by Brian S. Osborne, President of the Kingston Historical Society

 The following appeared in Limelight, the newsletter of the Kingston Historical Society (KHS) vol. 5 (December 2003): 4, as well as in the Upper Canadian, vol. 24 (January/February 2004): 5

On 30 October 2003,  Blake Ault McKendry, a loyal member and benefactor of KHS, passed away at Trillium Ridge Centre, Kingston, at the age of 84. Born 4 July 1919 in South Gower, Grenville County, he was the second son of Edward McKendry and Blanche Ault McKendry. After acquiring his B.Sc. at Queen’s University in 1941, Blake worked at RCA Victor (1941-46) and then Smart & Biggar & Fetherstonhaugh & Co. in Ottawa (1946-61).

In the mid 1950s, he and his wife, Ruth, became interested in art, rare books, and antiques, both as sellers and collectors. During this period - at a time when Canada’s decorative arts were only beginning to be appreciated -  the McKendrys owned and operated The Pioneer Shop in Ottawa (right, 1957).

In the 1970s, they restored the Snook House, a stone-farmhouse of 1820 near Elginburg where they lived until moving to Kingston in 1994. Author, scholar, and photographer, Blake McKendry leaves a significant cultural legacy, particularly in his books on Canadian art and folk art. He assisted museums and art galleries in acquiring historic Canadian paintings and sculptures, and was a recognized appraiser and consultant on Canadian art and antiques. Moreover, he and Ruth assembled an impressive private collection of Canadian folk art, antiques, and reference books. As a photographer, Blake executed the photography for some 13 books and journals, such as Ruth McKendry’s Quilts and Other Bed Coverings in the Canadian Tradition (1979), Ralph and Patricia Price’s ‘Twas Ever Thus (1979), Gerald Stevens’s Glass in Canada (1982) and Edith Fowke’s The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (1986).

Blake McKendry’s own publications include several articles in professional journals, as well as such books as Folk Art: Primitive and Naïve Art in Canada (1983), A Dictionary of Folk Artists in Canada from the 17th Century to the Present (1988), A to Z of Canadian Art, Artists & Art Terms (1997), An Illustrated Companion to Canadian Folk Art (1999), The New A to Z of Canadian Art (2001), and Key Dates in Canadian Art (with Jennifer McKendry, 2001). He continued to write into his eighties.

Always open to fresh ideas and interested in new technologies such as computers, Blake had a lively mind and was a source of inspiration to a younger generation of antique and art collectors. Blake and Ruth’s collection of early Ontario furnishings was dispersed by auction on 21 and 22 November. He would have been pleased by the close attention paid by bidders to the artifacts’ provenances and original finishes and by the zeal with which his beloved books - numbering more than 2000 - were acquired.

Blake McKendry is survived by his wife, Ruth (died 16 December 2006 in Kingston), his children, Jennifer of Kingston and David of Ottawa, daughter-in-law, Nancy, and grandsons, John, Ian, and Martin. The Kingston Historical Society extends sincere condolences to the McKendry family for their loss.


Photo Kingston Whig-Standard 1997

The following was read at the auction of the McKendry Collection, 22 November 2003, Kingston, and appeared in the Upper Canadian, vol. 24 (January/February 2004): 5



author of The Furniture of Old Ontario (Macmillan, 1973)

BLAKE AND RUTH MCKENDRY (above, 1978) have lived through a period in which Canadians' attitude to their own heritage has changed immensely.  To look back fifty years and more, to recall the lack of concern for the fate of the material memorabilia left to us by predecessors, is to conjure a period that seems indeed strange.  Our awakening to the values associated with the legacy of past generations is indeed very recent.  And that awakening to such a large extent has been due to the pioneering spirit and dedicated work of collectors and dealers like Ruth and Blake.

As very active people, whose knowing hands have touched so many pieces of what we now call our own fine arts or fine crafts, they have been pace setters in nurturing the appreciation for our own domestic treasures.  And the books that they have written and published have become our standards of reference. 

As collectors they have lived with some of the finest and most fascinating material from their Canadian background.  And they have shared with fellow collectors the opportunity to enjoy, to become familiar with, and also to live with, some of the most meaningful of those treasures

One special thing about Blake: he didn't totally deny the value of public galleries and museums as custodians of reference collections.  But he had a very special regard for the private collector.  He respected and encouraged the role of the private enthusiast in seeking out, in preserving, and in establishing meaningful worth for products of the human past.

He reminded us too that a treasure in a museum is a treasure out of reach.  While the treasure held by a private collector is very likely to come back again someday to the market place.  So that new collectors will enjoy the opportunity to acquire something of the best.

We salute a personal legacy of great value.  We treasure wonderful memories of shared friendship and shared enthusiasms. And we are most grateful that Blake and Ruth are sharing the fruit of their collecting years with the collectors of this day and the collectors of tomorrow.              Phil



Marge and Phil Shackleton at Manotick 1956                                                        



Ruth McKendry, author of Quilts & Other Bed Coverings in the Canadian Tradition (1979) and Classic Quilts (1997), died 16 December 2006 in Kingston. Born 11 September (her grandson John's birthday) 1920 in Lancaster, Glengarry County, daughter of Lily (née McEwen) and Harry McLeod. She married Blake McKendry in 1941. Blake and his daughter Jennifer share the same birthday, 4 July.


Ruth McLeod c1940

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