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Gibb Family Fonds (P075)

Extract from Gibb & Co. Limited order book (detail), 1915-1917. Gibb Family Fonds P075, P075/B3,5.10 © McCord Museum

Gibb & Co. Limited, merchant tailor to Montreal's elite

"H. B. Ames

6 ft. Head little fwd. Rather sqr shlds
Pair afine fancy angola trousers
ff [fly front?] x P[pocket?] on slant seat & up
Done Tues[day] & Sent"

Businessman, politician and philanthropist Herbert Brown Ames was just one of the many prestigious loyal clients of Gibb & Co. Limited, a list that also included Sir Hugh Graham, Lord Shaughnessy and Sir Charles Davidson. Gibb & Co. Limited was one of the city's most famous merchant tailors. Founded in 1784 by Benaiah Gibb and run by the Gibb family for over five generations, the firm was a true Montreal treasure. The names of hundreds of clients from Montreal, Canada and the United States fill the pages of this order book, which contains a wealth of information on the clients' physical features (measurements and general observations), the custom-tailoring trade and commercial practices of the era.

Gibb & Co. Limited finally closed its doors in 1968, after being in business for two centuries.

P075 Gibb Family Fonds. - 1797-1970. - 564 cm of textual records and other documents.

Biographical Sketch of the Gibb Family

Benaiah GIBB I (1755-1826)
Born in Northumberland, England, he was the son of Thomas Gibb (?-1778). In 1790, he married Catherine Campbell (?-1804), with whom he had six children, including Thomas Gibb (b. 1793), James Duncan Gibb I (b. 1795) and Benaiah Gibb III (b. 1798). In 1808, he married his second wife, Eleanor Leach Pastorius (1779-1821), with whom he had two children.

Benaiah Gibb I moved to Canada in 1774. His business ventures were very successful, which helped him become a prominent member of Montreal society. He was also a major landowner and, as of 1820, a director of the Montreal Savings Bank.

Thomas GIBB (1793-1832)
The son of Benaiah Gibb I and Catherine Campbell, in 1819 he married Magdalen Campbell (1799-1845), with whom he had three children: Magdalen Caroline Gibb (b. 1820), George Duncan Gibb (b. 1821) and James Campbell Gibb (b. 1824).

A native Montrealer, Thomas Gibb worked in the city as a tailor and merchant. He helped run Gibbs & Kollmyer, and then Gibb & Co. Thomas Gibb was still active in the latter firm at the time of his death in 1832.

James Duncan GIBB I (1795-1857)
The son of Benaiah Gibb I and Catherine Campbell, in 1832 he married Margaret Gibb (1810-?), with whom he had three children: Catherine Gibb (b. 1834), Victoria Jane Gibb (b. 1843) and Charles Gibb (b. 1846).

Born in Montreal, James Duncan Gibb I was also a tailor and merchant who worked in the firms of Gibbs & Kollmyer and Gibb & Co. In 1832, he took over as head of latter with Benaiah Gibb III, to whom he sold his shares in 1841. In the late 1830s, he also sat on the Executive Committee of the Montreal Constitutional Association.

Benaiah GIBB III (1798-1877)
The son of Benaiah Gibb I and Catherine Campbell, he learned the basics of the men's clothing trade in London. In 1832, Benaiah Gibb III took over as head of Gibb & Co., first with James Duncan Gibb I, and then alone as of 1841. In 1862, Benaiah Gibb III retired, leaving the business to James Duncan Gibb II. In addition to his business activities, Benaiah Gibb III developed a passion for fine arts and built a major art collection.

James Duncan GIBB II (1820-1897)
The son of Benaiah Gibb II (who was the nephew of Benaiah Gibb I) and Sarah Lachlan, in 1853 he married Clarinda Harriet Blain (1834-1928). He took over as head of Gibb & Co. in 1862. In 1880, James Duncan Gibb II returned to London and left the administration of the family business to Alexander Gibb and Edward Munro Gibb.

