H.L. Leonard reels were made by him when he was a famous rod maker from Bangor, Maine. In 1877, Francis Philbrook received a patent for a raised pillar reel. 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. Philbrook was actually in partnership with Edward Payne and hence some confusion when one sees the name Paine on these early reels. Marbleized fly reels and salmon reels have also been found unmarked and marked William Mills & Son. Payne’s 1890 patented sliding drag bar can be seen on Philbrook & Paine and H.L. Leonard reels. The next series after the marbleized versions were bi-metallic and had a nickel silver frame with bronze rims and pillar attachment tabs. The first bi-metallic fly reels had nickel silver spools and the Philbrook 1877 patent date on them. Later ones had aluminum spools and the patent number. 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. H.L. Leonard is consider to be one of the great reel makers in the New England states area.
The H.L. LEONARD Trout and Salmon Bi-Metal Reels
The PHILBROOK & PAINE Salmon Reel, circa 1877
The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Salmon Reel with Edward Payne Drag
The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Salmon Reel Variation
The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Fly Reel
The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Fly Reel by Julius vom Hofe
The H.L. LEONARD Bi-Metal Fly Reel Markings
The H.L. LEONARD No. 44 Fly Reel
The H.L. LEONARD Salmon Reel, circa 1905
The JULIUS vom HOFE Size 1 Reel Made For LEONARD-MILLS, circa 1928
WILLIAM MILLS & SON Ad in August, 1880 Forest and Stream Magazine
WILLIAM MILLS & SON Ad in June 2, 1888 American Angler Magazine
Reels in the 1933 William Mills & Son Catalog
To see the William Mills & Son 1909 Catalog, click on the links below.
Another Great Antique Vintage Fishing Tackle Link: