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M. I. and M. J. Tobias Liverpool

Macca

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I know the general consensus is that M. J. Tobias watches are regarded as Swiss fakes trading in on the M. I. Tobias name, however I wish to be a dissenter and put forward a case for both names being of the same Tobias family of Liverpool watchmakers.
Michael Isaac Tobias "watchmaker" is listed regularly in Liverpool directories from 1805 until the 1860's. Samuel Isaac Tobias also appears a couple of times 1811/14. Michael is usually listed as Miel Isaac Tobias. He had 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. Most of the boys were involved in the business at some time, though his 2nd son George Woolf Tobias appears to have outlived the others and succeeded his father as head after Michael's death in 1838.
The youngest son Edmund Myer Tobias was listed as a watchmaker with the firm in 1847, but appears to have left shortly after with business interests in Australia. A copy of his Marriage announcement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 20th May 1858, proclaiming him the "youngest son of "M. J. Tobias" Esq of Liverpool.

304722.jpg



So is the "M. J." a coincidental typo by the printer? I don't believe so. I think the Michael (Miel) Isaac Tobias, or M.I. Tobias was the anglicised version used for his commercial interests. To friends and family he used the traditional Hebrew form of Myer Jitzhak Tobias, Isaac being an English version of Yitzhaq, Jitzhak or Ischakk.
A search on the British online newspaper archive gets more hits for M. J. Tobias than M. I. Tobias. (These are usually family notices). Even S. I. Tobias appears to have favoured S. J. Tobias in private matters.
The very first entry in the commercial directories (1805) is Miel J. Tobias, changed to Miel I.Tobias in subsequent years.
The first mention of a M.J. Tobias watch in Australian newspapers appears in 1852, so they have been produced since at least 1850. George Woolf Tobias was still commissioning high quality M.I. Tobias watches, but it is likely either he, his son (another Myer Isaac Tobias) or other family members had set up a Swiss manufacturing arm for high volume Swiss Ebauche pieces. This was not unusual, Samuel and Moyses Woog of Finsbury circus, London were wholesale watch manufacturers during the 1850s whose plant was in Chaux Le Fonds, Switzerland.
By 1865 George was described as a merchant and not a watchmaker, his son Myer a Cotton broker, which may explain why the vast majority of watches were destined for the American market.
By 1868 all signs of the company had disappeared in Liverpool. George still lived there, Myer may have moved to the U.S., being a cotton trader and watch supplier would have been complimentary business's. Of course there were four sisters and other brothers, so it is more than possible some of their children became involved in the business. Even if the company was sold to an outside party that continued to manufacture the Swiss watches, these could not be considered fakes. What is difficult to discover is if the M.J. Tobias watches carry the name of the original Meyer Tobias or his grandson successor.
 

novicetimekeeper

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In the 17th and 18th Centuries in English clocks the use of I in signatures for names beginning with J is extremely common.
 

MartyR

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In the 17th and 18th Centuries in English clocks the use of I in signatures for names beginning with J is extremely common.
And that practice certainly continued through the early 19th century, but it is irrelevant to this case for the reason I explain below :D

Macca, you produce an interesting thesis.

All of the books and articles I have read assign the name "Meyer" to M I Tobias (not Michael or Miel as you suggest). And the second "forename" of both M I and S I Tobias was never "Isaac" ... it was actually "Isaacs" which was their family name before they were adopted by their uncle Morris Tobias. So M I Tobias was in fact Meyer Isaacs Tobias.

None of the family trees of the Isaacs and Tobias families which I have seen show a person named M J Tobias.

However, I have seen references to a watchmaker named M J Tobias in London (not Liverpool) and my general feeling was that the references were credible.

Having said that, without exception all the watches I have seen signed "M J Tobias" have been Swiss watches. I accept that these could have been imported by an M J Tobias, but if he was a watchmaker then surely I or others would have come across an example of his own work, i.e. an English watch carrying his name.

But in order to move your thesis along, I think we would need to know what the full names of the alleged M J were. Otherwise we are simply creating a hostage to fortune, a rather weak and totally unprovable hypothesis.
 

