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Originating in Leeds

James Henry Atkinson and the ‘Little Nipper´.

Although not as common today as they were a century ago, mousetraps are nevertheless an item of equipment which most people will recognise and give little further thought to. Finding an effective means of trapping unwanted rodents had, of course, occupied many people before the appearance of Atkinson’s successful design, but it is this particular trap that is familiar to most. 


Ironmonger James Henry Atkinson was born in Leeds in 1849. He filed applications for patents on several different inventions, but the one he is most famous for is his mousetrap (GB 13277 of 1899). After making a number of versions he eventually came up with the Little Nipper as it has become known, a wooden base upon which sits a simple spring mechanism which is triggered by the movement of the mouse as it attempts to get at the bait (which is placed on the spike marked " i"). Atkinson wanted to avoid the risk of the trap going off prematurely, but also wanted a powerful snapping action. This he achieved with a spring whose speed has never been bettered.


Atkinson made the traps himself but later sold the rights to a Welsh company, Procter Brothers, for a significant sum. They have continued making the traps to this day. Little Nipper was registered as a trade mark in May 1909 and is still held by Procter Brothers.


Means of trapping pests continue to interest designers and inventors and many patents are still filed on the subject (including means of drowning and electrocuting the mice and also trapping them humanely) but no-one else has managed to come up with a more successful trap and the Little Nipper still holds 60% of the mousetrap market.  


Atkinson died in 1942.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Library and Information Service | 

Comment on this page

  • Posted by My Learning Team on 23/12/2011

    Thanks for that Bill, we've added a link to your Mousetrap Cars resource at the bottom of this page

  • Posted by Bill Kuhl on 16/12/2011

    I see people searching on my website for the history of the mousetrap car. Now Thanks to this article I know the rest of the story.

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