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HENDERY, ROBERT, silversmith, merchant, and silver manufacturer; b. 14 Dec. 1814 on Corfu (Kérkira, Greece); d. 20 July 1897 in Montreal.

According to family tradition, Robert Hendery’s father – whose name was possibly Robert – was a surgeon with the British army on Corfu at the time of his son’s birth. He subsequently returned to his native Scotland, where young Robert trained as a silversmith. About 1837 Robert immigrated to Montreal; there he either entered the employ of George Savage and Son, the city’s largest retail jeweller and silversmith or, more likely, became a journeyman to Peter Bohle, who made silver flatware and other tableware for the Savage firm. On 16 May 1843 Hendery, a recent widower with at least one son, married Sarah Maysenhoelder, the daughter of another Montreal silversmith, John Maysenhoelder; they would have six children.

By 1851 Hendery was in partnership with Bohle in a shop on Rue Craig. In 1855 they exhibited at the universal exposition in Paris, but the partnership ended late that year or in early 1856, with Hendery succeeding to the business. At the provincial exhibition of 1858 he displayed “medals, cups, also a fine fish knife and a fork.” His output, however, progressively shifted to include hollow-ware of grander and more original invention, often with elaborate embossed and chased ornament. Before long, he became the city’s major producer of presentation pieces and trophies, and he turned increasingly to an expanding market for church silver. He also tried silver sculpture, and created many of the relatively few Canadian examples.

This shift in production coincided with the entry into Hendery’s employ of a young designer and silver chaser from England, Felix Louis Paris. Steeped in the styles and techniques of the leading English firms, Paris enabled Hendery to compete on a firmer footing with their exports, which dominated the colonial market. Paris worked for Hendery for at least two decades and married one of his daughters in 1867.

By the time of the provincial exhibition of 1863 in Montreal, Hendery was without peer as a manufacturing silversmith in the city. Above all, he was reputed as a maker of presentation pieces. His display included tea and coffee services, cups, goblets, and centrepieces which were praised by the Montreal Gazette as being “the most convincing proof that Canada need not in future import presentation sets from abroad.” The master-work was a piece of art silver, made for presentation to George-Étienne Cartier* and consisting of a triangular base enriched with various national emblems, a central structure in the form of a maple tree with branches supporting various dishes, and a sculptural grouping of three historical figures: “Jacques Cartier[*], representing the first of navigators; Montcalm [Louis-Joseph de Montcalm*], the first of French generals; Bishop Plessis [Joseph-Octave Plessis*], the first Church representative in Canada.”

Hendery, a member of the Church of England, was one of the first Canadian silversmiths to make any quantity of Anglican communion plate. He had distinguished himself in 1861 with a seven-piece communion service for Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal. Gothic Revival in style, it faithfully reflected the formulae of the Ecclesiological Society in England; it may be the oldest service produced in Canada under Tractarian influence. In 1864 Hendery executed a communion service of classical style for the Church of St James the Apostle and in 1880 the metropolitical cross, or pastoral staff, of the metropolitan of the Anglican ecclesiastical province of Canada. He also made much silver for the Catholic Church, having succeeded Paul Morand* in this regard. He even made Jewish ritual silver, including two pairs of rimmonim (adornments for the Torah) for Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue.

The steady expansion of Hendery’s enterprise led him in 1866 to open a retail store separate from his factory, and the firm became Robert Hendery and Company. By 1870–71, however, Hendery had abandoned the store and his business enterprise was confined to its earlier role as “maker to the trade” only. In 1877 his firm produced the Stephens testimonial, a piece of art silver designed by Paris. Conceived in terms of monumentality and classical restraint, it was presented to George Washington Stephens* by a group of Montreal citizens in recognition of his ten years’ service as an alderman.

On 4 July 1887 Hendery took into partnership John Leslie, a fellow Scot and an apprentice and employee with him since 1864. Much earlier, Hendery had begun to extend his market beyond the province of Quebec, but the firm of Hendery and Leslie expanded it considerably, mainly in Ontario. The firm’s reputation waxed steadily as it continued to manufacture commonplace tableware side by side with custom-made creations of original inspiration. An outstanding example in the latter category is the sculptural Carslake Trophy, which was awarded in 1890 at the Province of Quebec Rifle Association competition. The Gazette praised it as “one of the most magnificent trophies ever made in Canada.” Artistic distinction was also maintained in church plate, a first-rate example of which is a communion service presented in 1896 to Christ’s Church Cathedral, Hamilton, Ont., by the family of Bishop Charles Hamilton*.

Through his various firms, Hendery had become unrivalled as a maker of silverware in Canada. Yet his actual business establishment was always relatively small; in 1861 he had 6 employees, and in 1894 approximately 20. Eventually his health failed and the management of Hendery and Leslie was transferred to the junior partner. In 1895 Hendery sold his share to Leslie and retired. Two years later the firm was purchased by Henry Birks and Sons.

Ross Fox

[The author wishes to thank Andrea Kirkpatrick, Winnie Kirkpatrick, and Angela Houstoun for research assistance.  r.f.]

ANQ-M, CE1–75, 22 juill. 1897; CE1–126, 16 mai 1843, 1er nov. 1844, 26 août 1845. Les Beaux-Arts (Montréal), 1er juin 1863. Canadian Churchman, 19 Aug. 1897. Canadian Illustrated News (Montreal), 19 Sept. 1874, 8 July 1876, 19 May 1877, 25 Sept. 1880. Dominion Illustrated (Montreal), 10 May 1890. Gazette (Montreal), 7 Oct. 1858; 17 Sept. 1863; 21, 23 July 1897. Montreal Transcript, 29 May, 7 Oct. 1858; 28 March 1861; 18 Sept. 1863; 9 May 1864. R. [A. C.] Fox, Presentation pieces and trophies from the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver (exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1985). Raymond Boily, Monnaies, médailles et jetons au Canada ([Québec], 1980). J. E. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths, 17001900 (Toronto, 1966); Canadian silversmiths & their marks, 16671867 (Lunenberg, Vt., 1960). Ramsay Traquair, The old silver of Quebec (Toronto, 1940). Honor de Pencier, “Early treasures: the John and Eustella Langdon Collection of Canadian silver,” Rotunda (Toronto), 15 (1982–83), no.1: 4–11.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Ross Fox, “HENDERY, ROBERT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 2, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hendery_robert_12E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hendery_robert_12E.html
Author of Article: Ross Fox
Title of Article: HENDERY, ROBERT
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1990
Year of revision: 1990
Access Date: September 2, 2014