Elizabeth Benjamin, Ralston, PA, Commercial Fly Tier

In reading through my recent post on Elizabeth S. Benjamin, 1829- 1903, commercial fly tier from Ralston, Pennsylvania, this morning, I noted that I initially had made a math error in the age comparison between her and Sara McBride, daughter of fly tier John McBride of New York. According to published information, Sara is recognized as the first woman commercial fly tier in the United States. However, the evidence of flies tied by Elizabeth Benjamin on display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, dated 1853 when Sara McBride was only nine years old indicates that the elder of these ladies, Elizabeth Benjamin, should be acknowledged as the first woman commercial fly tier in America.

I also added significant new material to the topic too; you might want to check it out. Thanks to those of you who share a passion in fly tying and fishing history.

6 comments on “Elizabeth Benjamin, Ralston, PA, Commercial Fly Tier

  1. Rusty says:

    Hi Don, Great meeting you in Hamilton. Don’t question your math too much. Maybe just because it may have possibly been child labor doesn’t mean it wasn’t quality! 🙂

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Rusty;
      Nice meeting you as well!
      The math error was more a “date mistake” by me. I had written that the flies tied by Elizabeth were dated 1858, when it was actually 1853. That made the age comparison and fly tying dates between Elizabeth Benjamin and Sara McBride more certain, in that Sara was only nine years old when Elizabeth was tying, at the earliest known date. If Elizabeth was tying in her late teens then Sara might still have been in diapers. 🙂 Thanks very much for your comment!

  2. John Larsen says:


    I did a quick search for her in Bodines, Or Camping on the Lycoming, at Archive.org. (where the book is available) and she is not mentioned by name. There might be a passing reference to her, which would require reading the book, which I have not done. Thanks for the information; I find the history of fly fishing fascinating.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hello John;
      I read through the “Ralston” chapter in my copy of Bodines, and Elizabeth was not mentioned. Thad Up De Graff ordered his flies from a man in Rochester. It was curious though, that the family name of Conroy, from the museum notes in her son’s letter, mentioned a Mr. Conroy that was fishing Lycoming Creek.
      Thanks for your interest and contribution to the topic!

  3. Larry Bordas says:

    I share your interest and enthusiam about Elizabeth. For the past few years I also have been gathering information. I live just up the road in Liberty.
    Contact me.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks Larry for your comment! I was at my family cabin over the weekend, just got home today. We’re located on Urban Road. In fact I had forgotten that the Blockhouse Festival was this weekend. I’ll be back up there over the 4th of July. The PA Fly Fishing Museum is going to discuss Elizabeth Benjamin at their next Board Meeting.
      I plan to spend a week or more at the cabin over the 4th of July; I am sure we can get together. Thanks for your comment, I will e-mail you to discuss it further. Thanks again!

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