Kirk & Son Sterling
Combination of two of America's most influential silver companies and later The Stieff Company
A set of 6 Kirk & Son Silver goblets Circa 1890
Kirk & Son Sterling was founded in the year 1815 by Samuel Kirk in Baltimore, Pennsylvania. Samuel Kirk was born in February 1793 in Doylestown, Philadelphia and passed away in July 1872, Baltimore Maryland.
Samuel Kirk studied silversmithing in Philadelphia under the apprenticeship of James Howell.
After completing his apprenticeship, he returned to Baltimore, Maryland. In the year 1815, together with an silversmith, John Smith, they opened their first shop in Baltimore at 212 Market Street. Samuel Kirk was then only 22 years old. The partnership was short-lived and only lasted for 6 years. In the year 1821, the partnership was officially dissolved.Samuel Kirk continued the business alone.
It was only in the year 1846, when Samuel Kirk eldest son, Henry Child Kirk joined the company.In 1861 and 1863, respectively, two more sons, Charles Douglas and Edwin Clarence Kirk, were admitted as partners, changing the firm's name to Samuel Kirk & Sons.
America Civil War lasted from 1861 till 1865. After the civil war, many Americans are thrown into poverty and hence created a economic slump in demand for silver products. Charles and Edwin then decided to resign and withdraw from the partnership. The company again changed its name back to Samuel Kirk & Son.
Their important customers
In 1820 Maria Hester Monroe, daughter of President James Monroe, was married in the White House. She chose Kirk Mayflower as her silverware pattern.
Kirk & Sons Mayflower Patterns
During his 1824 tour of the United States, General Lafayette ordered a pair of goblets for his Baltimore host, David Williamson
Kirk Lafayette Silver Water Goblet 1824
Many of Maryland's prominent families, such as the Carrolls, the Ellicotts, Roosevelts of New York and the Ridgelys, were among Kirk's customers.
Kirk was famous for re-introduction the Repousse decorative technique on its silver items. Repousse is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. It went out of fashion and loses it appeal in America during the Colonial period. Kirk was so successful with his repousse works that it became one of the main stream style for American silver during mid 19th century.
Kirk repousse decorative pattern - Rose 1892
After the founder's death
Samuel Kirk passed away in the year 1872 leaving the business to his eldest son, Henry Child Kirk. The company continue to grow
Kirk sterling silver compote circa 1910
The later years
The later years were not too good for the Kirk. In the year 1966, the great great grandson for Samuel Kirk (the founder) begun its diversification plans to expand the company. Some of the more notable acquisition were
1) Coastal Trailer Corporation in the late 1960's and
2) Studebaker Southern, Inc., a Florida-based manufacturer of mobile homes, in 1969
Unfortunately, these acquisition did not worked out. There were little knowledge on these newly acquired industry. Further more a construction slump in the year 1974 added to its burden. Studebaker Southern, Inc. was terminated in 1972 and Coastal Trailer Corp. was sold off to its original owners in a 1975-1976 reorganization of the parent company. The reorganization of 1976 had cost the company a $600,000 commercial loan which increased the company's interest charges and decreased the capital base available for current operations or expansions. The cost of the company's essential raw materials, silver began to skyrocket and the wildly speculative silver commodity market made it almost impossible to price Kirk's products to meet dealer orders. In addition, the company's manufacturing and office facilities had become severely cramped and a great deal of machinery and equipment needed to be replaced. The high cost of real estate, construction and machinery coupled with the company's reduced financial resources brought the matter to a head.
In the year 1979 the Kirk Corporation found itself in difficult financial situation. The Stieff Company, a Baltimore silver and pewter manufacturer since 1892, offered to purchase the assets of the Kirk Corporation. The two companies drew up a proposal which combined management personnel and allowed for the continued production of the Kirk line. The shareholders approved the merger on 10 October 1979 and a new company was born under the name of The Kirk Stieff Company.
In 1990 Kirk Stieff was purchased by Brown-Forman (maker of Jack Daniels and other distilled spirits).
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