M8371.8 | Peaked cap

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Peaked cap
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Mi'kmaq
1845-1855, 19th century
Wool cloth, silk ribbon, cotton thread, glass beads, horsehair
37.4 x 21.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Peaked cap (7)
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Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Mi'kmaq woman wore these beautiful and unique peaked caps, traditionally given to girls when they became of age. Although the origin of the caps is unknown, they may date from before the arrival of Europeans. They may also have been inspired by the caps worn by Basque or French women in the 15th century and given to the Mi'kmaqs by merchants from those areas. Mi'kmaq women used appliqués of silk ribbon to recreate traditional geometric patterns, reproducing those they once painted on their skin clothing.

Keys to History

The origin of this type of headgear is not known. Perhaps these caps existed before the arrival of Europeans; or maybe they were based on the European caps brought by the Basque and French fishermen who began frequenting the region in the late 15th century. By the 19th century, these caps were a well-established part of Mi'kmaq culture, as this watercolour shows.

The McCord Museum has several such caps. Despite their similarity in form and materials, each one is different and unique-testimony to the great diversity of artistic expression of Mi'kmaq artists.

  • What

    This peaked cap is decorated with glass beads strung on horse hair and then sewn to the wool. The double-curve motif is clearly visible.

  • Where

    It is not known whether this cap was made in Quebec, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • When

    Although this cap likely dates from the mid-19th century, the earliest appearance of this type of headgear is not known.

  • Who

    Mi'kmaq women made and wore these caps. They were given to young girls when they reached adulthood.