TABLE OF CONTENTS

Collection Summary
 

Administrative History

Scope and Content

Organization of the Collection

Index Terms

Administrative Information 

Contact Information

Series Level Descriptions

1 - Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver. 

2 - Henry Birks and Sons Miscellaneous: 1931. 1937, 1966-1998; predominant 1985-1992. 

3 - Henry Birks Silver Factory: ca. 1900-ca. 1915.

Box List

SERIES 1 - Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver 

SERIES 2 - Henry Birks and Sons Miscellaneous 

SERIES 3 - Henry Birks Silver Factory 

National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

Henry Birks and Sons fonds: 

Finding Aid 



Collection Summary

Title: Henry Birks and Sons fonds. 
Dates: – 1792, 1837, 1887, 1900-1998. 
Quantity:  – 68 cm of textual records and other material. 

Administrative History

Henry Birks was born in Montreal in 1840, the son of John Birks and Anne Birks (née Massey), who emigrated from England to Canada in 1832. Henry Birks began his career in 1857 as a clerk at Savage and Lyman, a prominent Montreal clockmaker and jeweller. He eventually became a partner in the firm but a downturn in the company's fortunes in the late 1870s led Birks to open his own jewellery store on St. James Street, the heart of Montreal's financial and commercial district. In 1893 Birks reorganized the company to include his three sons, William Massey (1868-1950), John Henry Mecalfe (1870-1949), and Gerald Walker (1872-1950), and later in the year relocated to Phillips Square. Coinciding with the restructuring of Birks was a more aggressive business strategy. In 1898 Birks and Sons acquired Hendery and Leslie, Silversmiths and Electro Platers, along with its designs, equipment, and staff, and three years later began opening stores in other major Canadian cites, including Ottawa in 1901 and Winnipeg in 1903.

In 1936 Henry Gifford Birks (1892-1985), the eldest son of William Massey Birks, began to collect examples of marks used on sterling silver articles produced before 1899 by the predecessors of the Birks silver factory, including Hendery and Leslie. In the course of his research, Birks became concerned that the supply of early Canadian sterling silverware produced by master craftsmen was disappearing and he began collecting outstanding examples, including numerous pieces by artisans of New France. In time, what was known as the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver became the most comprehensive collection of antique Canadian silver in existence. It included ecclesiastical and domestic pieces, flatware and holloware, created by exceptional Canadian silver craftsmen from the early 18th century to the present. As the collection grew, parts were loaned to museums in Canada and abroad and to select non-profit institutions for exhibition and education purposes. In 1979 the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver, comprising approximately 12,000 objects, was donated to the National Gallery of Canada in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the founding of Henry Birks and Sons Ltd. In 1993, Henry Birks and Sons was acquired by the Italian company, Borgosesia SpA.

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Scope and Content

The fonds originally consisted of research materials, including correspondence and photographs, related to the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver. A second accrual was donated in 2006 by Frances Gilsenan, the wife of Owen Gilsenan, an employee at Henry Birks and Sons from 1971 to 1992. Included in this accrual are miscellaneous items gathered during Owen Gilsenan's time at Birks. A third accrual, consisting of nine drawings from the Birks silver factory, was donated by Frances Gilsenan in 2008.

Source of supplied title proper: Title based on contents of fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition: The initial donation consisting of items from the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver was made by Henry Birks and Sons Limited in 1979. The second and third accruals were donated to the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives by Frances Gilsenan in 2006 and 2008.

Physical description: Other material includes 1087 b&w photographs, 3 colour photographs, 2 colour slides, and 9 drawings.

Language: Text is mainly in English. Some items are in French.

Finding aids: Series level descriptions and box list available.

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Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into 3 series.
Series 1 - Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver.
Series 2 - Henry Birks and Sons Miscellaneous, 1931, 1937, 1966-1998, predominant 1985-1992.
Series 3 - Henry Birks Silver Factory, ca. 1900-ca. 1915.

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Index Terms

Names:
Amiot, Laurent, 1764-1839
Birks, Henry, 1840-1928
Birks, Henry G., 1892-1985
Hendery, Robert, 1814-1897
Langdon, John Emerson, 1902-1981
Leslie, John, 1848-1895
Document Types:
Correspondence.
Drawings.
Photographs.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Title of item], Henry Birks and Sons fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives.

