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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





Stockings (les bas), half-hose (les chaussettes) and chaussons kept the feet warm. They were all very similar, but certain details differentiate these three articles which were all known at Louisbourg, though some were more commonly worn than others.

Stockings, knitted by hand or woven on looms [229] could be worn with or without half-hose or chaussons and were part of everyone's clothing. They covered the feet and the leg up to the knee where they were held under the breeches by a garter.

Half-hose and chaussons were worn under stockings, against the skin. The half-hose was a "stocking of toile [which was put on] under the stocking of silk or cloth". [230]

The chausson, which could be knitted or sewn,[231] was worn in the same way, but was shorter. "It is actually the foot of a stocking". [232]

These differences did exist at Louisbourg, for it is not rare that these articles be cited separately in the same document. There is even a case with all three: stockings, half-hose and chaussons all mentioned separately in one inventory.[233]


Usually stockings were made of woollens of various qualities. The Saint-Maixant variety was the most popular, at least before 1745. (See Table No. 11) That type of wool must have been common, since one can find fifty pairs of "rough stockings of Saint-Maixant wool" in a merchant's records. [234] There were also twenty-two pairs [235] and seventeen pairs of them [236] at two other stores and it is the same sort of wool mentioned in "supplies furnished to the crew".[237]

Also noteable are twenty-four pairs of stockings d'étame which belonged to a "bourgeois".[238] These were in fact stockings "of the finest quality wool". [239]

There were also a few pairs of stockings made of Segovia wool (laine de Segovie) which was another very fine wool [240] and of laine drapée, that is, wool "pressed in the style of cloth". [241]

Silk stockings were not extremely rare, but they were less popular than woollen ones. Though it was possible to buy as many as thirty different coloured pairs, partly used, from a merchant, [242] they were usually found among the personal effects of the rich and the upper class: officers, [243] clerk of the Superior Council, [244] governor, [245] merchant, [246] and captains of ships, [247] beats, [248] and schooners. [249] Among these, the sailing men were most often the ones who owned cotton stockings.

In the case of Stockings de fil and "fisland", we do not know what the material was but it is possible that these terms were intended to mean yarn (laine file). Stockings made of this material certainly were not of an elegant style, for they were worn by a hunter found dead in 1756.[250] Fishermen who never had silk stockings, had rough stockings (gros bas) [251] or stockings of "fisland". [252]

Stockings were frequently white or black (See Table No. 11). Colours were not rare, but they are not distinguished in the documents: usually



88 Saint-Mexant
36 wool
24 étame
6 drapé
4 Segovia
1 beaver
24 silk 29 fisland
13 thread
18 cotton 6 white
5 black
3 cinnamon
1 blue
1 brown
1 gray
TOTAL 159 2 42 18 -


96 wool
8 drapé
2 laine drapée de Segovie
4 Segovia l
64 silk 4 thread
25 cotton
10 white
8 black
1 blue
1 brown
1 gray
TOTAL 110 64 8 25 -
GRAND TOTAL 269 88 50 43 -

1713-1745: 355 references to stockings: 243 specify material; 17 specify colour
1748-1758: 275 references to stockings: 207 specify material; 21 specify colour
1713-1758: 630 references to stockings: 450 specify material; 38 specify colour

"coloured stockings" or "stockings of different colours" was found to be sufficient notation. It appears that colours were fairly muted. Sometimes as a note of elegance, those who wore suits chose stockings "in the same colour as the suit", that is, usually "cinnamon" [253] or "brown". [254]


Half-hose must have been fairly well known for they were available from three merchants. [255] The wearers included captains above all [256] and the governor, who had fourteen pairs himself. [257] They were almost always made of linen, sometimes cotton, and seldom wool. [258]


The governor also possessed twenty-one pairs of chaussons simply en fil or "fil tricotté". There were also several pairs of cotton chaussons at Louisbourg.[259] Generally, chaussons were much more rare than stockings and half-hose,

Thus all social classes wore wool stockings of various qualities. Only the leisured classes had silk stockings. It was also the wealthier class that wore chaussons and half-hose. Silk stockings were more elegant but certainly less warn than the others. Hence those who could afford them added to their comfort by first putting on chaussons or half-hose. The others did not have these, but did not need them since they were their heavy woollen stockings.


