"E.H. and F.H. Tighe"
Edward Henry Tighe, 1869 - 1934
Frederick H Tighe, 1861 - 1925

by Brian Stevenson
last updated March, 2021

The E.H. & F.H. Tighe microscope business was a fairly short-lived venture in Detroit, Michigan, running from about 1894 until 1903. Both Edward and Frederick Tighe worked as travelling salesmen for much of the 1880s. Around 1890, Frederick took a job as an "optician", evidently working as an employee. The E.H. & F.H. Tighe optical shop opened a few years later, between 1893 and 1896, at 32 Grand River Avenue. That shop closed by early 1897, and all future sales of microscopes occurred through Edward, Frank, and possibly another brother, as travelling salesmen. There is no evidence that the Tighes actually manufactured the microscopes that they sold. Instead, all records after 1896 give Edward's home as the firm's address, and a 1903 investigation found that "they had no property". The actual manufacturer(s) is not known, although there have been suggestions of Gundlach, Bausch & Lomb, and/or Queen. By 1903, the Tighes were failing to fulfill their sales contracts, and evidently went out of business that year. The 1904 Detroit City Directory listed Edward and Frederick Tighe as owners of the Enterprise Couch Manufacturing Company.

Figure 1. Tighe's "Stand 5". The right image is from E.H. & F.H. Tighe's 1899 catalogue. Left image courtesy of Jay Stanley. Right image adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from http://www.americanartifacts.com/smma/micro/tighe.htm .


Figure 2. Described as Tighe's "Stand 4", this microscope is essentially the same as "Stand 5", except for the double nose-piece. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from http://www.arsmachina.com/tighe_model_4.htm.


Figure 3. "Stand 3". The right image is from Tighe's 1899 catalogue. Images adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site (left) and http://www.americanartifacts.com/smma/micro/tighe.htm (right).


Figure 4. Another model by E.H. & F.H. Tighe, which features the fine focus adjustment on the body tube. This stand resembles the "Library" model of Bausch and Lomb and the "Acme 5" model of Queen & Co., and may have been made by, or copied from, one of those manufacturers (see http://www.microscope-antiques.com/library.html and http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/acme_No._5_2215.htm). Images adapted by permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/Tighe_microscope.htm.


Edward Henry Tighe was born during December, 1859, and Frederick H. Tighe was born on October 4, 1861 (I have not located the date of Edward's birth, or a record of Frederick's middle name). They were the second and third children, respectively, of Edward L. and Susan Tighe, having an elder brother (Thomas) and a younger brother (Oliver) and sister (Ann). All of the children were born in Canada. The 1861 Canadian census listed the family in Brantford, Ontario, with 4 year old Thomas and 1 year old Edward. Oliver's naturalization papers state that he was born in nearby Woodstock, Ontario, so it is reasonable to conclude that all five children were born in that vicinity. Father Edward L. was originally from Ireland, while mother Susan was born in Canada, of Irish parents.

The family was living in Chatham, Ontario, on April 2, 1871, when the national census was conducted. Father Edward L. was reported to be a "phrenologist" (i.e., he studied the bumps on people's skulls to "determine" mental attributes).

Later declarations from Tighe family members stated that they emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1869 or 1870. The 1871 Canadian census indicates that their move was later than that, but probably occurred during mid-1871.

The 1880 census of the U.S.A. found the family in Detroit, Michigan. The father continued his work as a phrenologist, while 20 year-old Edward was listed as a "junk dealer" and 19 year-old Frederick was a "sailor". The 1882 Detroit City Directory indicted that father Edward L. Tighe was also involved with the junk business.

Edward H. Tighe married Mary Meally on April 5, 1882. The pair had four children. Mary died on May 15, 1898, when only 36 years old. Edward remarried on May 5, 1903, to Blanche Starkweather.

The 1886 Detroit City Directory recorded that both Edward and Frederick were "traveling agents" (i.e. traveling salesmen), who lived with their father and younger brother and sister at 117 14th Avenue.