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Contact Information

Cyndie Campbell
Head, Archives, Documentation and Visual Resources
Library and Archives
National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 9N4
 
T 613-990-0597
F 613-990-9818
 
ccampbel@gallery.ca 


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Series Level Descriptions

 

Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver. – 1920-1976. – 47 cm of textual records and other material. 

Series consists of five notebooks identifying silversmiths and their marks. Almost all of the marks listed in these notebooks are illustrated by a small black and white photograph. There is also a notebook listing Indian Trade Silver; a notebook identified by Henry Gifford Birks as "Unknown American Australia Foreign Articles Lists, Notes, and Marks"; and a record book kept by Birks divided according to type of silver: Crosses, Holy Water Stoups, Burrettes, Trays, Censers, Chalies, Ciborium, Ecuelles, Monstrances, Navettes, Pax, Pyx, St. Huiles, and Soup Ladles. Each division in this book contains a chart with columns labelled: Accession Number, Year, Maker, Size, Price, Source, and Remarks. Entries date from 1939 to 1977. Near the end is a list of silversmiths and their marks. Also part of the series is a postcard addressed to Robert Hendery, Montreal, from 1887; a letter in French signed by Jean Amiot, Quebec; a receipt from Laurent Amiot (1764-1839) with a pencil drawing of a silver ciborium on the verso; and a pamphlet regarding the partnership of Robert Hendery (1814-1897) and John Leslie (1848-1895), of Hendery and Leslie Silversmiths. On the verso of the pamphlet are notes written in pencil by Birks: "Partnership July 4th 1887 - Partnership dissolved Dec. 17, 1895 - Taken over by Henry Birks and Sons, March 1st 1898." The series also includes two sets of correspondence. The first set is comprised of incoming and outgoing correspondence with various collectors and others. Included in this group are several letters to and from John E. Langdon, a leading Canadian expert on silver. The second set consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence with museums, galleries, and private individuals regarding loans of silver items from the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver. 
Source of supplied title proper: Title based on contents of series.
Physical description: Photographs include 1078 b&w photographs, 1 colour photograph, and 2 colour slides.
Language: Text is mainly in English. A few items are in French.
Finding aids: Box list available.

See Box List for this Series

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Henry Birks and Sons Miscellaneous. – 1931, 1937, 1966-1998; predominant 1985-1992. – 21 cm of textual records and 11 photographs : multiple processes. 

Series consists of miscellaneous materials collected by Owen Gilsenan, an employee of Henry Birks and Sons from 1971 to 1992. Included is an address book kept by Owen Gilsenan during the time he was responsible for product design, marketing and sales for Birks under the title "National Buyer Flatware & Holloware". Also included are photocopied technical manuals, a book listing Birks silver factory employees, product and price lists, and miscellaneous correspondence. 
Source of supplied title proper: Title based on contents of series.
Physical description: Photographs include 9 b&w photographs and 2 colour photographs.
Language: Text is mainly in English.
Finding aids: Box list available.

See Box List for this Series

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Henry Birks Silver Factory– ca. 1900-ca.1915. – 9 drawings. 

Series consists of nine presentation drawings from the Birks silver factory. Eight of the drawings are on wove paper and one drawing is on illustration board. Included among the drawings are designs for cups, utensils, and trophies. One drawing shows a design for a Chain of Office for the Mayor of Pointe-Claire, Québec, with the dates 1713 (parish established in the name of St. Francis of Sales) and 1911 (Pointe-Claire incorporated as a town with a mayor and council) on the chain and the attached medallion. 
Source of supplied title proper: Title based on contents of series.
Finding aids: Box list available.

