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Volume 82/83 (2015/2016)

Exchanges and Hybridities: Red Leggings and Rubbaboos in the Fur Trade, 1600s-1800s

June 15, 2017


In the North American fur trade, food and clothing were among the most frequently exchanged material, serving both as necessities of life and expressions of identity. Not only were materials exchanged but new fashions and tastes developed among fur traders and First Nations across North America from the 1600s to the early 1800s. This article examines these two realms of material culture through the link of sensory history, suggesting that they were central to the experiences of the fur trade and indicate patterns of cultural exchange and reciprocity. Dress and diet were key signposts of identity and markers of difference, yet patterns of material exchanges during the expansion of the North American fur trade produced hybrid styles in both clothing and food that were geographically widespread. Examining material culture through a sensory history approach reveals new understandings of the adaptations that shaped the fur trade.