The 1890 Directory listed Frederick as being an "optician" (Figure 5). He was not listed in the Directory under the business category of "Opticians", and so, presumably, he worked for an optical business in the area. Edward's occupation was still listed as "traveling agent".

The 1893 Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory did not list any Tighe family member, suggesting that none of them operated a business at that time.

E.H. and F.H. Tighe had begun their optical business by the time that the 1896 Detroit City Directory was published. The partnership was listed under Edward and Frederick's names, and under the businesses headings "Microscopes", "Optical Instruments", and "Opticians" (Figure 6).

In the following year, 1897, The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory listed the address of E.H. & F.H. Tighe as 1079 7th Avenue (Figure 7). This was the address at which Edward H. Tighe had lived for several years. The Tighe business was not listed under "Opticians" or "Microscopes" in 1897. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that Edward and Frederick had closed their free-standing shop and no longer offered walk-up service for microscopes or other optical goods.

Census records of 1900 show that Edward Tighe and his family had moved to 1195 Brooklyn Avenue, and that his occupation was listed as "optician". Younger brother Oliver also lived with Edward and his children, and was reported to be an "optician", suggesting that Oliver was part of the Tighe microscope business.

The Detroit City Directories of 1900 and 1901 both listed Edward, Frederick, and Oliver as being "traveling agents" (Figure 8). In 1903, Edward and Oliver were reported to be "traveling agents", while Frederick was reported to work with "microscopes" (Figure 8). The Tighe microscope business was not listed anywhere in these Directories, supporting the conclusion that the firm did not have a public shop.

Two letters from dissatisfied customers that were published in Medical World during 1903 confirmed that the Tighes sold their microscope through personal sales calls, while also showing that they were having troubles with supplying their customers:

"About one year ago an agent representing E.H. & F.H. Tighe. of Detroit, brought to my office a microscope having a two-thirds and one-eighth objective. He showed me some bacteria which were very clear and nice, and represented to me, as he did to others, that satisfactory bacteriological work could be done with the one-eighth objective. I soon found to my sorrow that I could not do bacteriological work with it, not being able to recognize even the gonococcus with it. I complained to them and the reply I received was that if the one-eighth was not satisfactory they would furnish me a one twelfth oil immersion for $36. They charged $55 for the microscope". J.C. McAllister, Ridgway, Pennsylvania.

"I noticed in May 'World', page 206, a letter from Dr. J. C. McAllister, of Ridgeway. Pa., in regard to a microscope sold him by E. H. & F. H. Tighe, of Detroit. I have had a similar, only a little worse, experience with this same so-called firm. I purchast one of their fifty-five-dollar microscopes; some very fine specimens were shown to me, and the instrument seemed all right. The price appealed to me at that time. I tried to use it for ordinary bacteriological work and I found it very deficient. Having a contract for the return of the microscope with the so-called firm, I wrote them three different times that I wisht to return the microscope and received no reply. I sought the advice of an attorney and he wrote them, and yet no reply. I then sent them a registered letter for the sake of determining whether they were still in Detroit, and received in reply a register card and a very curt note from the firm. I shipt them the microscope, intending to sue them for the amount I had paid on the contract which I held. The microscope was received in Detroit and held. They wrote me that I could have the instrument on the payment of one dollar. Having business in Detroit within a year of that time, I lookt up the firm and found that it consisted of two brothers who were purchasing and selling microscopes on the road, and had no establisht standing in Detroit. I sought the services of an attorney to either sue them for the amount or for securing the microscope, and he lookt up their record and said I would get more by taking the microscope than by suing them, as they had no property. I have no doubt that a great many others have been duped by these same brothers. My advice to brothers of 'The World' is to have no dealings with this firm, having proved themselves thoroly unreliable and unbusinesslike, and buy only of reliable manufacturers". Joseph Riege, Dunkirk, N.Y.

The microscope-supply business of E.H. and F.H. Tighe appears to have dissolved during 1903. The above-quoted letters show that the Tighe microscope firm was already on shaky ground, and the legal threats of customers such as Dr. Riege may have led the Tighe brothers to conclude that there was no further profit in this venture.

