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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada




March 1972

(Fortress of Louisbourg Report H-F16AE)

Translated By Christopher Moore



The accessories gathered in this section are not all garments in themselves, but all are related to costume in one way or another. Some which have already been studied were a necessary part of a garment: for example the shoe buckle was essential to the shoe, but was sometimes also an expensive jewel. Others were accessory garments. This is the case with gloves, mittens and muffs, which covered the hands. Also there were articles which complete the idea of clothing habits that we can picture: some pertain to toiletries, such as razor blades; others to the maintenance of clothes, such as the clothes-whisk (vergette); and still others to the storing of belongings, such as purses.


It was fairly unusual for men to wear jewelry simply for show. When they did the jewel would be a "golden ring" (anneau ou bague d'or) as was found in the possession of a merchant-broker. [305] There were also silver rings [306] and rings with stones: the clerk of the Superior Council had an "imitation stone mounted in silver , [307] while a schooner captain's ring was "gold with a mined stone". [308]


In other areas of clothing, fasteners which were primarily utility items, were sometimes so valuable and refined that we can consider them as jewels.

Concerning shirts, we have seen that the sleeves were closed with buttons. Some of them, made of gold or silver, or decorated with stones, were also ornamental. The same applies to hooks or fasteners (crochets, agrafes) which held the collar. Made with these precious metals, they were a luxury item.

Buckles of all shapes and sizes had many uses. They were used to close the collar, to adjust the waistband at the back of breeches, and to fasten garters and shoes.

Some of them, belonging to rich men, were silver. The governor's were gold but the pieces holding them in place (la chape) were iron. Nevertheless most men used buckles of common metals, such as the twenty-nine pairs of steel buckles and eleven pairs of tin buckles which were available from a merchant. [309 ]


The price alone of watches at Louisbourg explains why the few men who had them were exceptions. Of the three mentioned in the documents, the plainest, which cost 80 livres had a "silver case and a steel chain". [310] The other two belonged to captains. One had a "golden case and imitation gold chain" and cost 225 livres. [311] The other, worth 100 livres, was an "English watch with a double case of silver with a case of inlaid work" also with an imitation gold chain.  [312]


Contrary to the practice in feminine costume, articles of clothing for men's hands were almost always entirely utilitarian.


It was not rare to see gloves of chamoix leather [313] but woollen ones were also common. [314] Sometimes the wool was of good quality, such as Segovia woo1. [315] There were also cotton gloves: a pair of white cotton gloves "for a man" was stolen in 1740. [316] The word "white" is the only reference to the colour of gloves that we have.

The clerk of the Superior Council, [317] a ship's carpenter, [318] and a ship's captain owned gloves. [319] Though not too widespread, the wearing of gloves was not unusual, since there were four dozen pairs of gloves and mittens at about one half livre apiece available from a merchant. [320]


Wearing mittens seems to have been more common than wearing gloves. However mittens are a special case in that, apart from two merchants who had them, [321] they were worn exclusively by seamen. A ship's captain had some made of white wool and some of "skin". [322] A fisherman also had "skin" mittens [323] while both pairs belonging to another fisherman were of étoffe. [324]

None of these mittens had the waterproof quality of leather, but they would be above all, whether made of wool or rough cloth, comfortable to wear.


The same merchant who had gloves and mittens had seven muffs (manchons). This does not prove that men wore them often, for they are not mentioned in any man's effects. The muff was probably an elegant accessory for the few people who had them for they were worn with luxurious belts.

For example, the two belts for muffs which an engineer owned were "one of silver and the other of black silk". [325]


Although breeches were usually adjusted at the waist by a matching sewn-in belt, belts to be worn separately did exist. Two merchants each had about a dozen. [326] The clerk of the Superior Council had one of coarse muslin (étamine) [327] and elsewhere there is a reference to a "silk belt". [328] Strangely enough, one of the effects of a ship's captain was an "Iroquois belt". [329]

This must have been an unusual item since all the belts for which we know the use served to hold a muff or a sword, and both were rare in Louisbourg. We have discussed belts for muffs (ceintures à manchon). Belts used for carrying swords are sometimes called "sintures", [330] sometimes "scinturon". [331] The materials specified are silk and morocco leather [332] as well as "morocco leather ...embroidered with silver", [333] which would make them fairly luxurious items.