See Box List for this Series

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Detailed Description of the Collection


Box List

Series 1 - Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver 

Box Folder
Box 1 File 1 Record Book of Silver
File 2 Unknown American Australia Foreign Articles List, Notes, Marks
File 3 Indian Trade Silver - Tome 1
File 4 Dwight & Savage, Montreal 1818-1819, A/D
File 5 Dwight & Savage, Montreal 1818-1819, E/L *note: file contains 280 thumbnail photographs
File 6 Dwight & Savage, Montreal 1818-1819, M/P *note: file contains 280 thumbnail photographs
File 7 Dwight & Savage, Montreal 1818-1819, R/Z *note: file contains 315 thumbnail photographs
File 8 Original documents *note: a pencil drawing by Laurent Amiot on the verso of a receipt showing a silver ciborium has been moved to Box 7
BoxFolder
Box 2File 1Birks Collection - Photographs - Thomson & Langdon *note: file contains 102 b&w photographs
File 2Birks Collection - Henry Birks and Sons Ltd. (notes related to the history of Birks and Sons and its predecessors) *note: file contains 4 b&w photographs
File 3Birks Collection - Correspondence 1977
File 4Birks Collection - Correspondence 1976
File 5Birks Collection - Correspondence 1975
File 6Birks Collection - Correspondence 1974
File 7Birks Collection - Correspondence 1973 *note: file contains 15 b&w photographs
File 8Birks Collection - Correspondence 1971
File 9Birks Collection - Correspondence 1970 *note: file contains 9 b&w photographs
File 10Birks Collection - Correspondence 1969 *note: file contains 4 b&w photographs
File 11Birks Collection - Correspondence 1968 *note: file contains 22 b&w photographs
File 12Birks Collection - Correspondence 1967 *note: file contains 12 b&w photographs, 1 colour photograph, and 1 pin commemorating the golden anniversary of Henry G. and Lilian Birks
File 13Birks Collection - Correspondence 1966 *note: file contains 8 b&w photographs
File 8
BoxFolder
Box 3File 1Birks Collection - Correspondence 1965
File 2Birks Collection - Correspondence 1964
File 3Birks Collection - Correspondence 1962
File 4Birks Collection - Correspondence 1961
File 5Birks Collection - Correspondence 1959 *note: file contains 49 b&w photographs of silver marks
File 6Birks Collection - Correspondence 1958
File 7Birks Collection - Correspondence 1957
File 8Birks Collection - Correspondence 1956 *note: file contains1 b&w photograph
File 9Birks Collection - Correspondence 1955 *note: file contains 5 b&w photographs
File 10Birks Collection - Correspondence 1954
File 11Birks Collection - Correspondence 1953
File 12Birks Collection - Correspondence 1952 *note: file contains 17 b&w photographs
File 13Birks Collection - Correspondence 1951
File 14Birks Collection - Correspondence 1950 *note: file contains 3 b&w photographs
File 15Birks Collection - Correspondence 1949
File 16Birks Collection - Correspondence 1948
File 17Birks Collection - Correspondence 1947
File 18Birks Collection - Correspondence 1941
File 19Birks Collection - Correspondence 1940
File 20Birks Collection - Correspondence 1939
File 21Birks Collection - Correspondence 1938 *note: file contains 1 b&w photograph
File 22Birks Collection - Correspondence 1937
File 23Birks Collection - Correspondence 1936
File 24Birks Collection - Correspondence 1935
File 25Birks Collection - Correspondence 1932
File 26Birks Collection - Correspondence 1920
File 27Birks Collection - Publications: Miscellaneous (1931, 1944)
BoxFolder
Box 4File 1Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Morrisburg, Upper Canada Village (1964-1965, 1967)
File 2Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - London, Birks (1955, 1964)
File 3Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - London (UK), Royal Academy of Arts (1965)
File 4Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Montreal, Birks (1962, 1967, 1980)
File 5Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Ottawa, Birks (1963)
File 6Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Musée du Québec (1949-1954, 1964, 1967-1969, 1974) *note: file contains 9 b&w photograph
File 7Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - St. John, New Brunswick Museum (1956-1958, 1961-1964, 1969, 1973) *note: file contains 2 b&w photographs
File 8Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Brantford, Art Gallery of Brantford (1966, 1971)
File 9Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Don Mills, Pioneer Exhibition (1969) *note: file contains 1 b&w photograph
File 10Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Halifax, Birks (1969)
File 11Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Thunder Bay, Lakehead University (1966)
File 12Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Toronto, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church (n.d)
File 13Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Toronto, Wimadausis Club exhibitions (1961, 1966) *note: file contains 9 b&w photographs
File 14Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Toronto, York University (1978)
File 15Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Victoria, British Columbia Provincial Museum (1978)
File 16Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Windsor, Art Gallery of Windsor (1956, 1977) *note: file contains 1 b&w photograph and 2 colour slides
File 17Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Windsor, Birks (1963, 1974)
File 18Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Toronto, Hiram Walker Historical Museum (1960) *note: file contains 11 b&w photographs
File 19Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Winnipeg, Winnipeg Art Gallery (1976)
File 20Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Winterthur, Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (1968) *note: file contains 1 b&w photograph
File 21Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Montreal, McCord Museum (1977)
File 22Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Ottawa, Public Archives of Canada (1976)
File 23Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - St. John's, Arts and Culture Centre (1971)
File 24Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Saskatoon, Mendel Art Gallery (1964-1972) *note: file contains 1 b&w photograph
File 25Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Montreal, Chateau de Ramezay (1955-1978) *note: file contains 5 b&w photographs
File 26Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Hamilton, Art Gallery of Hamilton (1954-1977)
File 27Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Ottawa, Government House (1977)
File 28Birks Collection - Loans Pre-1980 - Joliette, Musée de Joliette (1975-1977)

