James learnt his trade as a cloth mearchant with Bradbury Greatorex & Co., a textile wholesaler that was established by John Bradbury and Jeremiah Greatorex in 1815.
In around 1850, James received an inheritance on the death of his uncle Robert How, the London coach-building partner of his father. In 1852, a year after the success of Bolin's jewellry at the Great Exhibition in London, Henrik Konrad Bolin moved to Moscow where, with James Steuart Shanks, they founded the Magasin Anglais. James was the director, and Henrik Bolin led a department of silver and jewellery which specialized in silver - H-K Bolin's area of expertise. Later, James' cousin Allan Bow took over managment of the jewellery and silver department from Bolin.
Shanks and Bolin
Henrik Conrad Bolin (left) and James Steuart Shanks (right) together established the Shanks and Bolin shop. James Steuart Shanks was born in 1824 the son of Robert Shanks coachmaker and studied at Leiden University.
View of Kusnetsky Most. On the right is the Moscow branch of Fabergé. On the left is Tretyakov's house, the home of Shanks & Co. Magasin Anglais.
After Allan Bow's move to Fabergé in 1887 and the death of Bolin in 1888, the partnership with H C Bolin came to an end. The Shanks & Co. shop sign can be seen above the far end of the row of terraces.
Association with Fabergé
Both Fabergé and Bolin were jewellers to the royal court and their businesses were initially based in St Petersburg. Bolin chose to expand to Moscow, presumably in part to exploit the silversmithing skills available there. Bolin teamed up with James Shanks and aimed their noew shop at Moscow's newly emerging middle classes.
In 1886, James' cousin Allan Bowe, met Carl Fabergé and in 1887 he went into partnership with Fabergé - setting up the Fabergé shop across the road from Shanks & Co. The Shanks' business would have had close relations with Fabergé's business once Allan was managing the local Fabergé shop. Allan later went on to play an important role in the success of Fabergé's London branch. For more details of Allan Bow see 'The Fabergé Connection' by Wendy Bonus.
Shanks and Bolin silverware
Many items of silverware of their own design were sold by Shanks and Bolin. Moscow had a long-standing silversmithing tradition and Henrik Conrad Bolin specialised in silver, as did Fabergé's Moscow division. Items of Silver were commissioned from the workshops of Maria Linke. Bolin's website states that "around the turn of the century, silver vases and bowls in robust Art Nouveau style with beautiful sweeping lines were typical of the Moscow shop. Exquisitely crafted crystal with silver inlays was a specialty, objects which today fetch exorbitant prices on the Russian antique market".
Th Shanks shop catalogue set out the variety of items availble to buy. Many of the items were imported from England and included clothes, shoes accessories, cutlery and even English soap.
This page from the catalogue shows items of ready to wear clothing.
In addition, Shanks and Co. sold a wide range of fabrics for dresses and suits.
Magasin Anglais has been described as an outfitters in the style of Liberty of London. According to Bolin, "Magasin Anglais sold silverware which complemented exquisite, elegant accessories for women – handbags, purses, fans, gloves, plumes, hair decorations, laces and fur details. The spacious, lavish shop also offered a range of exclusive jewellery and gemstones from Bolin in St. Petersburg.