Samuel Kirk & Son
Samuel Kirk was Baltimore’s preeminent silversmith and his company holds the important distinction of being the oldest silversmith in the United States. Kirk, born in 1793, moved from Doylestown to Baltimore in 1815, not long after the United States enacted its first law regarding the stamping of quality on silver. Hailing from a family of English silversmiths and goldsmiths, and with a talent for business in addition to his skill with metal, he established his company the same year. He forged ahead on his own until 1846, when his son joined him and the company became Samuel Kirk & Son. Kirk is perhaps best known for his innovative revival of the repoussé technique which set the standard for fine silver in the US in the mid-19th century. The chased floral repoussé patterns he created were so popular that his designs, and similar ones from other contemporary makers, to this day are referred to generally as “Baltimore silver”.
His company prospered in the busy port town and his work was sought after by American elite, with clients including General Lafayette, President James Monroe’s daughter, and even the government, which commissioned a dinner service for the USS Maryland. After Kirk’s death in 1872 the business remained in the family and expanded its reach even further, adding to its client roster the Belmonts, Astors, Roosevelts, Peabodys, Biddles and countless other prominent families across the country. It remained a family-owned business until 1979 when they merged with another prominent Baltimore silver company, Stieff, and became The Kirk Stieff Company. Samuel Kirk’s legacy lives on in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the De Young Museum.