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Guide to the Robert Ensko Inc. Records
1787-1798, 1908-1978 (bulk 1934-1970)
 MS 200

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Elise Winks and Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 30, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Series II. Photographs and Pictorial Works, 1787, 1908-1971 (bulk 1950s-1960s). 12 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

The series includes photographic prints and negatives of a wide variety of silver objects. Several albums include photos of trophies, with information about them, supplied by Robert Ensko Inc. to the New York Racing Association (NYRA) for "Run of the Mill" and "Stake" races at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga in 1960-1966. There is also a set of three albums with photos (and a small box of negatives) of the Firestone Collection, which according to a note in the albums was appraised by Stephen G.C. Ensko.

Beyond these albums, there are many other photographs, though their particular context is not clear. A large set of organized photograph files, originally in filing cabinets when received at N-YHS, seem likely to be mostly of objects that were in Ensko's inventory or of at least specific relevance to their business. These files include both photographic prints and negatives. They include both antiques and reproductions of styles designated on some folder labels as "English silver," "Sheffield," "antique English," "early American" (often abbreviated as E.A.), and "modern." The photos remain in their original folders with Ensko's labeling. Objects include trays, creamers, bowls, candlesticks, cups, coffee and tea sets, dishes, urns, strainers, porringers, tankards, shakers, sauce boats, flatware, Apostle spoons, etc. A separate set of several small boxes of negatives seem likely to relate to images of Ensko's inventory as well.

Retained in their original flat letter boxes as received at N-YHS are various photographs and other image formats that appear to be more research or reference-oriented, such as for Ensko's books, appraisals, client inquiries, etc. The content of these letter boxes were not closely examined by the processing archivist in 2021 and were left largely as found in the boxes. While much is simply loosely piled in the boxes, there are discernable relationships among some of the grouped photographs, such as maker, style, marks, collection, etc. These materials include annotations, brief notes, and other documentation. A few unrelated items, such as personal notes, a 1918 wedding invitation, and a 1787 newspaper, are found randomly among these documents.

Finally, there are three boxes of pictorial works, including bound copies of tearsheets of advertisements and articles about silver, a few museum exhibition and auction catalogues, booklets, postcards, and the like. Specific to Ensko are two copies of a small booklet published in 1934 by the firm that seems to be a primer on antique American silver for its clients or potential clients.


The series is arranged with photographs followed by pictorial material. Within photographs the arrangement follows the degree to which the material is organized coherently, from most-organized (albums) to least.

Some photographs can also be found in the inventories series of the collection and, to a limited extent, within the correspondence files.

Conditions Governing Use

The negatives seem to date from the 1950s-60s and many, at least, are acetate and consequently some are showing various levels of deterioration.

Container 1     Title Date
Offsite-Box: 66 Photograph albums: New York Racing Association

Scope and Contents

The box holds 5 albums, all concerning the New York Racing Association, one each for 1960 and 1961, two for 1962 (with similar but not identical content), and one for 1963 (a second similar album for 1963 is in the next box). Each album is noted as including information lists and photos of trophies selected for "Run of the Mill" and "Stake" races for Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga.

Offsite-Box: 67 Photograph albums: New York Racing Association

Scope and Contents

The box holds 6 albums, all concerning the New York Racing Association: 1963 (one album, perhaps identical, to the 1963 album in the preceding box); 1964 (one album for Run of the Mill and Stake for Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga); one for 1965 Stake; one undated but likely 1965 for Run of the Mill; and 2 boxed albums for 1966, one for Run of the Mill, the other for Stake.

Offsite-Box: 70 Photograph albums: Firestone Collection

Scope and Contents

3 albums of photos, apparently in connection with an appraisal of the collection performed by Stephen Ensko. Oversize flat box.

Offsite-Box: 1 Photograph files of antique and reproduction silver (Box 1 of 4)

Scope and Contents

This box includes several folders of photographs of objects related to the New York Racing Association (NYRA), including Belmont bowls, permanent trophies, and many others. There is also one folder of many photographs labeled "silver working." This box holds mostly prints with some negatives.

