ROY, NARSISE (Narcis, Narcisse, Narsis, Narsisse), silversmith and merchant; b. 27 Nov. 1765 in Montreal, Que., son of Jacques Roy and Marie-Françoise Prud’homme; d. there 23 March 1814.
Narsise Roy must have done his apprenticeship as a silversmith in the period between 1777 and 1786. Robert Cruickshank may have given him his training, since their marks bear striking similarities, particularly in the way the initials RC and NR are formed. However, Roy could have had as master one of the many other silversmiths who were active in Montreal at that time: Louis-Nicolas Gaudin, dit La Poterie, Charles-François Delique, Jacques Varin*, dit La Pistole, Joseph Schindler*, Louis-Alexandre and Pierre Huguet, dit Latour, Bernard Decousse, Dominique Rousseau*, François Larsonneur, Caspar Frederic Grunewalt, Pierre Foureur, dit Champagne, Simon Beaugrand, John Wood, or Michael Arnoldi.
On 25 June 1787, Roy, “a merchant silversmith,” married Marie-Joseph Jérôme, dit Latour, in Montreal. The bride brought a dowry of 1,100 livres; in addition she received an inheritance from her mother in 1788 and one from her father in 1789, which brought in 1,800 livres, 301 cords of hardwood, and a year’s wheat crop. The couple moved into the house belonging to Pierre Roy, Narsise’s brother, on Rue Saint-Laurent. Twelve children were born of the marriage.
Roy remained in close touch with his family. From 1794 he kept his mother in his own home and looked after her; hence he gained certain benefits under her will and some minimal financial aid from one of his brothers because “his large family does not permit him to keep his said mother without some compensation.” Bonds of family and friendship linked the Roys with a number of silversmiths, in particular Nathan Starns, at whose marriage they were present on 20 Feb. 1794. Roy was also godfather to Narcisse Auclair, who would become an apprentice of Cruickshank in 1805 and then of Starns in 1807. Another of Cruickshank’s apprentices, Michel Roy, was a nephew of Narsise. Furthermore Roy appraised the tools of Pierre Huguet, dit Latour, and the contents of his silversmith’s shop for the inventories made after the deaths of his two wives, the first being done in 1788 with the assistance of Foureur, dit Champagne, and the second in 1802 with the help of Starns.
Roy regularly engaged in land and real estate transactions. In 1789 and 1790 he purchased in succession two properties in the faubourg Saint-Laurent, one of them from the merchant Louis Cavilhe. It is interesting that the sum of 6,500 shillings required for this purchase was paid entirely in trade silver. The first instalment, made in February 1791, was valued at 1,000 shillings; it consisted of “two thousand ear pendants for the Indians, of thoroughly cleaned and polished silver, half of them small and half large.” The final remittance was delivered in 1794. That year Roy bought a third property, again in the faubourg Saint-Laurent, from the merchant Joseph Howard*, for 3,000 livres, of which 2,400 would be paid “in silverware for the Indians.” This debt eventually had to be paid to the merchant Jean-Baptiste-Toussaint Pothier* since Howard’s heirs transferred it to him in 1805. In 1796 Roy bought another piece of land in the faubourg Saint-Laurent, and in 1798 a lot on Rue Saint-Jacques on which he immediately erected a two-storey stone house. He had another house built in 1808–9. These numerous investments give evidence of real prosperity and business acumen.
The hiring of five apprentices in succession reflected intense activity. Jean-Baptiste Lapointe was taken on in 1793 for six years, and Roy remained in touch with him and acted as a witness at his marriage in 1802; Charles-Olivier Lepage was engaged in 1796, Antoine Delisle in 1797, Louis Tribaut, dit Laffriquain, in 1801, and François Leclair in 1802. From 1801 until 1804 Roy filled orders for the North West Company amounting to an impressive total of some 45,000 articles of trade silver: brooches, ear-rings, charms in the shape of crosses, bracelets, and “couettes”; the £1,500 of income they generated was a very large sum at the time. Roy also sold the company other goods, such as bolts of cloth and shoes.
At the end of the 18th century there was a heavy demand for trade silver. Like a number of Montreal silversmiths Roy directed the greater part of his professional activity to that market, having abandoned production of religious silverware. As the articles for the fur trade were not always marked, and as they were dispersed over an immense territory, only a few utensils and pieces of jewellery bearing his mark have been identified. The commercial importance of trade silver, in terms of the number of silversmiths involved and the phenomenal quantities of items produced, has not yet been adequately assessed in the context of an economy in which the fur trade occupied a privileged position.
During the 27 years of his business Narsise Roy hired five apprentices. Over a period of 34 years Cruickshank took on the same number, whereas Huguet in his 35 years of practice relied on two master silversmiths and eight apprentices. Cruickshank and Huguet, however, made a great deal of religious and domestic silverware as well. Thus Roy may be ranked as one of the largest producers of trade silver, along with the Huguets, Cruickshanks, Arnoldis, Rousseaus, and Schindlers.
[John E. Langdon is the only author to mention Narsise Roy’s apprenticeship with Robert Cruickshank, but he does not cite the source of this statement. r.d. and j.m.]
ANQ-M, CE-51, 28 nov. 1765, 25 juin 1787, 4 nov. 1790, 26 mars 1814; CE1-63, 1802; CN1-68, 23 avril 1813; CN1-74, 17 janv. 1788; 30 janv., 27–28 sept. 1802; 12, 26 déc. 1808; 27 avril 1809; CN1-121, 23 nov. 1790, 14 mai 1794; CN1-128, 21 juin 1787; 1er oct. 1788; 30 mars, 30 mai, 21 août 1789; 11 févr. 1793; 20 févr., 29 juill., 25 sept. 1794; 19, 20 août, 25 oct., 23 nov. 1796; 22 sept. 1797; 30 août, 10 sept. 1798; 24 août, 13 sept. 1799; 13 juin 1801; 29 mai 1805; CN1-185, 15 June, 13 Dec. 1802; 4 Nov. 1805; 16 Oct. 1807; CN1-243, 29 mai 1805; CN1-313, 23 mai 1809; 17 févr., 27 mars 1810. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, R888/M623/2; R888/N222.5. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths. Traquair, Old silver of Quebec. Gérard Morisset, “Bibelots et futilités,” La Patrie (Montréal), 15 janv. 1905: 14–15.