The Confederation Inkstand

Collection Spotlight

The Confederation inkstand

The Confederation inkstand is one of the most significant heritage assets in the Library of Parliament’s collection. 

It was used at three important moments in Canadian history, as described in either English or French on the sterling silver plaques attached to the inkstand:

  • “Encrier dont se sont servi [sic] les Promoteurs de la Confédération Canadienne pour signer les résolutions adoptées à la Conférence de Québec”
    [Translation: Inkstand used by the proponents of Confederation to sign the resolutions adopted at the Quebec Conference] (the 1864 conference presided over by Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché)
  • “Cet encrier fut prêté à M. Mackenzie King devant servir au président des États-Unis et au premier ministre de Grande-Bretagne, lors de la Conférence de Québec en 1943"
    [Translation: This inkstand was loaned to Mr. Mackenzie King, to be used by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the 1943 Quebec Conference] (a secret meeting hosted by Prime Minister Mackenzie King in the city of Québec during the Second World War)
  • “On December 11, 1948, this inkstand was used by the delegates of Canada and Newfoundland at the signing in Ottawa of the Terms of Union” (in the Senate chamber when the entry of Newfoundland into Confederation was formalized)

The fourth plaque commemorates the donation of the inkstand by Sir Étienne Paschal Taché’s family:

“To the Canadian Nation from Major R.A.C. Kane, VD, grandson of Sir Étienne P. Taché.”


  • Made of ebonized (painted black) wood
  • Likely manufactured between 1861 and 1864 (date estimated by an expert appraiser based on the popularity of ebonized furnishings at that time)
  • Consists of two identical cut-glass inkwells with brass collars sitting within circular recesses
  • Includes two elongated recesses for quills
  • Has a curved handle centred lengthwise along the top
  • Has a single front drawer

For more information about the history of this artifact, see the Library’s HillNote, The Confederation inkstand.

Confederation Inkstand, Library of Parliament Collection
Confederation inkstand, Library of Parliament Collection
Convention at Quebec of Delegates of the Legislatures of Canada
Convention at Quebec of Delegates of the Legislatures of Canada, Library and Archives Canada / MIKAN no. 3194512
From left to right: Rt. Hon. Mackenzie King, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill at the Quebec Conference
Mackenzie King, Roosevelt and Churchill at the Quebec Conference, Library and Archives Canada / MIKAN no. 3194622