In an abrupt switch, Edward and Frederick Tighe opened the Enterprise Couch Manufacturing Company in 1904, producing sofas and other items of furniture (Figure 9). The 1908 Detroit City Directory listed Edward at the president and Frederick as the vice president of the business.

Frederick married Mary Ann Colton on June 29, 1908. By the time of the 1910 census, he had taken work as a "machinist" in a "motor works". Younger brother Oliver was then living with Frederick and Mary Ann, and working as a "microscope salesman". Since the Tighe microscope venture had long gone out of business, it can be assumed that Oliver worked for another firm.

At the time of the 1920 census, both Edward and Frederick were working as real estate brokers, and Oliver worked in an "electrical supplies store".

Frederick Tighe died on June 30, 1925, of edema in his lungs and intestinal complications.

Edward, his wife, and one of his sons moved to Pasadena, California in about 1923. However, he reportedly returned to the Detroit area "for two or three months during the summer to attend to his somewhat extensive real estate operations". Oliver followed, taking up work as a salesman in an "electrical fixture store". Edward died during the late summer / autumn of 1934, and was buried in Michigan.

Figure 5. The 1890 "Detroit City Directory" showed that E.H. Tighe worked as a traveling salesman, while F.H. Tighe was an "optician". The "Directory" did not list any business by Tighe, implying that Frederick was employed by another optical shop.


Figure 6. The earliest records of the E.H. & F.H. Tighe optical business yet identified appeared in the 1896 "Detroit City Directory". They sold eyeglasses, microscopes, and various optical instruments from their shop in Grand River Avenue. The 1893 "Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory" did not include any listings for the Tighes, suggesting that their optical business began some time between 1893 and 1896.


Figure 7. The 1897 "Detroit City Directory" and "Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory" both show that the Grand River Avenue shop had closed, and E.H. & F.H. Tighe were operating out of Edward's house. Other contemporary sources state that their microscopes were sold by the brothers working as traveling salesmen.


Figure 8. The 1901 "Detroit City Directory" listed Edward, Frederick, and their younger brother, Oliver, as traveling agents. The "Directory" did not include E.H. & F.H. Tighe under "microscopes", "opticians" or any other related business. The 1903 "Directory" posted "microscopes" alongside Fredrick's name, although the Tighes were not listed in the microscope dealer section.


Figure 9. E.H. & F.H. Tighe were no more by the time that the 1904 "Detroit City Directory" was published. Subsequent editions likewise did not mention that firm.



Thank you to Jeff Silverman, Jay Stanley, and Allan Wissner for helpful comments and for permission to use images from their collections.



Canada census records, accessed through ancestry.com

Death record of Mary Louise Tighe (1898) accessed through ancestry.com

Death record of Frederick H. Tighe (1925) accessed through ancestry.com

Death record of Edward H. Tighe (1934) accessed through ancestry.com

Detroit City Directory (1882) page 962

Detroit City Directory (1886) page 1249

Detroit City Directory (1889) page 1333

Detroit City Directory (1890) page 1073

Detroit City Directory (1896) pages 1382, 2048, 2061, and 2062

Detroit City Directory (1897) pages 1408 and 2094

Detroit City Directory (1900) page 1539

Detroit City Directory (1901) page 1577

Detroit City Directory (1903) page 2053

Detroit City Directory (1904) pages 2293 and 3108

Detroit City Directory (1908) page 2088

Marriage record of Edward Henry Tighe and Mary Louise Meally (1882) accessed through ancestry.com

Marriage record of Edward Henry Tighe and Blanche Starkweather (1903) accessed through ancestry.com

Marriage record of Frederick H. Tighe and Mary Ann Colton (1908) accessed through ancestry.com

McAllister, J.C. (1903) Letter, The Medical World, Vol. 21, page 206

Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory (1893)

Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory (1897) pages 708 and 2140

Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory (1903)

Rieger, J. (1903) Letter, The Medical World, Vol. 21, page 261

Tighe v. Davis (1938) https://casetext.com/case/tighe-v-davis

U.S. census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com