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Series 2 - Henry Birks and Sons Miscellaneous 

Box Folder
Box 5 File 1 Miscellaneous typescripts related to silver *note: includes paper entitled Notes on Silver by Henry G. Birks
File 2 A Guide to Old French Plate by Louis Carré *note: photocopy of book published in 1931 by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York
File 3 Technical Manual - Verson Allsteel Press Company, Hydrostatic Forming Techniques
File 4 Handy and Harman "Handy Book" *note: photocopy of a technical handbook for silversmiths and manufacturing jewelers
File 5 Marketing Research Centre Limited, A Sterling Flatware Pattern Test, A Reseach Report Submitted to Henry Birks and Sons (Montreal) Limited, May 1986
File 6 Revision and Additions to the "Report on Plating Room Standard Practice"
File 7 Henry Birks and Sons Limited, Statistics on Store Operations, Year Ended September 28, 1989
File 8 Marketing report
File 9 Miscellaneous typescripts
File 10 Miscellaneous articles
BoxFolder
Box 6File 1Silver factory employees
File 2Owen Gilsenan address book (ca. 1900)
File 3Product and price lists (1970, 1975) *note: file contains 9 b&w photographs
File 4Product and price lists - Miscellaneous, vol. 1 *note: file contains 2 colour photographs
File 5Product and price lists - Miscellaneous, vol. 2
File 6Birks Basic Silver Stock (1992)
File 7Correspondence - Taishodo Co., Ltd., Japan (1980-1981)
File 8Correspondence - Miscellaneous (1986-1991)
File 9Appraisal by Owen Gilsenan - "A Replacement Evaluation of Presentation Trophies Belonging to the Royal Montreal Golf Club, 25 North Ridge Road, Ile Bizard, Quebec, June 1, 1998" *note: file contains two copies of Gilsenan's report

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Series 3 - Henry Birks Silver Factory 

Box Folder
Box 7 Item 1 Untitled (silverware)
Graphite with white gouache highlights
Buff wove paper
27.2 x 38.0 cm
Item 2 Untitled (silver cups)
Graphite with white gouache highlights
Buff wove paper
27.2 x 36.0 cm
Item 3 Untitled (football club emblem)
Gouache over graphite
Ivory illustration board (Superfine London Board)
42.5 x 39.0 cm
Item 4 Untitled (silver trophy)
Pen and watercolour, pen and brown ink, watercolour wash, graphite
Ivory wove paper
56.5 x 39.0
Item 5 Untitled (silver bowl)
Watercolour and white gouache over graphite
Ivory wove paper
44.3 x 62.1 cm
Item 6 Untitled (trophy)
Watercolour over graphite
Ivory wove paper
59.9 x 40.3 cm
Item 7 Untitled (Chain of Office, Pointe-Claire, Québec)
Watercolour over graphite
Ivory wove paper
53.5 x 45.0 cm
Item 8 Untitled (gold box)
Pen and brown ink, brush and coloured inks, watercolour and white gouache over graphite
Ivory wove paper
47.2 x 54.0 cm
Item 9 Untitled (silver bowl)
Coloured wax crayons over graphite
Buff wove paper
38.1 x 58.8 cm

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