John Millikin, ca. 1809 - 1871

by Brian Stevenson
last updated November, 2019

During the middle-late-1800s, there were two unrelated businesses named “Millikin” in London, both of which sold microscopes and medical/scientific equipment. The similarity of the business’ names have led to inaccurate assumptions that they were connected.

The 1859-1871 firm of “John Millikin”, or simply “Millikin”, is the subject of this essay. It was successor to “Bigg and Millikin”, founded in 1857, which was itself a successor to “Bigg and Son”. John Millikin’s business was originally located at 9 St. Thomas’ Street, Southwark. This was adjacent to St. Thomas’ Hospital, with that institution’s medical students and practitioners being its targeted audience. A short move to 33 St. Thomas’ Street took place in 1862. Millikin made another short move in 1863 to 12 Southwark Street, bringing him closer to Guy’s Hospital. The microscope illustrated in Figure 1 carries the Southwark address. After Millikin’s death in 1871, the business was purchased by F. Walters, who continued at the same location under the name “Millikin and Walters”. At the same time, Millikin’s son opened a similar business, under the name “J. Millikin”, at 3 St. Thomas’ Street, then moving to 237 Westminster Bridge Road in the mid-1880s. The “J. Millikin” business ended with bankruptcy in 1887. Further details on this Millikin family and their businesses are presented below, after Figure 1.

"Millikin and Lawley" was another major London firm that sold scientific and medical equipment, but which did not have any direct relation to the presently-described businesses. Details of this firm are dealt with in a separate essay. Briefly, it was founded in 1815 at 301 Strand by a different man named John Millikin (ca.1786 - 1833). After that John Millikin died, his wife, Martha (1794 - 1854), continued the business under John's name. She moved to 161 Strand in the mid-1840s. After Martha Millikin’s death, the business was acquired by William Lawley, a pawnbroker. The shop at 161 Strand was then renamed “Millikin and Lawley”, and sold both new and second-hand medical equipment, microscopes, and other apparatus.

Figure 1. A simple microscope, labeled as having been sold by “Millikin, Maker, Southwark St., Borough”. The address dates it to between 1863 and 1871. John Millikin manufactured surgical instruments, so it is most probable that he outsourced construction of this microscope. It has two simple lenses, which pivot over the stage for use. The two can be used together, providing a clear, higher magnification image. Focus by adjusting the stage height via rack-and-pinion.


The John Millikin who owned the St. Thomas’ Street / Southwark Street business was born ca. 1809 in Ireland, according to the 1871 census of England. There are records from the 1780s onward of a John Millikin who made knives, razors, scissors, and other cutlery in Dublin, Ireland. Considering our man’s occupation and birthplace, it is probable that he was a descendant of the Dublin Millikin.

In 1857, Henry H. Bigg announced, “Having entered into arrangements with Mr. Millikin, who has been my Assistant for the last eight years, I beg to introduce him as my Partner, and to inform that the business will in future he conducted in the name of Bigg & Millikin, and hope that by our united efforts we shall continue to enjoy that full confidence and patronage that has hitherto been accorded to this Establishment for upwards of a century, and assure that nothing shall be wanting on our part to secure it”.

Consistent with Bigg’s statement, some of Millikin’s advertisements state that his business was established in 1751 (Figure 3). Henry Heather Bigg (1826-1881) had been in a partnership with his father, Henry Bigg (1795-1879), as “H. Bigg and Son”, until the father’s retirement in the late 1850s. They owned two shops, at 9 St. Thomas’s Street and 29 Leicester Square: the first became Bigg and Millikin, while Bigg retained the Leicester Square shop in his own name. The elder Henry Bigg was recorded in an 1843 directory as a member of Sheldrake, Bigg & Company. The surgical instrument businesses of Timothy and William Sheldrake are known back to the 1790s.

Our John Millikin is known to have had a son, also named John, born in early 1852. His marital status, and the name of the mother, are not known. Millikin married Georgiana Archer during the summer of 1860. Georgiana was 14 years younger that John, and the timing of the marriage suggest that she wasn’t the mother of his son.

As noted above, John Millikin acquired the St. Thomas’ Street shop of Bigg and Millikin in 1859 (Figures 2-4). He moved to 33 St. Thomas’ Street in the autumn of 1862 (Figure 5). Railway construction necessitated a move to 12 Southwark Street during mid-1863 (Figures 6-7).

John Millikin’s business was evidently very successful. The 1871 census shows that he and his family lived in a home on Shardeloes Lane, Surrey, not at their shop. He, Georgiana, and the son lived with two domestic servants. John Millikin died on September 21, 1871, at his home in Surrey.

This led to a further confusion in business names and relationships (Figures 8-10). Millikin’s “stock, plant, and business” were purchased by F. Walters, a former rival in the medical equipment business. Operating from 12 Southwark Street, as well as from his previous shop at 12 Palace Road, Walters named the new business “Millikin and Walters (late J. Millikin)”. At the same time, Millikin’s son, John, opened his own shop, at 3 St. Thomas’ Street, under the name “J. Millikin”. John Jr.’s advertisements urged customers that there was “no connexion whatever with Nos. 7, Southwark-street and 12, Palace-road”. Creating further confusion, Henry Hills (“manager for many years to the late J. Millikin, Southwark-street”) opened a medical equipment shop nearby at 46 King Street.

Circa 1880, John Millikin, Jr., formed a partnership with one of more men named Down, operating from 3 St. Thomas’ Street as “Millikin and Down” (Figure 11). That partnership ended during the mid-1880s, with Millikin moving to 237 Westminster Bridge Road, and his former colleagues retaining the St. Thomas’ Street shop, as “Down Brothers” (Figure 12).

