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Hudson’s Bay Company Blanket

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
220 x 170
Materials & techniques
Wool; Machine-made, threaded
Hudson’s Bay Company
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 2008.034.001
George and Louise Buffum received this wool four-point Hudson’s Bay Company blanket as a wedding present in 1934. Buffum was manager of the Northern Traders store in the Tlicho community of Fort Rae (now Behchoko), and his family lived in the area until 1946. Their daughter remembers being bundled in this blanket as a child. It remained in the family for over 70 years until being donated, in perfect condition – a testament to the quality of this iconic textile.
The points refer to the short, narrow black or indigo lines woven or threaded into a corner of the blanket. They indicate the blanket’s size, and therefore its weight and value. French traders first introduced the point system for wool blankets. Point, or pointed, blankets were part of the North American fur trade by the late 1600s and were in use by French and English colonists and soldiers. The word “point” is believed to come from the French empointer, meaning to thread stitches on to cloth.
The Hudson’s Bay Company adopted a standardized point system in 1780. Manufactured in English textile mill towns, their blankets became widely traded, and by the 1830s the terms “Hudson’s Bay blanket” and “point blanket” were used interchangeably. From the earliest days a changing variety of colours were offered to discerning customers making choices based on cultural significance, individual taste, and changing fashions. The insulating properties of wool meant the blankets had a ready market in northern climates. Wool is wind and water resistant and dries without becoming stiff, as skin garments might.
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