Gaiters (guêtres), which were worn on the legs, were "a type of footwear made of rough toile or tick (coutis). They attach to a button-hole or a cord on the side of the leg. The gaiter covers the leg entirely, from the knee to the instep where it is held by a leather strap like a stirrup". [260]

This garment was not greatly popular at Louisbourg and the few individuals who wore gaiters were of disparate social status. The governor had a pair[261] but a fisherman, [262] and a beachmaster[263] had them, as well as an engineer [264] and a merchant . [265]

Besides those of the governor which were wool there were toile gaiters. [266] For example, a soldier who had stolen some linen shirts hoped to avoid discovery by tearing them into pieces and having a tailor make them into gaiters. The tailor was ready to make and line the gaiters with the material, as requested by the soldier: he saw nothing unusual until he was called as a witness at the trial, after the theft victim had laid a complaint. [267] So gaiters made of linen were common even if it was not a general habit to wear them.



The most common type of shoe at Louisbourg was the French shoe (soulier français) also known as the "ordinary shoe" (soulier ordinaire). [268] The principal pieces necessary in the manufacture of this shoe were the vamp, the two paillettes, the two ailettes, the welt, the two soles and the heel. Once the pieces were cut from calf's leather, which had been dyed black, the two quarters which made the sides of the shoes were sewn in the center behind the heel. Then they were sewn to the vamp. This piece covered the front and the top of the foot. It ran under the ends of the quarters which met and were joined on top by a buckle. Paillettes and ailettes were small thin pieces of leather placed inside the shoe to reinforce its assembly. Paillettes were small circular pieces placed where the vamp, which had a slit one pouce in length, passed under the ends of the quarters. The ailettes were longer and sewn to the inner sides along the bottom of the shoe.

All this was done with the shoe turned inside out. When this part of the work was complete, the shoe was reversed and placed an a last. Then were sewn to the shoe, the inner sole, and a band of leather, the welt, which ran about the shoe. To this border would be sewn the second sole, made of much firmer leather. The last piece attached was a flat heel, made of leather or leather-covered wood.

One aspect of manufacture, the use of the last, reveals a very interesting detail about 18th century shoes. The pieces of leather were cut symmetrically and mounted on the same last, whether for a right or a left shoe. [269] Hence a pair consisted of two identical shoes. A study of artifacts which shows the general styles of shoes of the same period at Fort Beauséjour in New France includes sketches which support our conclusion on this subject. [270]

The same study merits consultation for its analysis of numerous pieces of footwear shows several variations of details. Moreover it makes clear that not all shoes were of exactly the same type, even if (as we shall see) the Louisbourg documents offer no precise descriptions of footwear.

When shoes are mentioned, neither material nor colour is specified. Sometimes "French style" was noted, [271] or "of strong leather", [272] but nothing more. There seems to have been little variety in quality and less in style. One might expect a different style when a reference to "basque" shoes is made, but they are found to be buckled shoes like the others. This is shown by a description of "a pair of basque shoes of which shoes the buckles appear to have been torn". [273]

The only indication of variations in quality is the prices, which vary from 3 to 6 livres. A few examples of shoe prices have been selected:

- 6 livres, "new" 1719, fisherman [274]
- 3 livres "for his Negro", 1738, officer
- 4 livres "for his Negro", 1738, officer [275]
- 3 livres 4 sols "ordinary men's shoes", 1738, merchant [276]
- 6 livres "bought at the cobbler's" 1740, engineer [277]
- 3 livres "new" 1741, master-baker [278]
- 6 livres 10 sols "new" 1744, governor [279]

It should be noted that the governor's shoes, though the most costly, were scarcely more expensive than those of a fisherman or an engineer. The master baker's shoes were the same price as "ordinary" shoes. All these are new shoes; obviously they were less expensive when used.

