Stay Busk

CMC B&W 83-5720

Ontario; 1796; wood; 26.5 x 4.5 x 1.5 cm. CMC E-8

In the latter part of the seventeenth and again in the late eighteenth century, fashion decreed small waists, and women's clothing featured corsets with wood or whalebone stays. This gave occasion to suitors to decorate with chip or scratch carving special stays, or busks, for their sweethearts to wear. The most commonly carved motifs were twin hearts, lovebirds, flowers and leaves, and geometric designs of various types. The busks were often incised with dates, initials and declarations of love. As this particular item was obtained from descendants of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, it may have been made in Canada or at least worn here, possibly by some member of his family.