M2005.35.3.1-2 | Snowshoes
Anonyme - Anonymous
1966-1970, 20th century
Cow hide (babiche), leather, wood (ash?), metal
34.5 x 123.5 cm
Gift of Mme Lise et Mme Andrée Mercier
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Snowshoes (47)
Keys to History
Of all the First Nations inventions that have benefited Canadians, snowshoes are without a doubt among those that have seen the longest service. In the 1800s, middle-class Montrealers adapted them to their urban environment and gave them a recreational and social function.
Research: Josée Bergeron, under the supervision of Joanne Burgess, Ph.D, Laboratoire Laboratoire d'histoire et de patrimoine de Montréal & Canadian Forum for Public Research on Heritage, UQÀM
The leaf-shaped snowshoe frame is made of white ash, bent in hot water and bound at the back by a strap of babiche (rawhide lacing) or a metal band. Traditionally, snowshoe webbing was made of caribou, deer or moose babiche, but the lacing on this one is made of cow babiche. In the 19th century, Huron-Wendat snowshoe makers decorated their frames with red wool pompons. These multipurpose snowshoes were designed to suit Quebec's diverse topography of open spaces, woods and lakes.
In Montreal, snowshoeing clubs organized all kinds of outings, including on Mount Royal, as well as races. Torch-lit nighttime outings were very popular. Some clubs allowed women members.
Snowshoeing was more common among the upper classes, who generally had more time and money to devote to recreation. The sport was particularly popular between 1870 and 1890, reaching real heights from 1883 to 1889 with the Montreal winter carnival. French Canadians took an interest in snowshoeing fairly early; in 1854 the daily newspaper Le Canadien proposed making it the country's national sport.
These snowshoes were made by the Huron-Wendat of Wendake, near Quebec City, although their rounded shape is in the Iroquois style. Even back in the 19th century, the Huron-Wendat were supplying a large number of urban snowshoeing clubs, like the Montreal Snow Shoe Club, whose members were known as the Blue Tuques.