The town economy
The towns of New France had no industries, except shipbuilding and ironworks. In the towns goods were made, traded and stored, and services were provided.
Merchants at Québec and Louisbourg controlled major trade with France and the West Indies. They had large ships, warehouses and contacts at all the major ports in France. Meanwhile, in Montréal, it was the fur traders who dominated the economy. They had large two-storey homes with large stone cellars for storing goods from the fur trade. Since there were still few merchants in the countryside, farmers had to come to town to sell their wheat and to buy products that had been made in France.
Major construction on the fortifications provided work for dozens of stonecutters, masons and unskilled labourers. Stone work in Montréal greatly improved after masons from Québec came to take over the construction of the walls. Even after their work had finished on the fortifications in Montréal, they could always find work among the merchants and nobles who needed large stone houses built.
Aside from stone work, many men found jobs in wood working. Carpenters, joiners, cabinet makers and carvers were needed to fill and decorate the stone houses built by the masons. Not only did the town need to be built, but its inhabitants and those who came to do business had to be fed. The butchers, bakers, caterers, innkeepers and tavern-keepers made sure no one lacked for meat, bread or wine. The hundreds of soldiers stationed in the town provided a loyal clientele for the tavern-keepers.
Author: Léon Robichaud
See also – Traces of the past: