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The mainstay of the North American fur trade was cloth, which composed at one time over half of the goods shipped out of Montreal for trade with Native Americans. However, this cloth rarely survives in archaeological context, leaving only other artifacts that yield limited information on the textiles that once existed at a site. Among these artifacts are lead seals, which functioned much in the same way as modern day clothing tags, with lettering and symbols that reveal information such as the origin, quality, and quantity of the cloth to which they were once attached.
This study examined seals from Fort St. Joseph (n=66) to determine their origins and to identify cloth types common in those regions that may have been present at the site in the 17th-18th centuries. Through creating a typology and attempting to identify seals using comparative and historical sources, this study identified the exact origin of 21 percent of lead seals examined, the majority of which were from woolen producing regions in France (64%). The data from this study corresponds with the information concerning lead seals from another major fur trading site, Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, MI), and reinforces the historical fact that though several other types of cloth (cottons, satins, silks) may have been present at the fort site, woolens were the most common trade cloth variety.
Davis, Cathrine, "Lead Seals from Colonial Fort St. Joseph (20BE23)" (2014). Honors Theses. 2408.
Honors Thesis-Open Access