M976.90.1-4 | Hat, gloves and cape
1875-1900, 19th century
Gift of Mr. Jack Walker
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Ensemble (8)
Keys to History
During cold spells, Montreal coachmen sometimes wore bearskin clothing. Sitting on a raised seat on the front of the sleigh, they were very exposed to the elements.
The passengers wore various kinds of fur clothing to protect themselves from the cold. The favourite furs were bear, moose and buffalo, since they were the warmest.
In the 19th century, the coachmen were the equivalent of today's taxi drivers. However, they did not have a very good reputation since they were said to be proud and reckless on the roads. They were criticized for disturbing public order because they tended to gather in public places.
Bearskin was also used to make carpets and blankets.
Many fur merchants had stores in downtown Montreal. In 1873, for example, John Reiplingter advertised as a merchant and manufacturer of sleigh clothes made of bear and wolf fur.
Fur articles, like hats and jewellery, could be remodelled, in other words, reconditioned or updated.
The coachmen had a reputation for driving fast since they would not let themselves be passed.