A Remembrance of Mark Rees

By Wing, Don; Wing, Anne | The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., March/April 2002 | Go to article overview

A Remembrance of Mark Rees


Wing, Don, Wing, Anne, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.


The reaction of one American after meeting Jane and Mark Rees was, "I wish I'd been able to know them sooner," and probably all of us who have known them feel the same way. Almost always together, they worked closely miri many areas, beginning with their careers in architecture, specializing in the restoration and renovation of historic buildings. This led to dealing in antique tools, tireless participation in both the Tool and Trades History Society in England (TATHS) and the Early American Industries Association in the USA, and of course their noted research and publications. Sadly, Mark Rees passed away in December.

The Rees' many trips to meetings of the EAIA and Mid-West Tool Collectors Association produced many enduring transatlantic friendships, and their 1994 visit to and lecture at Colonial Williamsburg's symposium on eighteenth-century tools gave more Americans a chance to get to know this remarkable couple. Mark's quick wit and good humor made him a fine companion, and in talking with him one could always learn something.

Mark's volunteer efforts added strength to both TATHS and the EAIA. Being both a scholar and a dealer, he was able to bridge the gap between the two that occasionally occurs in specialist groups such as these. Whether he realized it or not, he has a stabilizing influence on each organization with his imaginative ideas and his practical application of them. He served as editor of both the TATHS newsletter and its journal and contributed several excellent articles to them and to the EAIA's Chronicle. He tried to combine English and American interests by suggesting projects like a traveling exhibit on transatlantic trade, showing how the two countries have relied on each other for imports/exports and for sharing ideas over the centuries. An unfinished project with the EAIA involved research and collaboration on

reprinting a series of early nineteenth-century English pattern books found in America, with provenance.

As a director of the EAIA, he wanted to encourage tool trading at meetings. He suggested the idea of allowing buyers in the trading room as the dealers are setting up and also began a creative system for members' consignments, following through with actions. He and Jane made the effort to attend every EAIA meeting, traveling thousands of miles to do so.

Being guests in the Rees' home in Bath made one realize, more than quick visits at meetings or auctions could, the variety of their interests, from remodeling their home, with its spectacular garden and lovely sweeping views of the countryside to the south, to their impressive collection of treenware and Mark's cacti. Evidence of their love of antiques, tools included, is everywhere throughout the house. Walking from the kitchen (after a super meal!) through the library, with its comprehensive selection of both modern and antique reference books, to the guestroom with its view was a treat these Americans will not soon forget.

The Rees' Christmas cards manifested Mark's seemingly endless talents and interests. Using antique tools for inspiration, he created wonderful drawings. It must have taken hours to create the sketches for his cards. The results reflect the many aspects of his personality-artistic talent, knowledge of tools, a sense of humor, attention to detail. One can almost hear him chuckling delightedly as he filled in spaces with unexpected minutiae like a spider sitting on a wooden plane.

Mark's voice was distinctive booming and confident. David Stanley's well attended and successful auction of November 3, 2001, was unusually quiet without hearing Mark in the back of the hall having a discussion with fellow attendees (yet keeping an eye on the auctioneer and not missing any interesting lots). His confident voice reflected his wellrespected knowledge in many areas. As a direct result of his intellectual curiosity, Mark was an avid and skilled trader of tools, using trading as an aid to locate rare and early examples for study. …

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