A fine piece of furniture kept baby safe and warm.

Posted December 21, 2022

In the eighteenth century, women gave birth at home with the help of a midwife. At birth, newborns were quickly baptized. Breastfed until they were about fourteen months old, babies slept in a piece of furniture common to all families: a wooden cradle. Some cradles were simple, rustic chests, while others were fine pieces of carpentry decorated with geometric patterns. 

The cradle was usually found in the common room or in the parents’ bedroom, often the only room in the house with a door that closed. Cradles were rarely painted, which makes this one — with its hand-turned spindles — an exceptional piece. Made of pine and cherry wood, it was decorated with flowers painted on a beige background by the Mohawks of Sault-Saint-Louis. This mission was founded by the Jesuits in 1669 near Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Kahnawà:ke) and was one of three Mohawk communities established in the Montreal area in the late 1660s.

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This object resides at the Château Ramezay — Montreal Museum and Historic Site.

This article originally appeared in Cinquante Merveilles de nos musées: les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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