Hand Tools Archive

Re: More Addis questions
Response To:
More Addis questions ()

Don McConnell
Hi Steve,

Your gouges were made by the J. B. Addis & Sons company some time after 1889. James Bacon Addis was making carving tools as early as 1851, in London, where he continued in business until about 1862/3. But, despite earning exhibition medals in 1851 and 1862, he seems to have struggled, financially, declaring bankruptcy in 1855 and 1863.

In 1864, David Ward, of Ward & Payne, brought him to Sheffield to introduce a new approach to forging carving tools there (based, I suspect, on the London Pattern), but the forgers' union denied him membership and the effort never got started. Ward proceeded to hire Addis, anyway, a year or two later, but that arrangement lasted only three or four months due to continued union opposition. Whereupon Ward set Addis up in business for himself, apparently on a very small scale. The entire operation consisting of J. B. Addis and a teenage helper. This all occurred by 1867 when testimony in hearings detailed all of these events, and more. In any event, this whole chapter seems to have ended with Addis declaring bankruptcy, again, in 1868, at which time he was living at 16 Rockingham Street, Sheffield.

By 1870, he was making carving tools again, in Arctic Works, and picked up another prize medal in an exhibition that year. An 1872 advertisement states that all the tools made by the J. B. Addis company were marked: "J. B. Addis, Prize Medals 1851, 1862, 1870 & 1871." The name of the firm changed to J. B. Addis & Sons by about 1873, and it appears that the firm continued adding dates to the mark as it earned additional prizes. For example, I have a back-bent gouge marked "J. B. Addis & Sons, Prize Medals 51, 62, 70, 71, 76 & 78." Based on these dates and information in the next paragraph, it would seem my gouge was likely made some time between 1878 and 1882.

An 1882 advertisement indicates a shift in strategy regarding the mark. It states that tools made by the firm are all marked "J. B. Addis & Sons, 9 Prize Medals, 1851 and 1862." Based on the marks on your gouges, it appears that the mark changed, again, with another medal, to read "10 Prize Medals, 51 to 89." I've also seen them simply marked "10 Prize Medals," or without this wording at all, and assume they're somewhat later.

The firm doesn't seem to have consistently marked their tools according to the London Pattern/Sheffield List system, but when they included numbers, other than those associated with the Prize Medals, they are consistent with that system.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR

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