COTTON, MICHEL, shoemaker, silversmith; b. 1 July 1700 in Quebec, son of Barthélemy Cotton, merchant silversmith, and Jeanne Le Rouge; died sometime after 1747.
Craftsmen of the 18th century commonly had a variety of occupations, so that it is not surprising to discover that Michel Cotton was successively shoemaker and silversmith. Two contracts, signed before the notary Jean-Étienne Dubreuil*, reveal that master shoemaker Michel Cotton agreed to take Julien Ducharme as an apprentice on 16 March 1721, and François Potevin on 17 Nov. 1722. In 1724, however, Cotton wanted to learn a new specialty. This decision resulted in his being sued, since his new occupation did not permit him to continue any longer the apprenticeship in shoemaking that he was committed to offer to “a certain Dumoulin.” Despite this obstacle Cotton became apprenticed to the master silversmith François Chambellan, as a contract signed on 31 March 1724 before the notary Dubreuil tells us.
In 1726 Cotton, still living in Quebec, styled himself “silversmith in this town.” On 28 October of that year he signed a marriage contract with Françoise Gagnon from Château-Richer. He was not to remain in Quebec. It was probably the restricted clientele in his birthplace that forced him to move to Montreal in 1731. In 1732 he delivered a censer to the parish of Saint-Charles-de-Lachenaie, and the following year he signed a contract to teach the silversmith’s craft to Jean-Baptiste Serré. This contract was annulled after a few weeks, but in 1734 Cotton took on a new apprentice for a period of three years. In 1737 he was still in Montreal and took a lease for a year on a house in Rue Saint-Paul. The end of this lease probably coincided with Cotton’s return to Quebec, where he continued practising his craft. In the period 1739–47 a great number of documents describe him as “a silversmith, living in Quebec.” After that period his activities are not known.
The Musée du Québec owns a goblet and a soup-spoon made by Cotton. Other articles, all in solid silver, are preserved in various places in Quebec and similarly bear Cotton’s stamp consisting of the letters MC, his initials, crowned with a fleur-de-lis.
ANDQ, Registres des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 2 juill. 1700. ANQ, Greffe de J.-É. Dubreuil, 16 mars 1721, 17 nov. 1722, 31 mars 1724, 19 déc. 1726; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet de Vaucour, 28 oct. 1726. ANQ-M, Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 7, 21 avril 1733; Greffe de F.-M. Lepailleur, 4 sept. 1734, 7 janv. 1735, 8 mai 1737. Archives paroissiales de Saint-Charles (Lachenaie, Qué.), Livres de comptes, I, 1725–1739. IOA, Dossier Cotton. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not., I, 71, 135; II, 333; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, III, 213; IV, 127; V, 10. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Marius Barbeau, Maîtres artisans de chez-nous (Montréal, ), 34. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths. Gérard Morisset, Le Cap-Santé, ses églises et son trésor (Collection Champlain, Québec, 1944). Traquair, Old silver of Quebec. Gérard Morisset, “Un cordonnier orfèvre: Michel Cotton,” La Patrie (Montréal), 26 févr. 1950; “L’orfèvrerie canadienne,” La Revue française de l’élite européenne (Paris), 59 (août 1954), 60–64.