The Dawes Black Horse collection includes more than 800 objects, of which 300 relate to the consumption or distribution of Black Horse beer and 500-plus were used to promote it.
The impressive collection was assembled by Michel Ste Marie (1937-1998), an antique dealer and collector from southwest Montréal, who spent his life seeking out rare or unusual objects that illustrate the history of Quebec. Working at first with two other collectors, Michel Ste Marie acquired beer-related objects of any and all brands. Then, in the 1980s, he decided to focus exclusively on the Black Horse brand and to sell the items not identified by the black Percheron. This passion even led him to buy and live in a house in Lachine (southwest Montréal) that was once the residence of a member of the Dawes family, brewers of the famous Black Horse beer.
Michel Ste Marie had a twofold objective: to assemble a collection that would testify to the importance of Dawes Brewery, founded in Lachine in 1826, and to protect this heritage by donating the collection to Musée de Lachine. His dream was to see all of the objects showcased for the public in the buildings where the company had grown and prospered. In 1999, a year after his death, his estate donated the Dawes Black Horse collection to Musée de Lachine.
The collection went on display for the first time in the fall of 2001, when Musée de Lachine opened the exhibition The Dawes: Brewers of Beer and Ideas. In November 2012, that exhibition was replaced by To Get a Drink You Have to Sell. Advertising and Black Horse Beer in the 20th Century, which features objects and ads illustrating the diverse strategies used by the Dawes to boost sales of their most popular brand.
The collection section provides access to all of the items in Michel Ste Marie’s collection, some of them quite rare. The National Breweries Ltd. in-house magazines, for example, contain a wealth of information on the internal workings of the company and its serious approach to advertising.
The Collecting World
Collectors of breweriana are legion, as a look at online auction sites readily confirms. Whether in Germany, France, England or Quebec, such collectors are devotees of all things beer. One of the most prized areas of interest is brewery-branded advertising and promotional items. Collectors flock to fairs and share information via specialized websites and publications about the introduction of new beers, upcoming events and items for sale.
Musée de Lachine’s Dawes Black Horse collection differs from private collections because of its collective heritage status, but also because it is displayed on the premises where Black Horse beer was brewed, it is accessible to the public and it is documented.