BAIRD, EDMOND (Edmund), cabinet-maker and upholsterer; b. 9 July 1802 in Stirling, Scotland; m. 21 Dec. 1833 Anne Robinson, in Montreal, and they had several children; d. there 22 Feb. 1859.
Edmond Baird was almost certainly related to James Baird, a Scottish cabinet-maker seven years his senior who preceded him to Montreal and who, when Edmond arrived at the beginning of the 1830s, was in partnership with John Hilton*. In the spring of 1833 the elder Baird and Hilton dissolved their partnership. Before the end of May, Edmond Baird had become Hilton’s new partner. This partnership meant that Baird had early achieved recognition in his occupation, for Hilton was, even in the 1830s, becoming the acknowledged head of the cabinet trade in Montreal and one of the most prominent cabinet-makers in the Canadas. Baird was associated with him during a crucial period in Hilton’s advancement.
Hilton and Baird advertised furniture in the “modern style” and of workmanship unsurpassed by “any other house in the trade.” In 1833, when they made this announcement, “modern style” invariably included the Grecian style, but later in the decade the partners undoubtedly turned to Gothic and Elizabethan styles, both in demand in Montreal by the beginning of the 1840s. Much of the work produced in their workshop was executed in either rosewood or mahogany, imported woods which they also sold to other cabinet-makers.
The reputation which Hilton and Baird made for themselves quickly spread beyond Montreal. Although there were competent cabinet-makers at Quebec, the Quebec merchant J. Benjamin ordered his custom-made furniture from them. Another customer was Abraham Joseph*, the Quebec representative of the firm of H. Joseph and Company. Not even two fires, deliberately set by an arsonist on 4 and 13 Feb. 1843 and causing damages estimated at £600, impeded Hilton and Baird’s progress.
By 1845 Hilton was anxious to bring his son William into partnership. On 17 May, therefore, the partnership with Baird was terminated. Baird retained the premises on Place d’Armes and launched into business on his own. He had sufficient work on hand by July to warrant advertising for “Several good cabinet makers.”
One of Baird’s first important commissions was from the Christian Unitarian Society of Montreal. For its church, opened in 1845 (the first Unitarian church in Canada), the society entrusted Baird with the pew linings, the drapery behind the pulpit and organ railings, and a large wall hanging. The work was carried out in drab moreen and crimson damask, both colours and materials being considered the height of good taste at the time and an effective contrast with the white walls of the church’s interior. In his advertisements Baird made much of the fact that he kept constantly on hand fine English and French satins, brocatelles, and other upholstery and curtain materials, all in “the latest fashions.”
Baird’s own religious affiliation was Methodist. In this he was in company with many of the principal cabinet-makers of Victorian Montreal. Like John Hilton, he attended St James Street Methodist Church and was a major contributor to that church’s building fund. One of Baird’s daughters, Emmaline Edmond, married in 1860 the Reverend Edward Bradshaw Ryckman, who became a distinguished Methodist clergyman.
Though Edmond Baird’s career was cut off comparatively early, he had already achieved success as a leader in a highly competitive trade, first as the partner of the outstanding John Hilton and later while conducting his own business. He left a number of descendants; a grandson, Edward Baird Ryckman, was federal minister of public works in 1926 and minister of national revenue from 1930 to 1933.
Arch. of the Mount Royal Cemetery Company (Outremont, Que.), Reg. of burials, 22 Feb. 1859. PAC, MG 24, I61, U, 25 April 1845; RG 31, A1, 1842, Montreal, St Lawrence Ward. St James United Church (Montreal), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 21 Dec. 1833. Bible Christian (Montreal), June 1845. Montreal Gazette, 30 May, 27 Aug. 1833; 7, 14, 23 Feb. 1843; 22 April, 21 May 1845. Montreal Transcript, 22 April 1845. Pilot (Montreal), 5 July 1845, 15 April 1848. Quebec Mercury, 21 Feb. 1846. Times and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Montreal), 23 April 1845. Canada directory, 1851, 1857–58. Montreal directory, 1842–58. G. E. Jaques, Chronicles of the St. James St. Methodist Church, Montreal, from the first rise of Methodism in Montreal to the laying of the corner-stone of the new church on St. Catherine Street (Toronto, 1888),90. Elizabeth Collard, “Montreal cabinetmakers and chairmakers, 1800–1850: a check list,” Antiques (New York), 105 (January-June 1974): 1132–46.
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