Macca

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Thanks for your reply Martin.
Mid last century, Mr Thomas Alker Town Clerk of Liverpool compiled the entries of the Tobias family of watchmakers from all available Liverpool trade directories.
My apologies I stated the first entry as 1805, should be1810. According to the family info derived from;
http://cemeteryscribes.com/getperson.php?personID=I9144&tree=Cemeteries

"M.I. Tobias is listed as "TOBIAS Myer (Michael) Isaac [Meir b Issac]"

That is why I believe the directory entrys of "Miel" is an abbreviation of Michael and not Myer, akin to Chas, Jno etc.

1810 Miel J Tobias Watchmaker 5 Pool Lane

1811 same listing

1811 Samuel Isaac. Tobias Silversmith & Watchmaker 7 Upper Pitt street.

1814 Miel Isaac Tobias Watchmaker 6 Great George St.

1814 Miel Isaac Tobias & Co. Watchmaker 29 Lord St.

1814 Samuel Issac Tobias Watchmaker, 8 Upper Pitt street.

1834 Miel Isaac Tobias Watch manufacturer, 11 Great George Square

1834 Miel Isaac Tobias Manufactory, Dorans Lane

1837 George Tobias Watch Manufacturer, 21 Canning Street (firm of M.I. Tobias).

1837 Miel Isaac Tobias same as above.

1839 Frederick M. Tobias Watch Manufacturer, 11 Great George, (firm of M. I. Tobias).

1839 George and Miel Isaac, as above.

1841 Same as 1839 except for the fact the firm is described as Myer Isaac Tobias, of 6 Dorans Lane.


As you state Martin there is no person named as M.J. Tobias in any lists or anything pertaining to the company. I conceded this in my OP, but also stated that in private family matters it is used often. You obviously think the marriage announcement is a printer's typo. As I said there are plenty of others to be found.

1. Partnership Dissolved
M. J. Tobias and S. J. Tobias of England and the United States of America watch manufacturers, April 5 1821-

Monday 14th May, 1821 Globe, London 1821


2. Death
In London, aged 61, George W. Tobias, formerly of 41 Canning street, son of the late Mr M. J. Tobias.

Thursday 1st February 1872 Gore's Liverpool Advertiser, Merseyside England


3. Death
Frederick, third son of the late M. J. Tobias Esq, of Great George Square, Liverpool

Friday 07 June 1844, Liverpool Mercury, Merseyside, England.


4. Death
Mr M. J. Tobias, the well-known Watchmaker. Liverpool. Expired this city,
on Wednesday, of apoplexy. He was on a visit to this country.

Thursday 19th April 1838, Northern Whig, Belfast, Antrim.



While it would be nice to know, I think it is pretty irrelevant as to what the J. actually stands for in the matter of the M.J Tobias watches. The premise of M.J. Tobias Swiss bars watches being fakes, is that counterfeiters operating on the continent produced them, with no connection to the family of the M. I Tobias company. If the family used the M. J. Tobias name, than the Swiss fake theory has to be seriously reconsidered.
Those newspapers notices above are only a small sample, and as previously stated, far outnumber notices that contain the M. I. Tobias name.
 

MartyR

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What really confuses me about those entries is this - M I Tobias's second "forename" was never "Isaac" ... it was "Isaacs", which was his birth family name. So when you show me an entry such as
1814 Miel Isaac Tobias Watchmaker 6 Great George St.
there is no doubt whatsoever that the entry is incorrect.

Now that may be because you have copied it incorrectly from your source, or that your source copied it incorrectly from his source, and so on. My point is that since that certain error has been carried through, then similar errors may have crept through the transposition process and the "J" appearing in several places may be incorrect.

I would be surprised if either Meyer or Samuel would ever have used the initial "J" instead if "I" as a matter of tradition, because that name was not "Isaac" for which "J" was fairly commonly used.

I would still like to see some evidence other than directory or newspaper entries, for example birth/marriage/death ledger entries which surely must be available; and I would like to see the origianl documents, not just transpositions.
 

