Jacks from the Past: the Story of Jacques Dupont
Jacques Dupont was born on his family’s farm in 1706, in New France, in what we would now call Nova Scotia. Born to farmer parents, Jacques and his two younger brothers were helping out on the farm as early as they could walk and hold a pail. Their father, Samuel Dupont, was a skilled woodworker who worked as a journeyman for the guild back in France. When Jacques’ father came to settle in New France, there was too much work to be done than just focus on his craft, so he spent most of his time tending to the family’s farm. He made a point of teaching Jacques how to carve and sand from an early age, as Jacques would always be interested in watching his father work. By the time Jacques was 12, he had assisted his father in building the barn house to house their animals. He could see the hours of work it required to create, and acting as his father’s assistant was an experience Jacques held close to his heart.
This was only the beginning for young Jacques. He fell in love with wood carving from that point on, and revelled in it as a form of expression and technical precision. He started making things like wooden spoons, bowls, and utensils, and as he improved he moved onto bigger projects like tables, chairs and rocking chairs. He never considered it his “calling”, as there were no apprenticeship programs in place yet in New France. However, Jacques took woodcarving on as a passion and a hobby.
Jacques had witnessed his father having to give up his dedication to woodworking when they had settled in the new country. Samuel was in the process of creating his own original masterpiece in hopes of becoming a “master”, which was the highest level in the French guild, when he was forced to leave his craft behind to tend to his family’s farm. Seeing the effects this had had on his father, Jacques knew he wanted to create a way for young people to learn the crafts and techniques of their elders, without having to abandon their families or their lives, or follow any strict guild traditions or rules.
This was when Jacques decided to open up their workshop to others who were willing to learn. Jacques and his father and his two younger brothers began recruiting young men and women as apprentice woodworkers at this time. They would take them in, train them, the apprentices would assist in bigger projects around the farm, and then eventually go on to create their own pieces. The Dupont men went on to host and train hundreds of craft workers in the following years. Their legacy of commitment, passion, dedication to the craft, and love for one another went on to inspire the masses, and was instrumental in the breaking down of French guild traditions. Jacques Dupont understood the value in passing down the traditions which serve to better our relationships and our communities. His dedication to building such caring communities is what exemplifies Jack-like qualities and what can inspire us today.