CBC Digital Archives

Hudson's Bay Company: Uncovering the history of the HBC point blanket

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First given to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples in exchange for beaver pelts in 1780, the HBC point blanket has since been used in everything from fashion to bedding to canoe repair. According to blanket expert and collector Harold Tichenor, the company's signature throw is no longer just a symbol of the fur trade, but the heart and soul of the nation. In this 2004 interview with CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers, Tichenor reveals that the point blanket has become a testament to the twists and turns of Canada's past.
• Known for their warmth and durability, HBC point blankets were originally made by the weavers of Witney, Oxfordshire, England. In 2009, they continued to be manufactured in the United Kingdom by John Atkinson & Sons.

• The term "point" comes from the French word empointer, which means "to make threaded stitches on cloth."

• Points were identified by the dark lines woven into the side of a blanket.

• While many believe the points indicated how many beaver pelts a blanket could fetch, the system was in fact developed in the mid 18th century to determine the overall area of the finished cover. For example, the standard measure of a one point blanket was 81.28 centimetres wide, 243.84 centimetres long and weighed 1.38 kilograms. Today, the point system is still used to measure blanket size and weight.

• In 1779 French fur trader Germain Maugenest encouraged the Hudson's Bay Company to include its point blanket as a regular commodity in the fur trade. The company followed his suggestion, which proved to be successful since a two point HBC blanket could be traded for up to four high quality beaver pelts.

• Introduced in 1800, the popular white point blankets with green, red, and yellow stripes were often called "chief's blankets." • In 2009, a HBC point blanket retailed for up to $475 (a beaver pelt can cost up to $200.) 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sounds Like Canada
Broadcast Date: Nov. 4, 2004
Guest(s): Harold Tichenor
Resource: Shelagh Rogers
Duration: 16:39
Photo: Hudson's Bay blanket photo entitled Nap Time by Jessica Stoner used under Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 2.0 generic licence.

Last updated: November 27, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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