Macca

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I would still like to see some evidence other than directory or newspaper entries, for example birth/marriage/death ledger entries which surely must be available; and I would like to see the origianl documents, not just transpositions.
I would like to see the original documents too, but don't care to pay to get them. :D
Perhaps pertaining to "Isaacs", your source has got it wrong, otherwise we would also have to also assume that the Prerogative Court or National Archives also got their transcription wrong,

Reference:
PROB 11/1900/102

Description:
Will of Myer Isaac Tobias, Watch Manufacturer and Merchant of Liverpool , Lancashire

Date:
04 August 1838

Held by:
The National Archives, Kew
 

John Matthews

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I appreciate this is a old post, but I believe the explanation for the occurrence of the M J Tobias signature on early Liverpool Tobias watches, as suggested by the author of this thread, is most probably correct.

I have been researching the early Liverpool trade directories and I can confirm that between 1805 and 1811 Miel J Tobias was listed at 5 Pool Lane as a watch maker. The earliest date being consistent with Michael Edidin's conclusion 'so the Liverpool connection was begun by 1804'.

I have just been through the genuine English examples signed either M. I or M.J Tobias Liverpool, for which I have information. The small number of examples with serial numbers up to #2700 (Ethan Lipsig collection) are signed M J Tobias, those with higher serial numbers M I Tobias. Ethan's example is hallmarked Chester 1815/16 and I now believe this to be one of the last genuine Tobias movements to be signed M J Tobias. Trade entries from 1814, are registered in the name of Miel Isaac Tobias & Co. in Lord Street and Miel Isaac Tobias in Great George Square, conforming to the signatures seen on later examples.

I have not been able to find a full plate movement signed M J Tobias with a serial number higher than #2700. I am aware of a number of later 3/4 plate movements carrying a script signature which could be interpreted as either M I or M J, e.g. #13100 (Jerry Treiman collection), Those of the same period that have a capitalized signature use M I Tobias, so I have interpreted Jerry's movement as M I Tobias & Co.

If anyone has early examples, I would very much like to see a photograph of the movement and signature. Equally, any genuine Liverpool examples with a serial number above #2700 and carrying the M J Tobias signature, would be of particular interest.

John
 

Ethan Lipsig

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John, thank you for your scholarship, but are you sure that my watch #2700 was signed MJ Tobias. I had always thought it to have been signed MI Tobias. The second initial on my watch looks like an I. I acknowledge it also looks like an J, and also that I once was used to mean J, e.g., Iames in lieu of James. See AncestrySupport.

IMG_9645_edited.JPG
 
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John Matthews

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Ethan - when I posted I was, admittedly, trying to provoke discussion.

PapaLouies posted a photograph of script letters here. It is clear that in that font the I & J are very similar. In fact comparison with that font would lead you to infer that the signature on your watch is indeed M I Tobias.

So rather than

Ethan's example is hallmarked Chester 1815/16 and I now believe this to be one of the last genuine Tobias movements to be signed M J Tobias
this would be more accurate ...

Ethan's example is hallmarked Chester 1815/16 and I now believe this to be one of the last genuine Tobias movements to have been produced before Miel Tobias's business changed to M I Tobias.

I do think the appearance is down to the typeface of the engraving.

What I would really like to see is a capitalized signature on a movement with an early serial number.

John

Edit - I see PL has posted in parallel - I think the font posted previously at the link is better
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Like this one John? There are others of course I have posted before. This watch was made about ninety years before PL´s alphabet. Plus the Liverpool customs house signed their letters to the firm "M.J.Tobias & Co." What needs to be done is some research into the early family names, there could have been a John, Joseph or even a Jacob.

d1.15.jpg

PS: Almost forgot this one.

d1-17.jpg No.980 So the Pool Lane Meil J. Tobias would be correct.
 
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PapaLouies

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John, thank you for your scholarship, but are you sure that my watch #2700 was signed MJ Tobias. I had always thought it to have been signed MI Tobias. The second initial on my watch looks like an I. I acknowledge it also looks like an J, and also that I once was used to mean J, e.g., Iames in lieu of James. See AncestrySupport.

View attachment 638911
Ethan, do you really think this script I is a J.
IMG_2218.JPG
Regards, P/L
 

Ethan Lipsig

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P/L, as I have said, I have always thought my watch was signed M.I. Tobias, not M.J. Tobias. I and J script letters resemble each other, but the difference appears to be that an I had a shorter (more-or-less) vertical line than a J.

