M1884.1-2 | Bracelet

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Robert Cruickshank (1743-1809)
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Iroquois
1767-1809, 18th century or 19th century
5.4 x 7.1 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
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Keys to History

Trade silver objects, like these wristbands, were produced by Europeans to distribute to Aboriginal people as gifts and in exchange for furs. Although Europeans tended to view trading as a strictly commercial enterprise, they recognized the need to respect Aboriginal protocol related to commerce, including ceremonial gift exchange. They began to produce silver ornaments - such as circular or "ring" brooches, large gorgets, and a range of arm and leg bands to supply the needs of merchants involved in the fur trade.

These silver wristbands carry a distinctive touchmark indicating that they were made by Robert Cruickshank (1743-1809), a Scottish silversmith who was present in Montreal as of 1773. The production of silver items for use in the fur trade was a major aspect of the production carried out in Robert Cruickshank's workshop. An extraordinary number of trade silver pieces were produced there, based on various European prototypes and incorporating elements ranging from Masonic emblems to motifs drawn from Aboriginal cultures.

  • What

    These are silver wristbands that were made by a Montreal silversmith and given or traded to an Aboriginal person. Silver objects like these were highly valued by Aboriginal people as they possess the same light-reflective quality as the shell beads and shell disks Aboriginal peoples had long been making and wearing.

  • Where

    Trade silver was primarily made in Montreal; however it was carried by European merchants wherever their travels and trading ventures led them. These wristbands may have been collected among the Iroquois in Ontario.

  • When

    Robert Cruickshank was present in the Montreal area by 1773. Therefore, these wristbands were probably made sometime between this date and the death of Cruickshank in 1809.

  • Who

    These silver wristbands were made by Robert Cruickshank (1743-1809) - a Scottish silversmith based in Montreal and one of the best known producers of trade silver. The wristbands were likely commissioned, along with other items, by a merchant and traded or given to an Iroquois ally.