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James Murdoch fonds (P589)

1799-1838. - 4.7 cm of textual records.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

James Murdoch was a professional weaver from Scotland who arrived in Shipton (now Richmond), Quebec, in 1821.

Scope and Content:

This fonds pertains to the life and work of James Murdoch, a professional weaver from Scotland who arrived in Shipton (now Richmond), Quebec, in 1821. It includes a diary in which there is an account of his work in Scotland and subsequently in Quebec into the 1830s. It also includes copies of two letters to family in Scotland. Of greatest interest, it contains several weaving pattern drafts with names.

The principal points of interest of this document for textile historians are:

  • Accounts which provide comparative prices for yardage of various types of fabric, finished clothing and agricultural produce.
  • Accounts which would allow calculation of Murdoch's quantitative output in finished cloth and clothing.
  • Evidence of range of fabric yardage and types of clothing being produced by one individual, attesting to his range of skills. He also seems to have received pay for light farm work, including gardening and digging potatoes.
  • Evidence of employment of local people (primarily women) for spinning, etc., and consumption of wool used locally.
  • Evidence of Murdoch's development as a weaver in Scotland, employing two people at a time, weaving mainly blankets, and selling on credit.
  • Evidence of what Murdoch found on arrival in Quebec: no professional weavers or equipment in the city, makeup of the local population, type of land and house, and agricultural information.
  • Evidence to support Dorothy Burnham's hypothesis of the Scottish origin of overshot coverlet weaving in North America.
  • Proof of small-scale professional weaving in rural Quebec at this time, which relied heavily on British imports, backed up by a varying amount of domestic production in rural areas.
  • Weaving pattern drafts with names, allowing an expert weaver to determine pattern names of extant textiles, or reproduce a pattern.
  • Evidence of which of those patterns Murdoch actually used, and the popularity of one or two coverlet patterns as well as the price of yardage of each pattern.

Bound manuscript comprising 249 pages (13 x 8 in.).