It is difficult to relate the wearing of swords at Louisbourg to the possession of specific posts or high rank, except that three of the six swords mentioned in the documents belonged to captains. The first had "a silver hilt" and cost 5 livres 10 sols. [334 ]The other two had guards and hilts of silver. One was estimated to be worth 50 livres [335] and the third was sold with two belts for a total of 72 livres. [336] There was another sword among the effects of the clerk of the Superior Counci1, [337] but we cannot assume that he had it due to his office, for the most expensive sword of all, worth 100 livres belonged to a merchant-broker; [338] like all the others, it had a silver hilt.

Hence the social status of some men who wore swords seems more closely related to the personal wealth which let them reach a certain social level, than to any theoretical title. And for this category of men it was not necessarily the sword which symbolized their position, for exactly the same men carried canes. These consisted of a "piece of rattan (jonc) or precious wood, about three pieds in length, straight, firm and varnished, with a casing of iron at one end and a knob at the other. The cane was pierced a few pouces below the knob. A silk cord passed through the hole could be held by the hand. The purpose of the cane is to support one in walking". [339] Two captains had rattan canes with gold heads. [340] Lastly, the governor who evidently had no sword, possessed what must be a cane, that is "un gé à pomme d'or", a gold-headed cane worth 83 livres.[341]


Like belts, garters were usually sewn into the breeches. They held the stockings which rent under the edge of the breeches. But there were also separate garters, though they appear very rarely in lists of personal belongings. [342] There were certainly men who wore them for one hundred and forty "pairs of garters for breeches" belonged to a merchant in 1756. [343]


Men used various carrying cases for holding their personal belongings or for carrying them with them.


The inventory of a fisherman's goods, which were all contained in a chest, included "a small Basque backot" and "a small sack of toile rousse". [344]

Other fishermen also had these sacks, made of "seal skin"[345] or simply "white toile" [346] just like the "toile" sack offered by a merchant. [347]

They were used for packing clothes; there is reference to "in a sack, four shirts, a handkerchief and a bonnet" [348] while a ship captain had a sack, "in which was found an old pair of boots". [349] Some repaired their own clothes for one finds in an inventory "a sack with several pieces for mending old clothes" . [350 ]


The soldiers used haversacks (havresac). A theft case refers to a soldier who hid the things stolen in his haversack . [351] We do not know however, if the civil population also had them.


Men of the wealthier class carried purses (bourses), "a type of small carrying bag, closed by drawstrings and designed to carry whatever one wants to put in it". [352] They kept money or valuable objects in it. The Superior Council clerk's purse was "flame coloured woven with silver" and "served to carry money". [353] The governor had put in "a small purse a small pair of shoe buckles". [354]


Whatever the quantity, value or style of the clothes found in an inventory, one always finds handkerchiefs listed with them. Usually they were made of toile, cotton or silk. [355] In most cases there is no specification of colour and we assume these were white. Others were described as "coloured". Very rarely a precise description is given: "blue and white stripes", [356] "red",  [357] "red and white", [358] or "blue". [359]

The handkerchief, or as it was often called at Louisbourg, the pocket handkerchief (mouchoir de poche) [360] was "a cloth which was carried in the pocket and used for blowing one's nose". [361] For men it was not a part of their costume in the same way as it was for women, who wore handkerchiefs tied about their necks. Still handkerchiefs had other uses. Some for example were "tobacco handkerchiefs (mouchoirs à tabac)", [362] while others were used to carry money. This was the function of a hand-kerchief "of blue and white cotton (which] contained 216,# in silver money". [363]


We are not going to study all the articles which men used for washing and cleaning, such as soap and towels. However habits such as the wearing of beards are as important to costume and as much a part of fashion as the wearing of wigs.

Some Louisbourg men wore beards, for a court case includes a description of one: "he is a man about five pieds three or four pouces, with a red face and a plain reddish beard". [364]

We do not know if razors were used to trim beards or to keep them clean-shaven. Some men owned razors with a whetstone [365] or a case. [366] Sometimes they had several, like the boat captain with seven, [367] or a captain of the Compagnie de la Marine who had "a case, six razors, a whetstone and a strop". [368]

One did not use ordinary towels for shaving because there were "shaving towels" and "shaving cloths" found in the effects of a merchant broker. [369]


Brushes (brosses) were used for the care of garments. When used for cleaning suits they sometimes were referred to as "vergettes". [370] A merchant had eight "vergettes for suits" [371] while a schooner captain had a pair. [372] The latter also had a "shoe-brush" but occasionally, even for suits, the reference is simply to "brushes for suits" (brosses à habit). [373]