The Thos. Mills & Brother was a manufacturer located in Philadelphia, PA that made confectioners, bakers' and ice cream machinery and equipment. They are probably the most famous manufacturer of clear toy candy moulds / molds as well as other confectionery equipment. They did not make the candy or ice cream themselves but they manufactured the equipment and tools used to make these treats. They would sell their equipment to confectioners and other equipment distributors.
There seems to be some conflicting dates for when exactly the company was established but in their beige 1888 "Catalog of Goods", it states that the company was started in 1864. In this same catalog they refer to themselves as the “United States Confectioners Tool Works”. In the green 1888 "Cooking Utensils and Bakers Tools" catalog, it says the company was founded in 1853. It seems the company was actually all started by John Gardiner. He is considered the pioneer in tool manufacturing for the candy / confection making industry. Gardiner procured copies of machines and molds that had been used in the European manufactories and in 1851 opened his business in Philadelphia. This is according to the book “Philadelphia and Its Manufactures” By Edwin Troxell Freedley 1867. At some point Mr. Gardiner married a widow, Isabella Mill of Scotland. She had 2 sons from her first husband, Thomas Mills Sr. The boys were names Thomas and George M. Mills both born in Scotland. Gardiner educated the men in the craft and in 1864 they succeeded to the business under the name of Thomas Mills & Brother. Their shop was located at 901 Nassau street, Philadelphia PA. As of 1867, Mills was the largest Confectioners’ Tool company in the country. According to "Philadelphia and its Manufactures" 1867, it is stated "It may be safely asserted that the aggregate product of Confectionery, made in this city amounts to $1,500,000 annually".
By 1912 the President of the company was George M Mills. (Yearbook By Franklin Institute)
In 1963 the Thomas Mill & Bro company was sold by John G Mills. He was the grandson of Thos. Mills. We John started at the business, they employed about 65 men. This is according to the Mills family. They had been very kind sharing family information with me.
Thomas Mills & Bro for sure are the most well-known clear toy candy mold makers. There were many manufactures of them but Mills seemed to be the leader back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Today it is hard to tell who make many of the molds, most do not have makers marks. Many are reproduction molds and in the copying process the makers stamps, which some were faint, were lost when copies.
The earliest molds I know of that can be documented are the Mills patented molds from 1866. There is a lion, woman, fireman, boat, train, dog, elephant, and one other that are dated right on the mold. There had to be earlier molds because I have been able to find ads for “sugar toys” from much earlier dates.
1864 - 901 Nassau street, Philadelphia PA
1867 - No 901 Nassau street, Above ninth Cherry and Race Street, Philadelphia PA (per ad)
1876 - 1301-1303 N. 8th St. Philadelphia, PA
1917 - In Simmon's Spice Mill Magazine, March 1917 edition, 1305-1311 N. 8th St. Philadelphia, PA
1912 - In Year Book 1912 by the The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania, George M Mills is listed as President with address of 1301 North 8th street, Philadelphia, PA.
1919 - In Simmon's Spice Mill Magazine, March 1919 edition, 9th street and Thompson Sts., Philadelphia is listed at Mills current address.
1930 - The Business was located in Philadelphia, PA at 1301 - 1303 - 1305 - 1307 North Eight St. but by 1930 they had added the addresses 1309 - 1311 - 1315.
1870 - Improved Ice Cream Freezer
1878 - Designs for Stick Candy
1881 - Ice Breaker
1882 - Candy Whistle
1883 - Ice Cream Dasher
1890 - Ice Breaking Machine
1904 - Adjustable Gear
1907 - Rotary Ice Breaking Machine
1908 - Dasher for Liquid Freezers