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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





Report H F 16 E

Fortress of Louisbourg



The items listed under the heading "accessories" include a variety of things ranging from jewels to dress accessories and some minor garments. This great diversity made it difficult, if not impossible, to use uniform classification criteria applicable to all of them; some could be grouped together and others not. In compensation for the inevitably poor treatment. of the data, every accessory, in its own way, offers the advantage of completing the picture of costume or the concept we have of clothing habits.


The jewels made of gold, silver or precious stones may remind us of the wealth of their owners, and rightly so, but it should not be forgotten that, by the 18th century, the craftmen's skills also included the making of imitations, a fact which was proven at Louisbourg, even if the qualifier "false" was not always used, How else can the considerable differences in price be justified? The following examples should speak for themselves:


- "gold ring mounted with a red stone set in gold...24 livres...
    gold ring mounted with a green Topaz mounted in gold ...100 livres...
    another ring mounted the same way ...100 livres...
    another gold ring mounted with a false stone set in silver... 9 livres..." [196]

- "a gold wedding ring..." [197]


- "one necklace... (no particulars given)" [198]
- "two white pearl necklaces ...3 livres
     one necklace of fine garnet...30 livres..." [199]
- "fifty-four sections of Glass necklace...
    one hundred and forty Sections of garnet...
    one garnet necklace... [200]
- "seven white pearl necklaces valued at fifty sols apiece... [201]
- "two necklaces, one of pearls and the other of garnet..."
    one small necklace of pearl or garnet..." [202]


- "one pair of ear-rings mounted in silver...10 livres [203]
-"one pair of gold ear-rings mounted with Girandole stone...30 livres...
   one pair of gold plated Silver ear-rings'with a stone ...4 livres...
   one ear-ring of gold plated silver with garnet, the other one having been sent to France last year to have some defect repaired ... 7 livres 10 sols..."204
- "one Pair of ear-rings made of Strass (Translator's note: the French word "destrase" is in fact de strass or de stras)..." [205]
- "two ear-ring decorations, one being a cross, the other a knot, set in silver ...40 livres..." [206]
- "one pair of jet ear-rings set in silver ... " [207]

In addition to this, there also was one "silver clasp" [208] used as a cape fastener and "a pair of small silver rings for women ...5 livres" [209] which could either have been ear-rings or shoe buckles. One merchant's inventory of goods also included crosses and some "foy d'or"; [*210] the fact that those items were listed with the crosses suggest that they were crosses also, but our hypothesis is not supported by the facts. The seven foy d'or listed were worth between 9 livres 10 sols and 19 livres 5 sols each, whereas the sixteen crosses either not described or with "imitation diamond", or with "a stone set in silver", were valued between 1 livre 17 sols and 2 livres 8 sols each.

We can therefore state that it was possible to buy jewellery in Louisbourg, because that number of crosses and an ever greater number of glass and garnet necklaces were available at that merchant's shop. Since the jewels referred to in the documents covered such a wide range of quality, it would seem that most everybody could have owned some. Even if one could afford precious jewels, one did not necessarily object to the idea of owning false ones; such was the case of Madame Dupont Duvivier, who had some real ones and some false ones. [211]

"foy d'or" - According to Le Dictionnaire De Travaux, a "foy d'or" is a sign of faith shown by two clasped hands in heraldic fashion. In this case these are likely small gold medals with this sign on them.

Less wealthy women probably had fewer precious ones, but it was at least possible to buy some at a very reasonable price, such as the small crosses.


For those who could afford it, glamour did not stop at wearing jewels, since some women had hand-mirrors [212] and probably used perfume, because one woman said she had "a little bottle containing scents". [213] Moreover, that lady also had a fan "made in China" and another lady had one too; [214] in 1738, of the eleven fans sold, nine were made of paper and two of ivory; the first ones were worth 10 sols each, whereas the second ones were 1 livre 10 sols each. [214a]

These details prove the wealth and concern for elegance of some of the Louisbourg milieux, but such references must have been limited to one circle of people, because it is very rarely referred to.


