and Frederick W. 2 months
Also has servant, Edith Tanner 17 yrs.
Source Citation: Class: RG10; Piece: 1083; Folio: 46; Page: 2; GSU roll: 827499

1874 Postal Directory Listing:

Listings for Henry Mitchell’s business first appear in 1874
He is listed as being located at 4 North Road, Brighton

1874 Trades Directory Listing:
He also listed his business in the Trades Directory in 1874

1878 Trades Directory Listing:

Henry E. Mitchell is listed in the 1878 Post Office Directory

1881 Census:

Living and operating “H. E. Mitchell, Tool Maker” at 4 North Street, Brighton
His son Henry, EST. age 20, is not listed in this census, nor is Frederick W., EST. age, 10 yrs
(It was later confirmed that Henry Jr. passed away in 1877) 
Elizabeth, Mary and Percy are present, as well as Albert - 9 yrs, Edgar - 6 yrs and Violet - 3 months
Source Citation: Class: RG11; Piece: 1089; Folio: 70; Page: 1; GSU roll: 1341256

1882 Trades Directory Listing:

Henry E. Mitchell, Saw Maker is listed in the 1882 Kelly’s Directory

1891 Census:
Moved to Keymer, Sussex, England
Living at “Hatherley Villa” on Bella Vista Road
Daughter Elizabeth has married, last name now Hilton, but no husband listed at this residence but has a son, James 8 months
Violet still living with parents
Additional children; Daisy 10 yrs, Lily 5 yrs, Henry E. 3 yrs (supporting Henry C. passed) and Rose 2 months
Source Citation: Class: RG12; Piece: 793; Folio 68; Page 11; GSU roll: 6095903

Keymer was a village north of Brighton. It was close enough for Henry to commute back and forth between his home and his business, but not without some difficulty back before the turn of the century.

1899 Trades Directory Listing:
In the Kelly’s Directory of 1899, Henry Edward Mitchell is listed twice
One listing states:
Mitchell, Henry Edward, Saw Maker and Green Grocer, 57 Coleridge Street, Hove

Change in Business Name:
In the Trades Directory of 1899, H. E. Mitchell, Saw Maker has been changed to Henry Edward Mitchell & Co. Ltd., Furnishing Ironmongers; Office & Stores, 4 North Road, Brighton

While I have no evidence of this, I believe Henry realized that the steel plane industry was only going to take away more of his sales so he decided it was time to make a change. Two very rare examples of Henry’s ultimate baces showed a high level of metal work and I believe this craft was the specialty of Henry’s oldest living son, Frederick William. Based on those two assumptions, it is not surprising that the young Frederick took over the business on North Road in approximately 1898, incorporated it and started producing Iron fixtures for stores and offices. Given Henry’s age at the time, I don’t think he was ready to retire so he opened his combined green grocer and tool store where he continued sharpening saws, making planes and selling carrots and potatoes until he final called in quits in the latter part of 1900.

1901 Census:
Henry Edward 58 yrs, Retired Ironmonger
Living at “Hatherley Villa” on Bella Vista Road
Lily 17 yrs, Henry E. 15 yrs, Rose J. 10 yrs
Servant, Alise Spilargki 24 yrs
Lodger, Jeffery M. May 60 yrs, Living on own means
Source Citation: Class: RG13; Piece: 910; Folio: 75; Page: 16

This is the first time Henry has used "Ironmonger" for his profession, although it is in keeping with the new direction of his business. All of the planes that I have in my collection have "Sheffield" blades in them, telling me Henry wasn't in the iron works business until his son took it over.

3rd Quarter 1914, Keymer, Sussex, England

Markers' Marks:
H. E. Mitchell’s makers' marks start with one that simply displays, “H. E. Mitchell, Eastbourne”. When he started his second business, his new mark was "H.E. Mitchell, Brighton". Around 1875 he started to consistently display his mark as “H. E. Mitchell, 4 North Road, Brighton”. In the early 1890s he added the lion crest to the text.

Judging by the listings in the census throughout Henry’s life, his early bankruptcy aside, he was a reasonably successful businessman. His success is proven by his ability to retire at the early age of 58, living out his remaining years as a country “gentleman” in his servant run “villa”, located in a small town north of Brighton.

His business was always listed as “Saw Maker”, but he made a number of  “Joining Tools” for the carpentry and cabinetmaker trades. He was a dedicated promoter, never missing a chance to advance his business, as shown by his listings in the different directories and his use of counter-stamped coins, the equivalent of today’s coupons.

While his tools are very rare and difficult to locate today, I have recently found examples in England, the United States, Canada and Australia. While their numbers are very limited compared to other 19th century toolmakers’ examples, they do not command a premium in price.

Examples of Henry E. Mitchell’s Tools:
Here is a photo of my Mitchell collection as it stood in December 2010. Thankfully, I have been able to add a few more examples of his work since then.

Offer to Purchase:
If you have any examples of H. E. Mitchell tools in your cabinet, let me know what it would take to get you to part with them. If you have a saw or brace of his that you don't want to part with, I'd be forever grateful if you could send me a photo of them. My email address is mitchell@liquiddesigns.ca

While reaching out to ol' Henry's direct decedents I discovered that the vast majority of them didn't know Henry was a toolmaker. Not one of them held an example of his work, nor did they know anyone who did. My gut tells me we are related, so I am not collecting this man's work to use or as an investment. I am collecting them so future Mitchell's will know what their ancestors were all about.



1 comment:

  1. My wife is stuck in the genealogy world too. I found your post interesting and she has to do a lot of detective work like you did.