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In 1815 Samuel Kirk opened a neighborhood silver store in Baltimore, what would eventually become the Kirk Stieff Corporation, the oldest surviving, highly prestigious silver company in the U.S. Born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a descendent of two prominent English silversmith families, Kirk moved to Baltimore in his late teens after apprenticing with James Howell in Philadelphia. In 1846, Kirk changed the name of his company to “Samuel Kirk & Son” with the addition of his son Henry Child, and again in 1861 to “Samuel Kirk & Sons” when sons Charles and Clarence joined the firm. Although these younger sons left the company after the Civil War, Henry and his son, Henry, Jr., continued the family business after Samuel’s death in 1872.
Kirk silver, or “Baltimore silver” is instantly recognizable by its hand-crafted repousse technique – hammering the reverse side of silver to produce an intricate design in low relief -- which Samuel Kirk introduced to America in 1828. Customers especially desired his repousee tea services, bowls, and flatware with elaborate floral patterns and architectural images. Kirks’ reputation for meticulous craftsmanship and innovative design spread nationwide; famous assignments included renovating 550 pieces of gold flatware belonging to the White House dinner service and creating a 48-piecee dinner service with scenes of Maryland’s history for the sailboat Maryland.
During the twentieth century, Samuel Kirk & Son, Inc. broadened its silver line to include sculpture, jewelry, and pewter decorative objects. In 1979, the Baltimore Stieff Company purchased Kirk, renaming the firm to “The Kirk Stieff Company,” and in 1990 the Brown Forman Co. of Louisville, Kentucky, purchased Kirk-Stieff.
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