William Dobson was a maker and retailer who had a number of different addresses on the Strand in London throughout his 50 years in business.
The various trade directories describe him as a hardware man, writing desk and copying machine maker as well as a cutler and perfumer. We have a flyer in our private archive (which dates from the address to between 1805 and 1825). It shows that he offered a vast and varied inventory of items for sale. These range from Inlaid Tunbridge Wares, Tea Chests & Caddies, Ebony Inkstands, Pocket Shaving Cases and Leather Snuff Boxes to Excellent Warranted Razors, Silver Blade Knives and Curious Sporting Instruments. All these things are listed on the main label they used, the design of which seems to have changed little aside from the address number. The flyer pictured here gives an even longer list of items and notes that Dobson is the patentee of the Zephyr, a machine for circulating the air and chasing away flies etc. A useful piece of equipment for those travelling to the colonies, perhaps. Of particular interest to us is the listing for 'mahogany camp desks for writing, dressing, and shaving, completely fitted up for travelling, strongly bound with brass, and patent locks'. He also sold a variety of other items 'well calculated for portable and travelling conveniences'.
Although furniture does not appear to be listed on his sales flyers, the Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture (1700 - 1840) illustrates a tulipwood Sofa table with Dobson's label. William Dobson is first recorded at 165 Strand in 1796, moving to 166 in 1805; by 1820 he also had premises at 16 and 38 Strand; in 1826 he moved to 106 Strand, where he remained until 1847. It is unsure if he retained any of his other premises during this period. Sun Fire Office insurance also note, in 1808, another address for Dobson at 4 and 5 George Place, Paradise Row, Chelsea which was presumably his home. Although Dobson could not be considered a maker of campaign furniture, he did make and sell a number of items that would have been purchased by both the military, travellers and the administrators of the empire. McPherson's Portable Writing Desk and a number of items on the sales flyer in this catalogue illustrate this. Given the high number and variety of items Dobson sold it is highly likely that he stocked a number of lines by other makers. This is borne out by the listing of Reeve's Colour Cases. However, the Dobson's boxes that we have seen have always been fine quality and he must have been a businessman with a good reputation to last for 50 years on the Strand in London.