Probably the basic difference was only that of buckles. Except for "a pair of shoes with a pair of metal buckles", [280] there is never any mention of them when the buckles were of ordinary metal. But it was noted if the buckles were gold, a rare occurrence, or silver. The governor had gold shoe buckles with iron clasps, [281] but others, merchant-broker ,[282] captains, [283] or quartermaster, [284] despite their wealth, had silver shoe buckles..

Hence shoes were the only footwear which were worn without variations in all social classes. They were made of leather and were buckled. The buckles might be ordinary metals or silver, according to the wealth of their owner.


Pumps (escarpins) were lightweight shoes. They are referred to in a merchant's inventory, [285] among "supplies furnished to the crew" [286] as well as among the possessions of some captains . [287] It was not merely another name for the ordinary shoe, because shoes "and" pumps are listed separately in the documents, [288] but the differences were slight. The pump, in effect, "is nothing else but a very lightweight ordinary shoe. It is made like an ordinary shoe, except one does not put in a welt, and uses instead a double seam on the sole and heel..."[289]

Pumps do not appear to have been restricted to one social class more than another, but their use was not very widespread in Louisbourg, for they are not often mentioned in the documents.


Boots were not in fashion in the 18th century. "Soft boots" (bottes molles), were pliable leather up to the ankle, and "firm boots" worn for riding, [290] were the styles worn in Europe, but they did not become popular in Louisbourg.

That was not because they were hard to obtain, for a merchant had twelve pairs. [291] These were "fishing boots". Elsewhere these are mentioned as "boots for the fishermen" [292] and "supplies furnished to the crew" [293] also includes boots. An inventory includes a pair "used by a fisherman",[294] while another[295] that lists boots also lists a "leather apron", a typical fisherman's garment. Furthermore this type of footwear was worn by schooners' captains [296] and a ship captain. [297]

All these details lead to the conclusion that those who wore boots at Louisbourg were seamen, particularly fishermen. Hence it is understandable that boots were fairly common without being worn generally, for fishing was a fairly important industry.

Other than the details above, the documents give no specification of materials for boots and we have not been able to find a description in the other sources consulted.


Galoches and sabots were economical and strong, for the former had a wooden sole and the latter were made entirely of wood. Among the poor of Louisbourg, women wore them. [298] As for men, this kind of footwear is not ascribed to them, except for a single pair of galoches sold in 1734.[299]

There is no doubt that most of the hundred and forty-eight pairs of sabots in the possession of a merchant in 1756,[300] which were less than half a livre each, were to be sold in the poorer groups.

Hence it is possible that some men had them-but, as in the case of female clothing, references to wooden shoes are limited.


Of all the items of civil costume we have studied, snowshoes and "Indian shoes" (souliers sauvages) are the only examples of indigenous clothing habits being adopted by the French at Louisbourg. Even here, the phenomenon was exceptional: a single pair of snowshoes mentioned in a 1757 document. [301]

References to "Indian shoes" are slightly more frequent and occur earlier. In 1741. a ship's carpenter had some [302] and as early as 1735 they were part of a court case. [303] It was a matter of theft during the winter and the two accused, both French, had left in the snow the "tracks of both French shoes and Indian shoes". "Indian shoes" were mentioned again fifteen years later, in another case of theft.[304] The thieves, two inhabitants of Louisbourg who intended to go to spend the winter at Mira nearby, had stolen three cowhides "to make Indian shoes".

The inventories suggest that these shoes, probably a type of moccasin, were not a regular part of a Louisbourg man's wardrobe. However, these examples strongly suggest that some of the French wore them during the winter.