The West Parry Sound District Museum, commonly known as the Museum on Tower Hill, began as a group of dedicated citizens. Today the Museum continues to preserve and interpret the core cultural themes that carved the West Parry Sound District out of a rugged Canadian landscape and explores contemporary topics relevant to today's communities.
Parry Sound's Fur Trade
Once furs crossed the Atlantic from Canada to England and France quite a lot of work and skill was involved in turning raw beaver pelts into felt that was used for hat making.
Several steps were required to turn a pelt into felt and by the 17th century English and French hatters where perfecting this process. The first step in creating a beaver felt hat was to prepare the pelt, this required pulling out guard hairs and shaving all the remaining hair off to create what was referred to as "beaver fluff". In order to make the felting easier, the keratin scales on the fur would be dissolved using a process called "carroting". Carroting, named after the orange colour this process produced, involved applying a mercury solution to the fluff. After the fluff was weighed and sorted it would be ready to be turned into felt.
Fluff would be turned into felt through various steps of applying moister as well as entangling and shrinking fibres in order to create a signal piece of fabric. The four major steps to felting were: bowing, basoning, planking and blocking (drying). In the bowing stage the fluff would be set on a table with holes in it and the hatter would work over the fluff with a large bow while plucking the strings. Bowing would bind the fluff together creating "batt" while releasing any unwanted dirt and residue. Basoning referred to adding moister to the fluff with a damp cloth while providing a heat source. Basoning would shrink the batt allowing the hatter to begin the early stages of shaping. The batt would then be placed in a warm mixture of water and wine waste, which was referred to as planking. Finally the felts would be stretched over molds to be shaped and dried.
To learn more about the fur trade visit the Museum on Tower Hill's exhibition Parry Sound's Fur Trade, on until September 4th, 2016.
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