M1201 | Knife

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Subartic
Aboriginal: Innu
1735-1745, 18th century
Bone, metal
3 x 14.8 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Knife (87)
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Keys to History

The clasp knife was a popular trade item that was in great demand by Aboriginal people. The knives were made in France: recent research has determined that most of them were manufactured in the town of St. Étienne. Called jambettes by the French, these inexpensive knives were produced in large quantities, transported to North America, and traded throughout New France from northern Quebec to Louisiana.

Throughout the fur trade period, coureurs des bois exchanged these knives with their Aboriginal trading partners and also gave them as gifts to strengthen social and economic ties with the individuals and groups they encountered. Once these practical folding knifes had entered Aboriginal hands, they quickly travelled along ancient trade networks. Today, archaeologists documenting the contact and fur trade periods, find the blades of jambettes on archaeological sites across the country.

  • What

    This is a small folding knife that was probably made in France. The handle is made of bone, slightly curved in shape, and finished with a poured lead piece. The blade is held by a metal rivet. The bone handle is slit along the inside of the curve, into which the blade folds.

  • Where

    The folding knife is recorded as having been found in the Tadoussac region, on the Québec Cote-Nord. Situated at the mouth of the Saguenay River, Tadoussac was a major trading centre in the 17th and 18th centuries, since it was situated at a traditional Aboriginal meeting place.

  • When

    Clasp knives were brought to the Gulf of St. Lawrence by French and other European traders. This knife likely dates to the early 18th century. Similar knives continue to be made today, and are commonly called folding or pocket knives.

  • Who

    European knives were an important trade item since Aboriginal people quickly determined that metal blades could hold a sharp edge much better than the stone knives they were using. This folding knife was probably traded to an Innu person.