Dr. George Duncan GIBB (1821-1876)
The son of Thomas Gibb and Magdalen Campbell, he received his medical degree from McGill University in 1846. George Duncan Gibb worked notably as an editor and curator for the Natural History Society of Montreal. He also practised medicine in London and wrote numerous books and articles about diseases of the throat.

Lachlan GIBB (1853-1922)
Born in England and the son of Benaiah Gibb IV and Harriet Hall, he worked at Gibb & Co. alongside his brothers Alexander Gibb and Edward Munro Gibb. At the turn of the 20th century, he retired from actively managing the business, handing it over to his nephew Arthur Edward Gibb McArthur. However, he remained president of Gibb & Co. Limited for many years. He returned to England about 1912.

Edward Munro GIBB (1855-1895)
The son of Benaiah Gibb IV and Harriet Hall, he worked as a tailor and merchant for Gibb & Co. alongside his brothers Alexander Gibb and Lachlan Gibb. He was still working in the business when he died in 1895 at the age of 40.

John Lachlan GIBB CARSLEY (1909-1984)
The son of John Gibb Carsley (1877-?) and Mary Helen Gibb (1883-1934), he had a career in the military before becoming involved in the Montreal business community. In particular, in 1959 he helped create The Sherbrooke Street Association, a corporation that worked to develop Sherbrooke Street. He was president of Gibb & Co. Limited at the time.

Administrative History of Gibb & Co. Limited

The business created by Benaiah Gibb I and run by his descendants for nearly two hundred years had a profound influence on the men's clothing trade in Montreal and Canada.

In 1784, Benaiah Gibb I founded McFarlane and Gibb, a partnership with Montreal draper Peter McFarlane. When McFarlane retired in 1790, Benaiah Gibb began running the establishment on Notre Dame Street by himself. The firm prospered, in part because of Gibb's special connections with London suppliers. Clients included military officers, as well as members of the Montreal bourgeoisie.

Beginning in 1815 and until his definitive retirement in 1822, Benaiah Gibb's business interests were taken over his sons, Thomas Gibb and James Duncan Gibb I. Together with Joseph Kollmyer, they created the firm of Gibbs & Kollmyer, tailors. In 1821, Joseph Kollmyer left the business. Following the 1832 death of Thomas Gibb, Benaiah Gibb III joined his older brother to run the business. James Duncan Gibb I sold his shares in the company in 1841, leaving Gibb & Co. Merchant Tailors under the administration of Benaiah Gibb III. The business moved to St. James Street in 1854. At the turn of the 20th century, it was incorporated and officially became Gibb & Co. Limited, still under the administration of the Gibb family. The company founded by Benaiah Gibb I finally closed its doors in 1968.

Scope and Content

The fonds focusses primarily on the family and commercial activities of Gibb family members. It contains correspondence (family letters as well as those sent to delinquent clients) along with various legal and administrative documents chronicling the management of the family businesses: letters patent, apprenticeship contracts, work and business partnership agreements, resolutions, reports and minutes of meetings. There are also numerous financial records: invoices, receipts, account statements, account books, payrolls, cash books, inventories, and several order books.

Personal documents such as marriage contracts, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, bank passbooks, passports, medical prescriptions and even a partial inventory of Benaiah Gibb III's collection of paintings and sculptures can also be found in the fonds.

The photographs in the fonds are primarily portraits of various Gibb family members taken between 1860 and 1936, as well as pictures of the family business, located on St. James Street. Maps, architectural drawings and two leather straps complete this collection.

Source of title proper: Title based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical description: Also includes 4 cartographic records, 4 architectural drawings, 14 printed documents, 24 photographs and 2 objects.

Physical condition: The ink has faded in the letter books and the binding on some documents is very fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds is composed of various donations made between 1983 and 2012.