The pockets were not fixed to the under-garment, but rather tied around the waist with a band; they were worn under the skirt or the dress, which had pocket holes provided on each side. In Louisbourg, such items were made of linen [215] or cotton; [216] and they were inexpensive: in 1751, "two pairs of women's pockets" cost together 1 livre. [217]

Night bags were used to hold personal effects; the example found in Louisbourg was a "night bag in moquette containing three stinkerke (neckerchief) ... " [218]


The belt was part of a woman's costume, as shown by a reference to a buckle for a woman's belt in 1733 [219] and "eight woman's belts" in 1738; [220]  but we have no information allowing us to describe or say precisely with what type of garment it was worn.


On most prints of daily life, women wear, tied around their neck and over their shoulders, a kerchief folded in a triangle. Such was also the case in Louisbourg; what other use could have had the "six neckerchiefs of cotton or muslin" [221] listed in a 1741 inventory? The same probably applies to "fourteen kerchiefs of cotton for women... " [222] and to a "Britanny linen kerchief for women" [223] available in two shops of the period. The fact that neckerchiefs were of linen or cotton [224] leads us to believe that they were white, which agrees with the illustrations; but we do not know if the "eleven white kerchiefs and six coloured ones" sold in 1745 [225] are the exception or were for some other use.

Some kerchief models were more original, the stinkerke (or steinkirck) for example. French women had started to wear these neckerchiefs edged with lace or fringe after the victory of Stinkerke in 1692.[226] This fashion did not seem to be very popular in Louisbourg, since only two references to "stinkerkes" were found in 1741, [227] a date which indicates a sizeable time-lag with respect to the mother country where such an item was fashionable at the end of the 17th century.


When the mantilla was re-introduced in France in 1729, [228] it was not as a piece of lace worn on the head that had been known previously. This time, made of heavier fabrics such as velvet, it was more of a decorative garment shaped like a triangle of which two points were tied at the waist in the same fashion as an apron. The only reference to mantilla found in Louisbourg concerned one which "was a small black velvet mantilla lined with black satin" worth 44 livres in 1741. [229]


Various garments were used to cover the hands and the arms; the ones worn for protection against cold were useful and necessary for comfort, whereas the ones made of luxurious fabrics according to the styles of the moment were probably more the result of some ladies' concern to be fashionable. These two concerns were exemplified in Louisbourg: i.e. gloves and mittens (mitaines) were undoubtedly necessary during the winter, but not so for the mitons, more expensive and less common, which lost a great deal of popularity because around 1765, "they were not worn in France anymore". [230]


The gloves could either be knitted or cut in leather or fabric, [231] for example, a Louisbourg inventory listed, among other things, a pair of white thread gloves, two pairs of white leather ones and one pair of "beaver" ones. [232] The same fabrics must have been used for mittens, even if at the time they were defined as "a big lined glove with no fingers, save for the thumb". [233] This seems to be all the more possible, as the same inventory mentioned pairs of cotton, black serge and black silk "mittens". Nonetheless, women probably used gloves as much as mittens since, in 1756, "six dozen of Pairs of gloves and mittens for women" having belonged to a dealer, were sold for 40 livres 10 sols, which means a little more than half a livre a pair. [234] However, it is also possible that gloves were more popular than mittens, because thirty-six pairs of gloves "of various colours" and a hundred and two pairs not described were mentioned during that same sale; their total value was 90 livres 9 sols, 6 deniers, i.e. less than a livre a pair. About twenty years earlier, the same occurred for sixteen pairs of white gloves valued at 11 livres. [235] To these can be added four pairs of gloves worth 12 sols each, which were included in the personal effects of a woman settler who died in 1753. [236]

Judging from the quantity and the value of gloves in shops or in individual wardrobes, we can conclude that gloves were commonly worn in Louisbourg.


The mitons were similar to mittens, except that they "did not have any fingers or thumb" and they were used "to protect the arms from cold"; they were either made of velvet or more often "knitted in black silk". [237] The miton fabrics used in Louisbourg agree with this definition: one pair of black silk mitons was part of an inventory made in 1741, [238] and, in 1743, a merchant had eight pairs of velvet mitons worth 3 livres 15 sols and 4 livres 5 sols each. [239] This piece of clothing probably existed in various qualities, since two pairs of coloured mitons were bought for livres in 1737.[240] Another merchant had two pairs of mitons in 1756. [241]

The use of mitons was therefore quite common, but less so than mittens and especially gloves, which were available in great quantities at a fairly low price.


Finally, among the clothes owned by a woman settler in 1757, there was a muff worth 3 livres, [242] but this garment might have been quite unusual, for this was the only reference to it in the documents we consulted.