Industrialization and mechanization have rendered obsolete the practice of certain trades. The mass production allows to obtain products of current consumption in the large chains. However, techniques and knowledge handed down from generation to generation, have sunk into oblivion. Let us take a nostalgic look on trades or activities missing from our daily lives.
1) the trade of The blacksmith
Jos Louis Paquet, in his forge, Saint-Côme-Linière, 1952. BAnQ Québec (E6, S7, SS1, P92908).
In the collective imagination, the blacksmith is the man who shoes the horses. In reality, the blacksmiths need to develop multiple specialties, such as the edge, the blacksmith, the charronnage and the forge in general. Their learning begins as early as adolescence with a blacksmith’s experience.
The forge general is in the manufacture of nails and hinges for the construction of buildings, square brackets for the loggers, the repair of metal parts, etc., The blacksmith can also build carts (charronnage), shoeing animals (blacksmith) or make sharp objects such as shears, ploughs or spades (edge).
Forge, F.-X. Drolet, circa 1900. BAnQ Québec (P678, S44, D1, P1).
At the beginning of the industrialization, the blacksmiths are also needed for the proper functioning of the processing industry of the metal, until the mechanization and machine tools are replacing them little by little.
2) the manufacture of The soap of the country
A lady at work for the making of soap in the old style, circa 1930. BAnQ Québec (P428, S3, SS1, D18, P4).
The process of saponification is known for a long time. The modern discoveries of chemists have standardized the basic ingredients and have led to an industrial manufacturing during the Nineteenth century. But know shopping is expensive. The soap of the country, prepared with ingredients domestic, is more economical and, more importantly, use.
In the spring, the women prepare the caustic by pouring boiling water on the ashes of hardwood. The mixture rests for 15 days and produces water that is yellowish which is filtered. Then, they set up outside, on a fire, a big pot of cast iron. There is boil water and fat accumulated during the last few months to get the “consommage”. It must cool an entire night.
The “consommage” and the caustic are then placed in a large cauldron with water. The mixture must boil for a long time and be continually stirred with a wooden pallet. When this is ready, the women add the salt to solidify the soap. It must cool for 24 hours before being cut and then dried for up to a year. The soap hardened will last much longer.
3) fishing for eel
Eel fishing near the bridge to The island. Saint-Louis-de-Courville, 1950. BAnQ Québec (E6, S7, SS1, P81395)
The First Nations were fishing for eels on the St. Lawrence river long before the arrival of the first Europeans. They have also practiced as soon as they arrive. Of the approximately 250 active fishers between Lévis and Rimouski in the middle of the Twentieth century, only a few diehards still exist, mainly in the region of Kamouraska.
The fishermen of eel fishing weir. This technique is born of the hybridization of two methods. The first is used by First Nations people. It combines the use of fish traps, and baskets of wickerwork in the form of funnel as well as the construction of small stone walls closed in V. The Europeans had the habit of use gords, or an assembly of stakes and nets.
Each fisherman had his method and his materials of choice to build its weirs. This knowledge was passed from father to son for several generations.
4) switchboard operators
Operator, 1922. BAnQ Québec (P428, S3, SS1, D2, P26).
At the beginning of telephony, the telephone calls are connected manually by an operator who connects the lines on a standard. The first telephone switchboards contain up to 50 lines. Several standards can be linked to increase the number of lines offered.
Quickly, it is mostly women who are recruited for this work. When connecting, they hear the conversation that takes place. This is why it was expected that they be discrete, courteous and disciplined, especially in large companies where there was increased monitoring of employees.
Working room of the standard battery of Bell Telephone Co., in around 1930. BAnQ Québec (P428, S3, SS1, D13, P14-3).
In the 1920s appeared the first standard automatic. They have gradually replaced the switchboard operators until the 1950s.
5) The manufacture of snowshoes babiche
A Huron of Lorette at work for the making of snowshoes, circa 1930. BAnQ Québec (P428, S3, SS1, D4, P5).
The manufacture of snowshoes, babiche is a indigenous knowledge. They are utilitarian objects to hunt, to see its snares, etc, Their forms differ in terms of their use and the type of snow on which one wants to walk. Their manufacture requires the work of several people, depending on their specialty.
The frame is in birch wood or ash wood. However, depending on the availability of these species, others may be used. The green wood is worked first of all with an axe and crooked knife. One curves to form the frame. Once the correct curvature is obtained, it is left to dry.
The mesh is made of strips of leather from deer. It is used as a rope for making or braiding different objects. These are the women who remove hair and fat from the skin and stretch the leather. Finally, it is cut into strips, whose width varies according to the thickness of the skin as well as the use for which it is intended.
When all is ready, the weaving can begin. The tresseurs use bone tools to place the skin and even out the spaces between the strips.
6) the work of the wool
A woman at her spinning wheel, circa 1930. BAnQ Québec (P428, S3, SS1, D4, P8).
Formerly, it was sheep on most farms. In addition to the shearing, the wool work is done by women.