Offsite-Box: 2 Photograph files of antique and reproduction silver (Box 2 of 4)

Scope and Contents

This holds holds almost entirely negatives of objects.

Offsite-Box: 3 Photograph files of antique and reproduction silver (Box 3 of 4)

Scope and Contents

This box includes mostly prints, but with several negatives. Most folders seem to be labeled as "antique." One folder includes photographs of a John Coddington tankard owned by Robert G. Goelet.

Offsite-Box: 4 Photograph files of antique and reproduction silver (Box 4 of 4)

Scope and Contents

This box holds a mix of prints and negatives. It includes a folder of photographs of Apostle spoons.

Offsite-Box: 68 Various photographs

Scope and Contents

This box holds: 1 and 2) two flat letter boxes with photos, negatives, and some notes regarding silversmiths and silver objects. The second box holds an original 1787 copy of the Massachusetts Sentinel of June 30, 1787 (number 30 of Volume VII) and a 1918 invoice to Steve Ensko; 3) a small box of negatives of the Firestone collection; and 4) a small box of slides of silver objects.

1787, undated
Offsite-Box: 69 Various photographs

Scope and Contents

This box holds: 1) flat letter box of photos, negatives, etc. regarding silver objects and silversmiths. A few letters in the box are dated from 1908-1948. There are a small number of personal family letters from the 1930s and Stephen Ensko's 1918 wedding invitation mixed with the research notes; 2-8) small boxes of negatives labeled "Ensko" and running from number 1-844, with a gap; 9) one small box of negatives, unlabeled and possibly the gap from the preceding set; 10) small box of negatives labeled as NYRA 1970 trophies; and envelopes of postcards with photographs of silver objects.

1908-circa 1948, undated
Offsite-Box: 71 Bound articles and advertisements (Box 1 of 2)

Scope and Contents

This box and the next include ten bound volumes of articles and advertisements, typically illustrated, cut from magazines. The magazines Antiques and Connoisseur appear to be the most common, with International Studio and Antiquarian also appearing, possibly with others. Not all pages are dated, but those that are range from the 1920s to the 1960s, though the bulk appear to be from the 1950s-60s. In this box there is an additional bound volume that includes the cumulative indexes to Antiques for 1922-1956 (volumes I-LXX).

Offsite-Box: 72 Bound articles and advertisements (Box 2 of 2)
Offsite-Box: 9 Catalogues and other

Scope and Contents

This box holds a variety of printed material. These include a few auction catalogues from Parke-Bernet (1946-65) and American Art Association/Anderson Galleries (1929-37); museum exhibition catalogues from Los Angeles County Museum, to which Ensko lent (1950), Metropolitan Museum of Art (1963-64), Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1956), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1960), and Wadsworth Atheneum (1945); museum and historical society booklets and reprints with articles on silver (1946-65); booklet and souvenir postcards about the Mabel Brady Garvan silver collection at Yale University Art Gallery (1960); and sales catalogues from Tuttle Silversmiths (1969) and Reed & Barton (1971), both firms represented in the correspondence and bills paid files of this collection. Other documents include: two books: "Plating and Finishing Guidebook" (1945) and "Early Ohio Taverns" by R.M. Knittle (1937); "Sterling Flatware Pattern Index, Revised Edition" (1941) issued by the Jewelers' Circular-Keystone; a manuscript list prepared by Lockwood Barr in 1943 of Kentucky silver and its makers (1790-1875); and two small booklets "17th and 18th Century American Silver" (1934) published by Robert Ensko Inc., likely as a primer for educating potential clients (one of the booklets includes a form of coat of arms for the company). Finally, the box holds a set of index cards with typed notes on various silversmiths; an enclosed paper slip says these relate to Stephen Ensko's 1927 book "American Silversmiths and Their Marks."

circa 1927-1971

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