John Millikin, Jr., filed for bankruptcy in 1887. His whereabouts after that date have yet to be ascertained.

Figure 2. An 1859 advertisement from John Millikin, published shortly after the dissolution of Bigg and Millikin. From “The London and Provincial Medical Directory and General Medical Register”.


Figure 3. An 1860 advertisement. Millikin claimed that his business was established in 1751. In 1857, Henry H. Bigg stated that his business had been established “for upwards of a century”. From the Medical Times and Gazette”.


Figure 4. 1861 advertisements, noting that Millikin sold “dissecting and pocket instruments”, presumably microscopes of the sort shown in Figure 1. From “The Lancet”.


Figure 5. October, 1862 advertisement, noting Millikin’s move from number 9 to number 33 St. Thomas’ Street.


Figure 6. Advertisements from 1863, reporting Millikin’s move to Southwark Street. He also stressed that he had “no connection with any other house”, referring the Millikin and Lawley, an advertisement for whom was published directly below. From “The Medical Times and Gazette”.


Figure 7. An 1866 advertisement, from “The Lancet”.


Figure 8. Following John Millikin’s 1871 death, his business was purchased by F. Walters, who renamed it “Millikin & Walters”. At the same time, Millikin’s son, John Jr., opened a shop at 3. St. Thomas’ Street. These advertisements were published in 1872, in “The Medical Times and Gazette”.


Figure 9. 1873 advertisements. Walters had changed his business name to “F. Walters & Co. (successors to the late J. Millikin)”, while John Millikin Jr. tried to steer business to himself. From “The Medical Times and Gazette”.


Figure 10. Henry J. Hill’s, John Millikin’s former manager, also opened an medical instrument shop in the neighborhood. From “The Lancet”, 1874.


Figure 11. John Millikin, Jr., formed a partnership in the late 1870s, operating as Millikin & Down. From “The British Medical Journal”.


Figure 12. Excerpts from the 1885 “Kelly’s Directory of Chemists and Druggists”, section of surgical instrument manufacturers. John Millikin, Jr., had moved to 237 Westminster Bridge Road. His former partners had become Down Brothers, and retained the shop at 3 St. Thomas’ Street. The unrelated business of Millikin & Lawley moved from 161 Strand to 165 Strand ca. 1872.



Bennion, Elizabeth (1980) Antique Medical Instruments, University of California Press, Berkeley, page 333

The British Medical Journal (1880) Advertisement from Millikin and Down, July 7 issue

Dublin Evening Post (1787) “Cutlery Manufactory. John Millikin, No. 17, College Green, Dublin, who served his apprenticeship, and was employed thirteen years at Mr. Read’s shop in Parliament Street, particularly in manufacturing Razors and Lancets, respectfully informs the Nobility and Gentry that he has removed from No. 6 Church Lane to No. 17 College Green, Dublin, opposite King William, where he carries on said business in the best manner. The peculiar excellence of his Razors so universally admired under the name of another, sufficiently recommends them. Table knives, Pen knives, scissors, etc., of the newest station and best material. On the cheapest and superior quality of his goods, he rest his hopes of success. Old Work repaired with care and expedition. An apprentice wanted”, March 31 edition

England census and other records, accessed through

Kelly’s Directory of Chemists and Druggists (1885) Surgical instrument manufacturers, pages 377-378

The Lancet (1854) Advertisements from Henry Bigg, November issue

The Lancet (1857) Announcement from Henry Bigg, on the formation of Bigg and Millikin, page 54

The Lancet (1861) Advertisements from John Millikin and Heather Bigg, September 21 issue

The Lancet (1862) Advertisement from John Millikin, October issue

The Lancet (1866) Advertisement from John Millikin, October 6 issue

The Lancet (1874) Advertisements from J. Millikin, H.J. Hills, F. Walters & Co., Sept. 12 issue

London Commercial Gazette (1887) Bankruptcies, April 6, page 12

The London and Provincial Medical Directory and General Medical Register (1859) Advertisement from J. Millikin, page 1103

The Medical Circular (1864) Advertisements from J. Millikin, and Millikin & Lawley, September 23 issue, Vol. 23

The Medical Times and Gazette (1854) “Surgical instrument makers … Bigg and Son, 9, St. Thomas’s Street, Boro’, and 29, Leicester sq.”, page 309

The Medical Times and Gazette (1854) Advertisement from J. Millikin, September 29 issue

The Medical Times and Gazette (1863) Advertisement from J. Millikin, September 5 issue

The Medical Times and Gazette (1872) Advertisements from J. Millikin and from Millikin & Walters, March 9 issue

The Medical Times and Gazette (1873) Advertisements from J. Millikin and from F. Walters & Co., June 28 issue

Probate of the will of John Millikin (1871) “Millikin John. 19 January. The will with a codicil of John Millikin late of 50 Shardeloes-road New Cross in the County of Surrey Surgical Instrument Maker who died 21 September 1871 at 50 Shardeloes-road was proved at the Principal Registry by William Ingle Lowe of 47 Threadneedle-street in the City of London Stationer and Thomas Heath of Stratton Villa Croydon-road Anerley in the said County Gentleman the Executors. Effects under £3,000”, accessed through

The Retrospect of Practical Medicine and Surgery (1858) “The polyptome - This instrument has been invented within the last few weeks for Dr. Lever, by Messrs Bigg & Millikin, of St. Thomas-street, Borough, and is intended to facilitate the operation of removing broad-based uterine polypi…”, Vol. 37, page 215

Science Museum Group (United Kingdom) (accessed November, 2019) John Millikin (contains an inaccurate amalgam of information about two unrelated businesses owned by men named John Millikin),