It was in the jewelry trade that Henry A. Kirby performed his life’s work, accomplishing a great deal for the betterment of his industry and taking a lively interest at all times in the affairs of Providence. A man of kindly and generous spirit, eager to help others and to do what he could for the advancement of conditions among his fellowmen, he came to be esteemed and loved in his city and State, where he acquired a host of friends. His passing took from this region of New England one of its outstanding citizens, a man who contributed much to its institutions, and one whose memory lives on, a pleasant and inspiring influence in the lives of others.
Mr. Kirby was born at Huntington, Long Island, New York, on March 3, 1862, son of Isaac B. and Mary (Cornell) Kirby. He received his early education in the Providence public schools, and later attended the high school of this city. Upon completing his formal studies, he began his career as accountant with Tilden and Thurber, wholesale and retail jewelers. It was in 1886 that he started the manufacture of jewelry in partnership with B. E. Mowry under the firm name of Kirby and Mowry. This partnership was dissolved in 1898, and the H. A. Kirby Company was in that year incorporated, with Henry A. Kirby at the head of the business. This enterprise continued, prospering through the years, until his death in 1920. He manufactured a high grade of diamond and also other precious stones, and set a great deal of work in gold and platinum, having been noted for his skill in this field.
Along with his business activities, he was a leader in social and civic affairs. He was for many years a member of the Narragansett Boat Club, and for several years he held the title of amateur champion oarsman. He was a member, too, of the Rhode Island Country Club and the Wannamoisett Country Club. His political alignment was with the Republican party, whose policies and principles he regularly supported, though he never cared for or sought public office. His religious faith was that of the Protestant Episcopal Church, his membership having been in Grace Church, of Providence. Fond of outdoor life, he spent a great deal of his time in healthful recreational pursuits, and had a farm at Warwick Neck, Rhode Island, where he passed a large amount of leisure time. He was especially interested in dairy stock and poultry raising. Prominent in fraternal affairs, he was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons. Into all of these varied organizations and the activities that they represented, as into his own jewelry business, Mr. Kirby consistently put his best energies and talents, so that his work was appreciated in many-different fields of Rhode Island and New England life.
Henry A. Kirby married Ada Lucretia Perkins, daughter of Charles H. and Lucretia (Bundy) Perkins. A record of her father’s life and works appears in the preceding biography. The children of Henry A. and Ada Lucretia (Perkins) Kirby were:
- Marion, who became the wife of Alexander R. Fritz, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; they became the parents of two children, Kirby Alexander and Harriet Virginia.
- Ada Josephine, who became the wife of Darius Goff, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; they have two children, Marion Elizabeth, and Darius L.
The death of Henry A. Kirby, which occurred on April 12, 1920, was a cause of widespread and sincere sorrow among his hosts of friends in Rhode Island and elsewhere. He had contributed much to the well-being of Providence and had done his full share to hold high the standards of the jewelry trade. He had supported worthy movements, and had lent his aid to projects that he identified with the best interests of his State; and he is remembered as one who was a thoroughly useful and substantial citizen.
Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.