William Billinghurst Reels – Rochester, NY

William Billinghurst reels were made for about 20 years from the late 1850’s thru the 1870’s. He was born in Brighton, NY in 1807. Billinghurst was best known for his expertise in making rifles and later fly reels. In 1827 he moved to Rochester and worked as an apprentice for gunsmiths James and John Millar. He later purchased the company and Millar patents in 1847. The workmanship in his rifles quickly earned him the reputation of building high quality product. Billinghurst and his apprentice Josephus Requa built a 25 barrel machine gun and patented it on Sept 16, 1862. The gun was used by the Union forces during the Civil War. Billinghurst died in 1880 at the age of 73.

William Billinghurst made and sold his reels in Rochester, NY. There are three models of Billinghurst side-mount fly reels that are usually found. The oldest has a single patent date of Aug 9, 1859 stamped on it. It has a fixed knob that does not fold down. Billinghurst evidently realized that the crank knob sticking out was susceptible to damage and breakage. The next model had a folding handle. It was much more reliable and not as prone to damage. The more common model has the 1859 patent date, but also has the 1873 patent renewal date stamped on it. These reels were light weight and fairly fragile. The earliest models were all brass and later ones were nickel plated brass. Some models have been found made of nickel silver (German silver). Billinghurst is considered one of the great New York reel makers.




Reel in 1881 Conroy, Bissett & Mallesson’s Catalog Page

billinghurst 1859 patent

WILLIAM BILLINGHURST August 9, 1859 Patent

billinghurst 1862 patent

BILLINGHURST & REQUA September 16, 1869 Patent

Article in December 2018 “Civil War Times” Magazine