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James Anderson's Rawhide Jacket with Quillwork Decoration

Public Submission
Near Lake Nipigon Area
Materials & techniques
Semi-tanned rawhide, leather fringes, dyed porcupine quills; Hand-sewn with white thread
Margaret Mackenzie's Ojibway Grandfather; James Anderson's Wife
Georgina Pioneer Village & Archives, GPVA 980-20-1
This rawhide jacket was given to James Anderson (1812 - 1867), whose family settled in Georgina Township, Ontario, while he and his brother (Alexander Caulfield Anderson) sought adventure through employment with the Hudson’s Bay Company. James Anderson was born in India, and voyaged to Canada in 1831; he gradually rose through the ranks to become a Chief Factor in the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1856 after leading the Anderson-Stewart expedition to find clues concerning the whereabouts of the lost explorer Sir John Franklin. James later retired to the Village of Sutton in North Gwillimbury Township near his family in 1864 and died shortly thereafter.

Early in his life, James Anderson married Margaret Mackenzie in 1839 at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. She was the daughter of Chief Factor Roderick Mackenzie and a First Nations woman named Angelique of the Nipigon District in Ontario. This jacket was a gift from her side of the family.

Dated to 1847, this jacket was given to James Anderson by his wife’s Ojibway grandfather. This is a fascinating example of 19th century porcupine quillwork. Quillwork is present both on the front of the jacket and at the back at the shoulders. Note how the dyes are still very vibrant – different dyes were used to produce different colors in the quills such as indigo carmine (green), indigotin and picric acid (yellow) and cochineal (red). Furthermore, during recent conservation work on this object, the conservators discovered other substances present on the quills: a chemical substance called naphthalene, nicotine, citric acid, and pine resin. The naphthalene and citric acid were probably employed as part of the dyeing process.

This jacket and other items associated with the Anderson family were featured in 2001 on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow (co-produced by CBC Newsworld) and a follow-up “making of” documentary by CBC Newsworld. For more info on James Anderson, visit:
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