HUPPÉ (Hupé), dit Lagroix (La Groy, Lagroye, Lagrouais), JOSEPH, mason, joiner, and hatter; b. 6 Nov. 1696 at Beauport (near Quebec) to Jacques Huppé, dit Lagroix, and Suzanne Le Normand; d. after 16 Feb. 1776.
Joseph Huppé, dit Lagroix, had apparently been a joiner and mason for some time when in 1730 he decided to learn the hatter’s trade. His grandfather Michel Huppé, dit Lagroix, a Norman who had come to Canada in the mid 17th century, had followed the trade, and Joseph may have had some knowledge of it from his father, who was evidently a farmer.
Huppé apprenticed with the hatter Barthélemy Cotton. On 29 Jan. 1730 the two men signed an agreement by which Cotton undertook to teach his trade to Joseph Huppé, “master mason and joiner.” Their association was not long, however. There was apparently a disagreement between them and, in violation of his three-year contract, Huppé left Quebec in the winter of 1731–32. He set himself up in Montreal, where in March 1732 he leased a house on Rue Capitale for six months. Cotton took legal proceedings against him, but nonetheless Huppé stayed in Montreal and followed the hatter’s trade until 1736.
The only other hat-maker in Montreal at the time was a Parisian, Jean-Baptiste Chaufour. Neither man enjoyed a considerable trade; they were, according to Governor Charles de Beauharnois* and Intendant Gilles Hocquart in 1735, “common workers.” By official estimate their output and that of Cotton amounted to 1,200 or 1,500 beaver hats a year. They each employed one or two journeymen at most. Since Huppé’s wife, Charlotte Jérémie, dit Lamontagne, dit Douville, whom he had married at Quebec on 27 Nov. 1728, had died in February 1733, he had only one dependant, a daughter.
Insignificant though they were, the three hatters in New France were important to the French government. In 1735 the minister of Marine, Maurepas, claimed that by sending unfinished beaver hats to France they encroached on the Compagnie des Indes’s monopoly of the export of beaver pelts. The governor and intendant rejected the claim and were reluctant to forbid hat-making in the colony as the minister wished. Instead, they limited the hatters to the Canadian market and forbad the export of unfinished or incomplete hats. Maurepas was not moved by their appeal on behalf of the Canadian hat-makers; he insisted in his dispatch of May 1736 that the establishments be destroyed.
On 12 September Barthélemy Cotton’s shop in Quebec was closed and on the 24th the royal officials in Montreal took action. It was found that Jean-Baptiste Chaufour had not worked as a hat-maker for two years. He accompanied the officials as they proceeded to Huppé’s shop, Au Chapeau Royal, in a suburb of Montreal. They inventoried the contents, smashed the basins and the dyeing and fulling vats, and carried off the rest of the hat-making equipment to the king’s storehouse. Huppé’s loss was put at 676 livres, and he later received some compensation from the Compagnie des Indes. His activities after the closing of his shop are unknown, but he seems to have drifted back and forth between Montreal and Quebec. On 16 Feb. 1776 he made his will before the Charlesbourg notary, André Genest. His death date remains unknown.
Historians have tried to make sense of the suppression of the Canadian hatters in 1736. Joseph-Noël Fauteux and Paul-Émile Renaud saw the event as the outcome of French mercantilism, a policy concisely stated in a royal memoir of 1704: “whatever might compete with the manufactures of the realm must never be produced in the colonies.” French colonial policy in Canada was, however, not rigidly mercantilistic. Colonial industries duplicating those of the mother country were usually tolerated and often encouraged by France with the aim of fostering colonial self-sufficiency. Lionel Groulx* suggested that the minister’s decision was shaped instead by the Compagnie des Indes, which was suffering from a reduced supply of beaver pelts and may have objected to the Canadian diversion of beaver from the export trade. The crown believed that if French hatters had first choice of pelts they would increase their share of the European hat market, and it had a fiscal interest through its connection with the Compagnie des Indes in maintaining the volume of beaver sent from Canada. Therefore the suppression of Canadian hat-making could have been considered to be in the national interest of France.
AN, Col., B, 62, f.110; 64/3, ff.608–12; C11A, 63, pp.62–65; 64, pp.69–70; 65, pp.10–16 (copies at PAC). ANQ-Q, Greffe de Claude Barolet, 8 mars 1745, 8 févr. 1755; Greffe d’André Genest, 16 févr. 1776; Greffe de J.-C. Louet, 28 déc. 1731; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet de Vaucour, 27 nov. 1728; NF 2, 24, f.104; NF 25, 23, nos.876, 879, 891. ASQ, Séminaire, 21, no.2, p.25. ASSM, 24, Dossier 6, cahier NN, 48. IBC, Centre de documentation, Fonds Morisset, Dossier Joseph Huppé, dit Lagroix. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, II, 262, 265, 276. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. J.-N. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie, II, 485–90. P.-É. Renaud, Les origines économiques du Canada; l’œuvre de la France (Mamers, France, 1928). Sulte, Hist. des Canadiens français, IV, 68; V, 83. Lionel Groulx, “Note sur la chapellerie au Canada sous le Régime français,” RHAF, III (1949–50), 383–401. É.-Z. Massicotte, “L’anéantissement d’une industrie canadienne sous le Régime français,” BRH, XXVII (1921), 193–200; “Les enseignes à Montréal, autrefois et aujourd’hui,” BRH, XLVII (1941), 354.