M975.79.1A-Z | Picnic basket
1915-1940, 20th century
31 x 58 x 15.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. F. W. Cowie
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Basket (375)
Keys to History
In the early 20th century, the picnic was an activity enjoyed by both the well-to-do and less wealthy citizens.
Montrealers picnicked in the public parks, particularly on Mount Royal and on St. Helen's Island, beginning in the 19th century. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the tramway that reached certain suburbs, it was becoming easier to picnic outside the city.
Many charitable organizations, associations and trade guilds then began to regularly organize big picnics, thus imitating the ways of the British middle-class and aristocracy, which had taken up this rural activity long before. The picnics, which mostly took place on Sunday, often began with a procession. Loaded down with baskets full of food, people went in groups to the site of the festivities where they ate their meals sitting on the grass or at tables before taking part in all kinds of games and competitions.
This rather luxurious basket contains a service for four persons - plates, cups, spoons and knives - as well as a few dishes for sandwiches, butter and drinks
This basket and its contents were manufactured in Great Britain during the first half of the 20th century, but they were used in the Montreal region.
Larger numbers of Catholic French-speaking workers took part in picnics on Sunday because the Protestant clergy did not like their flocks to enjoy themselves on the Sabbath.
For the working class, the picnic was both an opportunity for relaxation and a way to get organized and discuss all kinds of social, political and religious concerns.