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Trapper Hat

Curated Submission
1930s - 1940s
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
17 x 23
Materials & techniques
Beaver fur, fabric, thread; Sewn, quilted
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 979.087.001
This trapper-style hat made of beaver fur with earflaps and quilted fabric lining belonged to famous northern bush pilot Wilfrid “Wop” May (1886–1952). The hat is an essential piece of clothing in the subarctic, and most northerners do not leave home without proper headgear. Early bush planes were not designed with comfort in mind. This fur-lined hat would have provided warmth and a bit of luxury during May’s frequent visits to remote posts throughout his career as a pilot in the North.
In the late 1920s May organized a commercial flying company in western Canada. In 1928 he was credited with saving many lives when he piloted an open-cockpit airplane, under severe winter conditions, from Edmonton to Fort Vermilion to deliver medicine. His company Commercial Airways obtained the first contract with Canada Post to fly mail between Edmonton and the Northwest Territories, servicing remote northern posts. May inaugurated mail delivery flights into the Northwest Territories on December 10, 1929. This was a huge airmail route covering every community along the Athabasca, Slave, and Mackenzie Rivers from Fort McMurray to Aklavik, a distance of more than 2,600 kilometers.
In 1932 May gained notoriety when he flew a Bellanca bush plane in search of Albert Johnson, the “Mad Trapper of Rat River,” who had killed a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and sabotaged subarctic traplines. May’s ability to track the criminal from the air was instrumental in the RCMP finally getting their man. 
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