Arrangement: The fonds underwent an initial classification in the late 1980s. Following additional donations that significantly increased the fonds, a new classification plan was adopted and a comprehensive treatment conducted in 2013.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

Associated material:

Univers culturel de Saint-Sulpice Montréal: Collection Aegidius Fauteux (C2).

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Fonds des expositions du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal 1860-1909, series MBAM-E-1392 and MBAM-E-1395.

Related groups of records: The McCord Museum's Thematic Resources collection contains a general information file on the Gibb family (C069/B,301) and the dance card collection also contains a document associated with the 150thanniversary of Gibb & Co. Limited (C288/E.27). The Windsor Hotel fonds (P092) includes several documents related to James Duncan Gibb II.

General note: The Notman Photographic Archives collection has various photographs of Gibb family members taken at the Notman Studio from the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century.

A painting (M983.224), a cabinet featuring the Gibb & Co. Limited insignia (M983.228.4) and a commemorative handkerchief associated with the company's 150th anniversary (M991.35.1) are also preserved at the McCord Museum.

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries and files:

  • P075/A Personal Activities
    • P075/A1 Benaiah Gibb I
    • P075/A2 Benaiah Gibb II
    • P075/A3 Thomas Gibb
    • P075/A4 James Duncan Gibb I
    • P075/A5 Benaiah Gibb III
    • P075/A6 Elizabeth Gibb Orkney
    • P075/A7 James Duncan Gibb II
    • P075/A8 Dr. George Duncan Gibb
    • P075/A9 Lachlan Gibb
    • P075/A10 Edward Munro Gibb
    • P075/A11 John Lachlan Gibb Carsley

  • P075/B Commercial Activities
    • P075/B1 Gibbs & Kollmyer. - 1814-1831. - 3 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the activities of the Gibbs & Kollmyer firm. It includes the governing documents (such as by-laws and plans to transfer the company from Benaiah Gibb I to Thomas Gibb, James Duncan Gibb I and Joseph Kollmyer), accounting and financial records, and the proceedings of three legal disputes pitting the firm against Pierre Moreau, John Todd and Edward A. Clarke.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P075/B2 Ware & Gibb. - 1820-1844. - 42.5 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the commercial activities of the company Ware & Gibb, grocers, established on St. Paul Street. It contains communications such as a letter book, correspondence about the 1824 bankruptcy of Ware & Gibb, and copies of letters from the firm's trustees. There are also several accounting and financial records, including a general ledger, invoices, receipts, promissory notes, lists of creditors and cheques. In addition, account books document the monetary transactions of Ware & Gibb between 1822 and 1826. Several proceedings also reveal the legal actions taken against the business following its bankruptcy.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P075/B3 Gibb & Co. Limited
      • P075/B3,1 Governing documents. - 1841-1926. - 2.5 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: Containing partnership agreements, articles of incorporation and letters patent, this file traces the incorporation, legal foundations and operation of the firm Gibb & Co. Limited.

        Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the file.

        Language:The documents are in English.

      • P075/B3,2 Meeting documents
      • P075/B3,3 Human resource documents
      • P075/B3,4 Communications
      • P075/B3,5 Accounting and financial records
        • P075/B3,5.10 Order book, Gibb & Co. Limited. - 1915-1917. - 1 textual record ; 46 x 31 cm.
          Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10
        • Scope and Content: This book is a record of the orders made by Gibb & Co. Limited clients from 1915 to 1917. Each entry generally contains the client's measurements, along with a description of the items ordered and the price. The client list includes names like Sir Hugh Graham, Lord Shaughnessy, Sir Charles Davidson, Sir H. B. Ames, as well as the Ogilvie and Drummond families. There are also uniform orders from companies like the Bank of Montreal and Sun Life.

          Source of title proper: Title based on the type of document.

          Language: The document is in English.

      • P075/B3,6 Legal Papers
  • P075/C Publications

  • P075/D Photographs


Last update: August 30, 2017