Hudson Bay Point Blankets: Important Trade Good or Gift of Death?

By | February 8, 2019

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We might not think that a common, household object like a blanket could have an impact on history, but that has happened with the iconic Hudson’s Bay point blankets. The Hudson’s Bay Company, or HBC, first began producing and selling their point blanket in 1779 in posts around Canada and very quickly, the durable, distinctive wool blankets became popular among the settlers and indigenous tribes of Canada. For the white Europeans, the Hudson’s Bay point blankets represented the fur trade and pioneering settlements of the vast Canadian wilderness. But among the native people of North America, the wool blankets symbolized the evils colonialism and the introduction of deadly diseases

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1897: Group photo of the employees of M. Witmark and Sons music publishing company, on an excursion aboard the American steamship, the Bay Queen. Source: (Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images)

The Hudson’s Bay Company Evolved Over the Years

The Hudson’s Bay Company underwent many changes since it was incorporated in 1670. At that time, the Hudson’s Bay Company, founded by an English royal charter, was originally intended to be a satellite government in parts of North America before the countries of Canada and the United States were officially established. The Hudson’s Bay Company laid claim to all the land in the Hudson Bay watershed, a tremendous amount of land. They also took control of the fur trade in North American and, as part of this endeavor, set up trading posts all across the region. At this point, the company transitioned away from a purely governmental agency to a retail business, trading beaver pelts for items, like wool blankets.