M18512 | Calling card tray

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Calling card tray
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Huron-Wendat
1840-1860, 19th century
Birchbark, moosehair, cotton thread, dyes
4.9 x 28 x 38 cm
Gift of the Estate of Miss J. J. MacFarlane
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Tray (21)
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Keys to History

Huron-Wendat women adapted their artistry to the needs and tastes of the bourgeoisie. In the Victorian era it was customary to place in the entry hall of one's home a tray for collecting calling cards left by visitors. Made of birchbark intricately embroidered with moosehair, these trays as well as small cases for calling cards were highly prized gifts, and Huron-Wendat women made large numbers of them in the quiet of their homes. Some of the most spectacular ones were decorated with flowers and various other motifs, while others depicted scenes of daily life in the community. Still others were magnificently embroidered with birds.

  • What

    This birchbark tray was made to collect visitors' calling cards. Some exquisite ones are found in the collection of Lord Elgin (1811-1863), who was the Governor General of the Province of Canada and Viceroy of India. During the Victorian era these receptacles for calling cards were a specialty of Huron-Wendat women artisans, who produced them in several different shapes and decorated them with a variety of embroidered motifs.

  • Where

    Superb trays like this one were fashioned by the women artisans of the village of Wendake. Most were made of birchbark that had been embroidered, while others were covered with red or black cloth attractively embroidered with moosehair.

  • When

    Inspired in large part by Victorian-era fashions, this magnificent tray for calling cards was made in the mid-19th century, between 1840 and 1860.

  • Who

    It was the women artisans of Wendake, on the outskirts of Quebec City, who made these magnificent trays embroidered with moosehair. It is said that the wife of Lord Elgin (then Canada's Governor General) came to Lorette (Wendake) because she also wanted to learn the art of moosehair embroidery.