William Wm. Mills & Son Fishing Reels

William Wm. Mills & Son, T. H. Bate & Co. Fishing Reels

William Mills & Son - New York, NY

William Mills & Son was one of the longest run sporting goods stores in the USA. The company William Mills & Son  was established in 1822 under the name T. & J. Bate. The company name changed to Thos. Bate in 1836, to T. & T. H. Bate in 1843, to Thos. H. Bate in 1853 and then to T. H. Bate & Co. in 1859. The name was finally changed to Wm. Mills & Son in 1875. Probably the most famous brand reels sold by Wm. Mills were those by H.L. Leonard. Hiram Leonard was a famous rod maker from Bangor, Maine. In 1877, Francis Philbrook assigned his patented raised pillar reel to him and that was the start of the Leonard reel history. The earliest models have beautiful marbleized orange and black hard rubber end plates and handle knobs and are marked Philbrook & Paine, Makers. Marbleized fly reels and salmon reels have also been found unmarked and marked William Mills & Son. The next series were bimetallic and had nickel silver frame with bronze rims and pillar attachment tabs. The first bimetallic fly reels had nickel silver spools and later ones had aluminum ones. Either of these reels is considered rare and highly collectable. Most Leonard reels found are the later ones sold by William Mills & Son and are marked "H.L. Leonard, Patented" or "Leonard-Mills." The Leonard-Mills reels were made for the William Mills Co. by Julius vom Hofe starting around 1900 up until World War II. All the Leonard reels are high quality and sought after by collectors. Reels marked Philbrook & Paine or T. H. Bate are also highly collectable.

William Mills also offered reels made specifically for them. They were made by Geo. Gayle & Son and were named "INTRINSIC." One was a high quality bait casting reel of German silver with an aluminum spool. It came in two variations and in No. 2 and No. 3 sizes. One version had a flanged head plate and the other was a standard Kentucky style reel. Gayle also made a 9/0 size reel made of German silver with hard rubber end plates.

Company History from William Mills & Son Catalog

The T.H. BATE & CO.  Reel, circa 1860

The T.H. BATE & CO.  Reel, circa 1860

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON Brass Reel, circa 1880

The PHILBROOK & PAINE Fly Reel, circa 1877

The PHILBROOK & PAINE Salmon Reel, circa 1877

The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Fly Reel, circa 1900

The H.L. LEONARD Salmon Reel, circa 1905

WILLIAM MILLS & SON Aluminum Fly Reel






WILLIAM MILLS & SON August, 1880 Forest and Stream Magazine Ad

WILLIAM MILLS & SON June 2, 1888 American Angler Magazine Ad

1909 Catalog Images of The WILLIAM MILLS "INTRINSIC" Reels

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1933 Catalog Pages

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1933 Catalog Pages

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1938 Catalog Page

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1938 Catalog Page

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1954 Catalog Page

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1954 Catalog Page

The WILLIAM MILLS & SON 1958 Catalog Page

To see high quality digitized versions of early William Mills & Son Catalogs on Google Books website, click on the links below.

Link to 1909 William Mills & Son Catalog

Link to 1922 William Mills & Son Catalog

For any questions about vintage antique fishing reels, lures or tackle, please feel free to Email or Call me. I always like to talk about old tackle.

Remember, I'm always buying old vintage fishing lures and reels!

Email me at: ron@luresnreels.com or Call or Text me at: 407-496-7940


Ron Gast

Orlando, FL

Member and Co-Founder of Florida Antique Tackle Collectors, Inc. (FATC), Charter Member of Old Reel Collectors Club (ORCA), Member of National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC)

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