First of all, we need to sort the wool. We remove the parts that are too dirty and the ones that are felted. It is cleaned by soaking to remove the impurities found inside. Subsequently, one must degrease, wash and dry. If one wants to color it, it is at this time that this is done.
The carding is done with the help of chard, planks of wood spiked metal. This step helps to keep the long fibers of the wool and make small rolls. These are spun at the spinning wheel. To make a wool plus big, one must take more of a wire, which is assembled by passing it on to the spinning wheel. The wool is now ready to be knitted or woven.
Mill carder Gerard Willet. Saint-Gervais, county of Bellechasse, 1951. BAnQ Québec (E6,S7, SS1, P85935).
With industrialization, machines and tools of the carding mills will take over. Many in Quebec towards the end of the Nineteenth century, those who are still functional today, are now tourist attractions.
7) The cedar shingles
Holy Family, a house in Paradise, 1925. The BAnQ Quebec City (P600, S6, D5, P701).
The wood, especially the cedar plank, has long been used for the external finish of the dwellings, because the cedar is resistant to rot. If the shingles are to be prepared and placed in the rules of the art, the time investment is well worth the life time of the recovery, or approximately 75 years old when he is well looked after.
The fuel used has its own importance, hence the choice of the white cedar, present in Quebec. Later, the artisans also have access to the red cedar of the canadian West. For additional sealing, it is necessary that the shingle be free of knots and free of defects.
A good shingle should be split and not cut. The slot has the advantage to follow the fibres of the wood as opposed to sawing, which makes the shingle more permeable to water. The craftsman uses a corner shingle and a mallet for the first size. Subsequently, using the flat, it thins and the cant. The shingles have from 3 to 14 inches in width, for a length of 16, 18 or 24 inches.
A good installation is from the bottom to the top by means of nails, the number of which varies according to the width of the shingle. The length of the visible part varies according to the slope. The joints must overlap.
8) The art of the arrow sash
Manufacture of the arrow sash at the School of the arts, domestic, Quebec, 1944. BAnQ Québec (E6, S7, SS1, P17034).
According to the research of mrs. Monique Leblanc, the travellers are hired to go in the canadian West who have given the taste of this belt is colored to the Indians, and not the reverse. It has also been found, in the archives, different evidence to demonstrate that the arrow is known on the entire territory of quebec.
The first colourful belts in the wool, the pattern of which is the chevron, are called “belt of the inhabitant”. The motif of arrows appears towards the end of the Eighteenth century.
The signs is a hand-weaving. The artisan must first determine the dimensions of the finished product and the colors of the pattern. Then, it calculates the number of strands of wool that she needs, as well as the length. Then comes the time to assemble his book. The strands of wool are placed in the correct order, to be then attached and stretched between a hook mounted on the wall and another solid structure.
The weaver begins her work. With her fingers, she bound the wires in a specific order. She often stops to untangle the wires that are at the other end of the weaving. It tightens then his book before resuming the weaving. Several hours of work are required to complete a belt.
9) The harvesting of the ice
The harvest of ice for the farm. Pont-Rouge, 1952. BAnQ Québec (E6, S7, SS1, P90465).
In the middle of the Nineteenth century, the creation of the cooler allows for a better preservation of domestic foods. The furniture is manufactured of wood. The top part is insulated and covered with metal. You place the ice cube that weighs 11 to 22 kg. When it melts, it keeps the fresh food placed in the lower part. But where is the ice?
The harvest is done on a body of water, the coldest of the winter. It is necessary to wait for it to be thick enough to support the weight of men and horses who settle there. To prepare, the area of harvest is marked. For a ice of good quality, it is necessary to clear the snow and drill holes to allow the water from getting frozen to the surface.
The ice is sawn to the arm of man. The blocks measure approximately 120 cm by 60 cm, for a weight of 135 to 185 kg. A good sawyer could cut up to 300 blocks per day. They are moved with the aid of a blunder in one channel to bring them up to the shore, where a ramp allows you to load them on a sled.
The ice is kept until the next season in a building whose walls are double thickness and insulated in sawdust. It also extends the sawdust between each row of ice as well as on the top.
10) The cultivation of flax
“The mill of linen”, paint-by-Side, 1947. BAnQ Québec (E6, S7, SS1, P35580).
The flax is cultivated since a very long time. This is probably the first textile material to be transformed. The methods of harvesting and preparation of flax are still the same up to the industrialization of processes. In New France, each family sow flax for their own household use. It is a crop that requires a lot of care.
For harvesting, the flax is pulled out from the hand so that the fiber keeps its full length, pledge of resistance. Subsequently, we proceed to retting. It is a fermentation is essential for the treatment of the fiber. It extends the flax in a thin layer on the grass for about a month. The action of the sun and the rain does the rest. When the flaxseed is ready, it stores it.
In the fall, you begin by drying the sheaves over a fire. Then, it is ground to break the wood of the stem and release the fiber. This step is tedious and requires numerous manipulations.
We continue with the scutching, which is made with the help of a board and a knife of wood. We comb then with the floss to make the filaments, regular and parallel. The spinners take over stretching and twisting the flax fibres into a continuous yarn, ready to be used.
A text from Annie Labrecque, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
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