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Buckskin Suit

Curated Submission
Circa 1900
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Shirt 81 x 52; Trousers 100
Materials & techniques
Deerskin, metal buttons; Hand-sewn
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM-1987-S-193.3 a-c
In the late 19th and early 20th century the Canadian government was anxious to populate the West with farmers and business people who would develop the vast resources of the land. To attract newcomers to the West, the government launched aggressive advertising campaigns in the United States and Europe, offering homesteads to land-hungry immigrants. This utopian portrayal of the prairie enticed many new settlers.
As a boy Klaus Epp had travelled with his family from south Russia to the United States, where they settled in Nebraska. By the mid-1890s the promise of cheap, productive land lured Epp, his wife, Susan, and their two young children to what is now Saskatchewan. They settled temporarily in the Rosthern area before permanently settling 56 kilometers northwest of Saskatoon, near the North Saskatchewan River.

Epp’s son Carl described his father as “a somewhat footloose sort of man.” Epp spent a great deal of time hunting and exploring the Meadow Lake and Big River areas, some 250 kilometers away from his home. He learned northern Cree so that he could speak with the First Nations people of the area. The story of how Epp came to possess this buckskin suit has been lost, but his family knows it was a prized possession. The suit was so important to Epp that he arranged to be professionally photographed wearing it. The jacket and trousers are made of deerskin, with fringes along the shoulders of the jacket and the outer seam of the trousers. This suit would have been warm and durable for Epp’s many forays into the Saskatchewan wilderness.
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