1948.8 | Tray

About 1932, 20th century
Bequest of the Right Honourable Richard Bedford, Viscount Bennett
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
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Keys to History

R.B. Bennett (1870-1947) had great expectations for the Imperial Conference of 1932. Not only was it being hosted in Canada (in Ottawa), but at last he could vigorously promote his plan for an imperial trading community. A great deal had changed, however, in the year and a half since Bennett first suggested the scheme. For example, a bushel of wheat, which stood at $1.50 in 1926, now traded for a paltry 55 cents.

The sights and glamour of the imperial gathering distracted the press and politicians in the summer of 1932. Who would not be swayed by the glittering state functions attended by some of the most famous names in world affairs? The summer garden parties were swarming with prime ministers and maharajahs.

Politically, the conference was a failure. Appointing himself Chairman, Bennett appeared biased and seemed to only represent Canadian interests. Britain's Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) scathingly described the Canadian Prime Minister as a man with "the manners of a Chicago policeman and the temperament of a Hollywood film star." Not all was lost however, as Bennett came away with a limited version of his trading program, and a simple sterling silver tray presented by the delegates to the Conference.

  • What

    This tray was made and sold by Birks. During the Depression, not a single Birks employee was let go because of hard times.

  • Where

    A new Birks store opened in Calgary in 1930.

  • When

    The earliest known Birks hallmark dates from 1564.

  • Who

    John Birks (1802-1869), the father of Henry Birks (1840-1928), migrated from England to Montreal in 1832.