Craft Industries at Michilimackinac, 1715-1781
Archaeological Completion Report Series Number 15
“This is a study of craft industries carried out at Fort Michilimackinac by French and British inhabitants during the 18th century. … For this study, craft industries are defined as non-agricultural activities producing surplus goods beyond those required to meet a household’s own needs. These goods were sold, traded or given away. Some craft industry products were used by inhabitants of the settlement, while others were traded away from the community.
Despite being part [of] the world system, Michilimackinac was still on the frontier. For six months of the year it was cut off from the rest of the world by ice and snow, making the water highways of the Upper Great Lakes impassable. When things broke, ran out, or were too expensive to import by canoe, residents of Michilimackinac relied on their own wits to survive and improve their quality of life. This is where craft industries came in.
Usner (1987:167) uses the term “frontier exchange” to describe small scale transaction taking place outside or alongside more formal economic structures. Rather than being part of the world commercial network, craft industries at Michilimackinac, and elsewhere, were part of a “frontier exchange” system. Fur trade studies rarely focus on local craft industries because not as much is known about their products as is known about European manufactured goods …
Like all detailed historical archaeological projects, this study uses both archaeological data and historical documents to obtain the most complete picture possible. … ”