IMG_1701.jpg
 
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S.Humphrey

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Fascinating.
I can't say I have a position on the "I" vs. "J" other than it does look from the script samples that the J would have a longer stem.

I'm more intrigued by the variation of "Isaacs" to "Isaac" when it seems so certain that Isaacs is proper.
But, then I think of my own ancestry research and knowing that our name went from Umfrey to Umphrey, , to Humfrey, Humphrey, Humphreys, and to Humphries. Sometimes changing the spelling from generation to generation, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries.
So, dropping the "s" off the end doesn't surprise me so much.
Still, very curious in light of everything.
 

John Matthews

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This discussion could and probably will roll on and on ...

Here are the entries for TOBIAS from the Liverpool trade directories for the beginning of the C19th

1630588423369.png

The significance of this data to me is that when the listing is for Miel J TOBIAS at 5 Pool Lane (1805 to c1812), this is the period when the TOBIAS watches are signed in the italic style (be it I or J). Subsequently, the signature is capitalised. I cannot say whether Miel J and Miel Issac, as listed, are the same person - I just have not done the necessary research.

As to whether it is an italised I or J - it appears to me that the discussion is focused on the fonts posted by PL. If this particular font (and I have seen it described as the 'Engraver's Script') is the one used at the time, then certainly the J has the longer upright. However, whether it is the correct font set to compare the signature with, I just don't know.

My view is that it probably doesn't matter - what I find more significant is that the pre-1814 examples, with the italised script signature, are probably watches that should be associated with the Tobias listed in Pool Lane.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi John,
As to whether it is an italised I or J - it appears to me that the discussion is focused on the fonts posted by PL. If this particular font (and I have seen it described as the 'Engraver's Script') is the one used at the time, then certainly the J has the longer upright. However, whether it is the correct font set to compare the signature with, I just don't know.
Since engravers were individual artists undertaking highly skilled handwork, I think that it's over-simpifying the matter to compare their work to a 'standard' font. Any two engravers could produce quite different interpretations of a given letter, perhaps depending on what they had eaten for lunch or even how much they had imbibed the night before!

Regards,

Graham
 

S.Humphrey

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1805-1812 wouldn't M.I. Tobias have still been working with his Uncle, Morris? At least at the beginning of that period.
 

S.Humphrey

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I am reading from Michael Edidin's Oct. 1992 NAWCC Bulletin article that in the Guildhall Library they have a watch paper from Morris Tobias & Company and that it gives their Liverpool address at 5 Pool Lane.
 

S.Humphrey

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Looking again, I have some questions about the original premise, too.
Regarding the article from Morning Herald on the 20th May 1858, proclaiming him the "youngest son of "M. J. Tobias" Esq of Liverpool.
Maybe the "J" is a typo, maybe it's not.

It's the "Esq." bit that puzzles me. I'm not entirely certain about the conventions of the day, but I find it quite a stretch that any watchmaker would be referred to with that. He's not a lawyer, or a noble gentleman.
 

S.Humphrey

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I think I would conclude that they are in fact all "I" and that it's just so fancy and similar to the "J" in that script that we can't tell the difference.
And we frequently find it listed as "M.J." in trade directories and other places because, they couldn't either.
It's probably why he dropped the cursive and went with a block style later. lol
 
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PapaLouies

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I have a Josh Johnson photo Archive with the following watches signed in script, 4529, 5069, 5620, 5687, 5731, 5789, 5973, 7748, 7771, 9250 & 11521. All script J's are strikingly similar to the script I's in the Tobias watches.
I hope Keith will not object. Here is a photo of his Josh Johnson 7771.
[9].jpg
Regards, P/L
 

gmorse

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Hi shinytickythings,
It's the "Esq." bit that puzzles me. I'm not entirely certain about the conventions of the day, but I find it quite a stretch that any watchmaker would be referred to with that. He's not a lawyer, or a noble gentleman.
The tag has a different meaning on this side of the pond, it doesn't, (and didn't), necessarily mean that the man was a lawyer or member of the nobility, it just meant that he was regarded as a 'gentleman', a much broader definition which could eventually include 'persons in trade' as an expression of respect.

Regards,

Graham
 
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