PICARD, LOUIS-ALEXANDRE, jeweller, silversmith, and militia lieutenant; b. c. 1728 in the parish of Saint-Eustache, Paris, France, son of Pierre-François Picard and Marie-Jeanne Léger; d. 27 April 1799 at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal (Que.)
Louis-Alexandre Picard evidently learned his craft as an apprentice in Paris. Around 1750 he enlisted in the cavalry and served for two years. At the end of this period he settled in Bordeaux, where he remained for two and a half years. He arrived in Quebec in 1755, established himself on Rue de l’Escalier with silversmith Jacques Terroux, and quickly made friends with the town’s leading silversmith, Ignace-François Delezenne. By October, “wishing to set himself up on his own,” he had suggested to Terroux that they dissolve their verbal contract of partnership and had offered to buy back his share from Terroux. Picard took a store on Rue Saint-Louis and began to work for Delezenne.
Delezenne was busy filling orders placed by Bigot for trade silver. By the autumn of 1756, in a period when there was a dearth of specie, Bigot had deposited with Picard the impressive sum of 2,729 livres in gold and silver. The coins were to be used for making “articles of silver and gold and other pieces of jewellery produced by the [silversmiths’] craft.” Picard developed at this time new tools which enabled him both to produce his wares more rapidly and to use less of the precious material. He engaged three apprentices in turn: Amable Maillou in 1756, Jean-François Risbé in 1757, and Charles Diverny, dit Saint-Germain, in 1759. Around 1758 he moved to Rue de la Montagne, where Delezenne had his workshop; his apprentice Risbé, who had been living with him the preceding year, was living with Delezenne in 1758. Documents relating to Picard’s marriage in May 1759 to Françoise Maufils, who had borne him a daughter the previous January, reveal the identity of his friends. In giving evidence regarding his freedom to marry, Delezenne, “who has often been a companion of Picard in [the four years] he has been in Canada,” asserted that they were the closest of friends. Delezenne was present when the marriage contract was signed a few days later, as were Christophe Pélissier and the agent of the treasurers general of the Marine, Jacques Imbert*, who may have had connections with the Grande Société [see Michel-Jean-Hugues Péan].
In the summer of 1759 the hum of activity in the workshop on Rue de la Montagne was suddenly broken by the siege of Quebec. When peace was restored, Picard became heavily involved in real estate transactions which absorbed his energies for several years. He nevertheless remained in touch with Delezenne, who was still engaged in producing trade silver for numerous merchants. Eager to re-establish himself, Picard spent 1,000 livres to purchase “goods, wares, and polished gems . . . for his business” from his former partner Terroux. But economic conditions worsened and business apparently no longer flourished as it had. In spite of repeated attempts, Picard did not succeed in selling his house on Rue de la Montagne, even “at a very low price with very advantageous terms for the purchaser.” His financial problems were compounded by difficulties with his apprentices. Philippe Bélanger cancelled his contract in 1766, and Louis Migneau ran away in 1772. Worst of all, in 1775 his son Pierre drowned and war was again imminent: In August Picard was commissioned lieutenant in the Canadian militia of Quebec. On 31 Dec. 1775 he was in the guard at the post of Près-de-Ville when Major-General Richard Montgomery launched his troops against the post. In the skirmish, 13 Americans, including Montgomery, were killed and the American force was routed.
When peace came, Picard built a new house on Rue des Remparts since the one on Rue de la Montagne had been heavily damaged. But while he had stubbornly remained in Quebec, Montreal had become the centre for trade silver. Although he had enough business as a silversmith to engage Michel Létourneau as an apprentice in 1783, Picard went bankrupt. Unable to pay off 9,380 livres owing in instalments on his house, he was sent to prison. Released in 1785, he slowly re-established himself. He lived first on Rue Saint-Jean and later moved to Place du Marché. In 1795 he and six other Quebec silversmiths petitioned to be exempt from a law which concerned the use of forges, claiming that it would injure them in several respects [see Michel Forton*]. Picard made up his mind soon afterwards to move to Montreal, but it was unfortunately too late: the market was already dominated by Pierre Huguet*, dit Latour, Dominique Rousseau*, and Robert Cruickshank*.
Picard’s work in silver is virtually unknown; only one goblet, bearing the stamp AP inside a rectangle, and held by the Musée du Québec, has been attributed to him.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 28 avril 1799. ANQ-Q, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 7 mai 1759, 26 janv. 1762, 19 janv. 1769; Greffe de Claude Barolet, 13, 29 déc. 1756, 22 avril 1757, 6 mars, 6 mai 1759; Greffe de M.-A. Berthelot d’Artigny, 2 août 1777; Greffe de François Lemaitre Lamorille, 16 déc. 1762; Greffe de Claude Louet, 2 oct. 1755, 17 janv. 1763; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 9 juill. 1766; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet, 13 janv. 1785, 1er mai 1786; Greffe de F.-D. Rousseau, 24 sept. 1783; Greffe de J.-A. Saillant, 15 mars 1757; QBC 26, 1, 1ère partie, 2. ASQ, S, Carton 13, no.51. IBC, Centre de documentation, Fonds Morisset, Dossier L.-A. Picard “Les dénombrements de Québec faits en 1792, 1795, 1798 et 1805 par le curé Joseph-Octave Plessis,” ANQ Rapport, 1948–49, 18, 83. Invasion du Canada (Verreau), 121. “La milice canadienne-française à Québec en 1775,” BRH, XI (1905), 228. “Témoignages de liberté au mariage (15 avril 1757–27 août 1763),” ANQ Rapport, 1951–53, 49, 83–84. Quebec Gazette, 27 Dec. 1764, 3 Jan. 1765, 17, 24 Nov., 15 Dec. 1766, 6 Oct. 1768, 30 July 1772, 27 July 1775, 27 Dec. 1792. Derome, Les orfèvres de N.-F. J. Trudel, L’orefèvrerie en N.-F., 221. Robert Derome, “Delezenne, les orfèvres, l’orefèvrerie, 1740–1790” (thèse de ma, université de Montréal, 1974). Frégault, François Bigot. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths. Ouellet, Hist. économique. Traquair, Old silver of Que. Gérard Morisset, “L’orfèvre Louis-Alexandre Picard,” La Patrie (Montréal), 30 avril 1950, 37–38.